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iwandpc-msg – 5/16/05


Ink wells and pencases.


NOTE: See also the files: calligraphy-msg, callig-suppl-msg, inks-msg, paper-msg, parchment-msg, pasteboard-msg, gold-leaf-msg, quills-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

   Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                         Stefan at florilegium.org



Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

From: aliskye at netcom.com (Laura F. Jenkins)

Subject: Ink Wells and Pencases?

Organization: NETCOM On-line Communication Services (408 261-4700 guest)

Date: Sat, 6 Jul 1996 16:29:54 GMT


I am trying to figure out how to construct (or acquire) a period-looking

traveling inkwell and pencase (a penner?).  The only drawing I have (from

the Rouen Book of Hours) is very unclear but seems to show a inkpot and

pencase attached to one another by a cord.  The book the illumination is

from (Medieval Craftsmen -- Scribes and Illuminators) by Christopher de

Hamel says "This is an open-air scene and so the pot is portable, presumably

with a screw lid and it is attached by a cord to an oblong pencase.  Not

dissimilar pen and ink sets are used by Islamic scribes today......".


Any suggestions where I could enough information to actually make such a

thing? Or where I might purchase something that will pass reasonably?

Thank you all for any advice you can render.





Legal: Laura F. Jenkins                                  Los Angeles, CA

SCA:    Aliskye MacKyven Raizel                          Lyondemere, Caid    

Internet: aliskye at netcom.com                Motto: "Timing Is Everything"



From: bbrisbane at aol.com (BBrisbane)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Ink Wells and Pencases?

Date: 7 Jul 1996 00:07:33 -0400

Organization: America Online, Inc. (1-800-827-6364)




    St Jerome is often depicted, in Frescoes and other Italian Ren Art,

as having such a Pencase.  There is a statue of a priest (St Jerome again)

in the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore with such a Pencase worn looped

over the Saint's belt and I have made such an item personally.  They are

way cool and useful.  Those i have seen, read of etc., are cardboard/paper

cores wrapped in leather.  They can be found round, square, and

rectangular in cross section, and are generally the length of a standard

writing implement (8 inches).  I have seen longer ones for instruments

such as compasses and my own is 10 inches long for -- brushes.  My

inkbottle was constructed of handcarved soapstone with a broad lip.  It

was the lip which allowed mine to fasten via leather cord to the case

proper, while my stopper was a simple well fitting cork.


I fashioned mine by creating a cylinder out of a cardboard Xmas wrapping

paper tube.  I took 10 inches of the cardboard tube, cut it very cleanly

where I wanted the case to separate, and then using glue made a smaller

diameter tube to fit tightly into the base tube by cutting down left over

tubing. The result was a male base with a female top.  I then dressed it

all in billfold leather and stitched into its bottom and its top ends a

disk of the same leather.  The ends were convex with the leather being

cupped into the cylinders top and bottom.  I left the top alone, but

pushed a plug of thick sole leather inside the bottom half.  this pushed

the sewn in disk out flat and provided a thick interior surface for the

points of pens, stylus', and compasses, etc..  The same could be done for

the top.  The loops were made by sewing loops into a strip of leather that

was then glued and sewn to the body of the case.  I am cnot sure how clear

this is, but you can call me for further clarification.


Lord Brendan brisbane

AEthelmearc MOAS

(814) 684-1232



From: IMC at vax2.utulsa.EDU (Marc Carlson)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: re: Ink Wells and Pencases?

Date: 8 Jul 1996 12:07:18 -0400

Organization: The Internet


<Aliskye<aliskye at netcom.com (Laura F. Jenkins)>>

>I am trying to figure out how to construct (or acquire) a period-looking

>traveling inkwell and pencase (a penner?).  The only drawing I have (from

>the Rouen Book of Hours) is very unclear but seems to show a inkpot and

>pencase attached to one another by a cord....


They show up more, the more you wind up looking.  Some of what you are

wanting will depend on WHAT period you are looking for.  To the best of my

knowledge, there is no "definitive" work on the subject of penners, much

less inkpots and inkhorns (if anyone *does* know of such a work, please

feel free to correct me).


In the earlier era the predominant form of ink container was an "inkhorn",

which was, quite literally, the end of a cow's horn, with a lid on the wide

end that opened to reveal the ink.  The Horn was set into a hole specifically

cut into the desk or writing table to hold it.  Or else was held in the hand,

while the other held the pen.  According to the illustrations, Ink horns

were often connected to the penner by some sort of cord, although this

was by no means a universal thing.  For that matter, it may well be that

some ink horns were flat bottomed, or other shapes.  I have found that

carving a wooden stopper that fits snuggly works well enough to keep the

ink from drying when I carry wet ink.  



