WHAT IS AN INKWELL?


By: Mary McAtee


Less common Gouda Schoonhoven

     An inkwell is:
     a. a container to hold liquid ink
     b. an object of beauty
     c. a piece of history
     d. an infinite variety of sizes, shapes and materials
     e. all of the above

And inkwell collectors hunt endlessly for that perfect inkwell for all of the above reasons.

Richard Bonas, an Indialantic, FL. CPA is one such collector. He has collected inkwells for five years and owns 150 inkwells. He says "beauty is in the eye of the beholder," and that he, and his wife, Trude who accompanies him in his quest, "collect for the beauty of the inkwell". His collection includes art glass, colored cut glass, pottery, and various porcelain and satin glass inkwells.


Richard Bonad and his inkwells

Like many inkwell devotees, Mr. and Mrs. Bonas did not enter the inkwell world with the intent to become collectors. They were searching for an accessory to a "Davenport" desk in the Dania antique district when they came across a small glass inkwell with a copper lid. It was the perfect piece for the desk. That first inkwell led them to other antique shops, antique shows, E-Day and eventually to the Society of Inkwell Collectors (SOIC). The SOIC seminars, conventions and knowledge gained from other inkwell collectors helped to distinguish the real thing from fakes and reproductions. And placed them well on their way to the wonderful pastime of searching for that next perfect piece.

While Mr. Bonas limits the variety and types of inkwells he collects. There are an infinite variety of Inkwells from which to choose. Inkwells are made of crystal, glass, pottery, porcelain, brass, bronze, cast iron and wood. There are inkwells in the shape of people and animals, round and square, shoes and boats. Any shape that can be made to hold an inkwell insert or ink has probably been made into an inkwell.

Mr. Bonas does NOT collect the unusual such as a horse hoofs or skeleton heads. He prefers the beautiful iridescent colors of Loetz, the softness of a hand painted Nippon inkwell, the vibrant colors of the Gouda from Holland, the brilliant blues, greens and ambers of a cut glass inkwell.

The Loetz Company flourished for about 100 years starting in 1840. This Austrian company was among the leaders of iridescent art glass in shades of yellow, purple, green and blue during the Art Nouveau period. Many great designers worked for Loetz during the early 1900's; however, pieces are seldom signed so positive identification is not always possible, hence the designation "Loetz type" art glass. The Loetz art glass in Bonas' collection is truly beautiful.


Loetz type Austrian Gold Art Glass

The Gouda that Richard collects is not cheese. It is a vibrant color of pottery that was produced in the quaint Dutch village of Gouda during the latter part of the 19tb Century and into the early 20tb Century, the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods. Vases, humidors, ashtrays and decanters were made along with inkwells and desk sets. Most Gouda pieces are signed and dated so positive identification can usually be made.

"Nippon" generally refers to Japanese porcelain items made during the period from 1891 to 1921. The vast majority of Nippon wares produced during this era were manufactured by the company known today as the Noritake Company. Many lesser-known companies produced fine wares, but it is felt that the best examples of Nippon-era hand painted porcelain were produced by Noritake. Richard has collected beautiful Nippon pieces, parts of desk sets and inkwells, all hand painted and in various patterns. They are all unusual, delicate porcelain pieces.


Hand painted Nippon porcelain desk set. Violets Pattern

The history of inkwells dates back to and includes the cave dweller, the ancient Chinese and early Egyptians. More recently, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of , Independence and the Constitution were all written with ink from an inkwell. The Swivodex inkwell, a non-spilling design used by the military, was used to sign the peace treaties that ended World War II. Richard's collection also includes several Swivodex inkwells.

Fascinating history accompanies almost any authentic inkwell one buys. Indeed, a big part of the fun of collecting is researching an acquired inkwell's period and materials. Most inkwells produced before the 1800's are in- museums. Even a trip to the movies can become an exercise in inkwell spotting. The recent movie "Chicago" contains a scene in the attorney's office where there was a large double inkwell standish on the lawyer's desk. And personal history can be associated with an inkwell acquired from a family member. A favorite question to ask an inkwell
collector is, "how did you start your collection" and time after time the reply is "my Mother or my Father gave me my first inkwell".


Gouda Ivora with characteristics colors



Richard's collection is rounded out with other porcelain and colored glass pieces. Richard has a great eye for beauty and his collection confirms that. He sent 22 pictures of inkwells, which we, unfortunately, do not have the space to show here. It makes an inkwell collector very envious.

So it seems that Richard Bonas answers the question of "What is an inkwell?" with "All of the above". He has many containers that hold liquid ink, all of his inkwells are objects of beauty, they certainly are a piece of history, and they cover a variety of sizes, shapes and materials. All 150 of them!!

Richard is a Director and the Treasurer of the Society of Inkwell Collectors (SOIC), a non-profit international organization of over 400 members who would like to have you join them. For further information about the SOIC, you may check their web site www.soic.com or you can contact the Executive Director, Charles "Buck" Van Tine at inkwellsocietv@aol.com.


About the authors:

Mary McAtee is the Publicity Director for the SOIC and can be contacted at mcatee@sprintmail.com .


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