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I realize this seems like a pretty stupid way to carry ink, but it's what the

illustrations say.  It may be that the ink was carried dry and only enough was

made up to carry in the horn for each specific purpose.  (BTW, I have seen

a picture of a Roman era bronze Ink bottle found in Britain that actually is

made to look like this sort of horn).


By the 15th century (and I have no clue when the switchover took place,

or how long it was, or even if it was a true "change" from one type to

the other), ink horns (possibly some were still made FROM horn) were also

made flat bottomed, and carved into a variety of bottle shapes, and more

easily set down wherever was needed.  I'm not sure about making any solid

statements about making a threaded cap for your bottle, since I have no

idea when that might have been done (I have some personal doubts about

it being done in the Middle Ages, although perhaps by the later 16th

century), other than to suggest that if you really want to do so, there

are some very good instructions for Buckskinners Powder Horns that might

be very useful for this purpose, since they describe making threaded ends

in horn.


There are a number of heraldic depications of "Penner and Ink Horn" that

might give you something to look at (you might try the various heraldic

dictionaries first), for ideas of bottles, and how they might be threaded.

For that matter, there are a number of later period portrayals of scribes and

limners that show both bottle an penner.  If you look at the pictures,

find a black tube on the desk near where they write -- THAT is their penner.


<Brendan Brisbane<bbrisbane at aol.com (BBrisbane)>>

>...way cool and useful.  Those i have seen, read of etc., are cardboard/paper

>cores wrapped in leather.


Some of the Persian ones I have heard of (post period, unfortunately, are

Paper Mache).


> They can be found round, square, and

>rectangular in cross section, and are generally the length of a standard

>writing implement (8 inches).


It does seem to be the case that there is no standard whatsoever, other than

that they are often depicted in pictures as being black.


I have a theory, with no proof of course, that one of the scabbards in

the "Knives and Scabbards" book actually portrays a variety of Penner,

since the "secondary scabbard" clearly held a pen-knife when it was found.

It is square bottomed, rectangular in cross section, and has a set of holes

to run leather or a cord through on either side (so that it will hang

vertically). It has no lid, although clearly should have one, and is

covered in heraldic devices, as though being used as a "heraldic resume"

(I'm told it was not an unknown practice for Heralds to maintain such a

collection of blazons of previous employers).  Without the lid, it is

about six inches long, which, by itself is long enough to hold several

short pens (since that's what I keep in the replica I made).  I have made

other sorts of penners that were similar, but round.


I make no claims about the accuracy of the following, but currently, my

preferred method is to start with a rawhide lining, soaked and sewn around

a core or mold.  This is covered after in calfskin, which has been soaked

(and eventually scalded to stiffen it).  There is no reason NOT to use

regular (thin) leather as the liner (much less paper, cardboard or whatever)

other than the fact that I've been known to forget what I'm doing and

set heavy boxes on whatever's lying around :)


The cording or strapping appears (from the "knives and scabbards" thing) to

be threaded through a set of cuts on the sides, that penetrate the outer

layer of leather, but not the inner lining.  I can only assume that the

cap would be similar.


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"Fides res non pecunniae,         Diarmuit Ui Dhuinn

sed temporis"                    University of Northkeep/Company of St. Jude

-- Unknown Recreator             Northkeepshire, Ansteorra

                                 (I. Marc Carlson/IMC at vax2.utulsa.edu)



Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

From: bq676 at torfree.net (Kristine E. Maitland)

Subject: Re: Ink Wells and Pencases?

Organization: Toronto Free-Net

Date: Wed, 10 Jul 1996 04:26:28 GMT


       I don't know about period European pencases BUT one can find

several full colour plates of late 16th Ottoman pencases (two gold, on

porcelain) in:


_Suleyman the Magnificent_ by J.M. Rogers and R.M. Ward (Wellfleet

Press, 1988.)


This book is also good for garb/textile info


formerly Ihsan al-Kilwiyya

Ines Carmen Maria de Freitas



From: moireasdac at aol.com (Moireasdac)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Ink Wells and Pencases?

Date: 14 Jul 1996 18:21:31 -0400

Organization: America Online, Inc. (1-800-827-6364)


  I am a horner, if anyone really wants to know how to thread a horn, and

the proper way to prepare a horn prior to the threading etc. I will be

happy to help them out. Beware though processing a horn the first time or

two will take several hours. The next few do go quickly, after you learn

the skills.

  A few tips though, scrap do not sand or buff the horn smooth, neither

work right or when you do get it smooth, results in the wrong looking

finish. Scap, single edge razorblades work fine if you don't have small

cabinet scrapers. For final polishing use loose grit and a scrap of

leather with water as a carrier. Work slowly and with the grain.

For canteens, cups and inkwells and inkhorns use pitch or beeswax as a

liner, pitch is best and use except for canteens and cups softwoods unless

the period piece used hardwood.

To insert the end plugs heat the horn in an oven at 300 degrees coat the

plug and insert it. Tamp it in tightly and drill and insert plugs (round

toothpicks work great) fill any voids with beeswax or pitch.

If you all need to know how to tread let me know. I will tell you the

basics just be sure to use a leather washer to keep the ink in and off

your alls cloathing.





From: Moireasdac at aol.com (7/19/96)

To: markh at risc.sps.mot.com

Date: Fri, 19 Jul 1996 22:11:51 -0400

Subject: Re: Ink Wells and Pencases?


  Sorry I typed a head of myself you thread the horn and then you match the

threads to the tap and matching dies. The small holes and toothpicks go for

the bottom plug, in the case of a cup or a inkwell or powderhorn. The screw

tip is at the top the plug, for the bottom is held by pegs and sealed to

prevent leakage similar possible problems.


If you have any more questions please let me know.





Date: Fri, 11 Jun 1999 18:38:38 -0500

From: <marsha.greene at mpan.com>

To: sca-arts at UKANS.EDU

Subject: Re: Islamic traveling pen cases/inkwells


>Hi, Barthelemy here,


>I am curious about Islamic calligraphy and scribal arts but haven't delved

>too deeply into research yet. What I want to know is if there are any

>vendors or suppliers where a cast brass or bronze inkwell pencase can be

>purchased and for how much. I don't even know how far back these cases go,

>but it fits my desire to have something portable and secure for my reeds and

>ink as well as fit in with my persona.


While it was not Islamic that I know of, this example is certainly portable:


Years ago at SCA 25th year anniversary, a Laurel from Caid, I believe it

was Aeowyn Amberdrake (sp?) who carried a portable 'kit' for calligraphy.

She had gotten a wooden or metal cigar case and had it outfitted with

either a screw with a loop through it, or with some sort of holder, and she

carried her pens inside with a cord around the case, and tied to her belt.

For ink in the field, she used stick ink and and ink stone, held in some

case, perhaps leather.  As she needed ink, she would get some water and

grind an amount fresh for each project.  When done, dry out the stone, pack

it away and no problems with carrying wet ink that can leak or spill.

Again, this leather pouch was tied to the belt.


I don't know how 'period' this was, but it seemed really practical to me.

You could also outfit the metal cigar case with a small ruler, pencil and

pencil style eraser, as space allowed.    This may not be the optimum ink

or quill that you would use for commissioned projects, but would work in a

pinch when the Crown called on you to fill in someone's name on an award

scroll to be presented that evening.    I thought it was pretty cool.


Baroness Hillary Greenslade/Ansteorra



Date: Sat, 12 Jun 1999 00:53:23 EDT

From: <LrdRas at aol.com>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Re: Islamic traveling pen cases/inkwells


haku-jin at ns.net writes:

<< don't even know how far back these cases go,

but it fits my desire to have something portable and secure for my reeds and

ink as well as fit in with my persona.  >>


Pen cases date back to at least the time of Sullen the Magnificent and are

common in illustrations of household goods from that period of the Ottoman

empire with specimens in several museums. They resemble the boxes

currently available that hold incense....that is long and mostly rectangular,

sometimes with rounded ends with ivory inlay work and a top that slides along






Date: Sat, 12 Jun 1999 23:36:07 -0500

From: "Helen Schultz" <meistern at netusa1.net>

To: <sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu>

Subject: Re: Islamic traveling pen cases/inkwells


Hello Barthelemy,


I don't know where you could purchase such an item -- you just might have to

make one on your own.  However, I have a book called "Letters In gold" that is

from a museum exhibit on the book arts of Turkey (I bought my copy from

Amazon.com) -- it shows two items like you mention.  (For those who want some

really nice examples of Turkish book arts, this is a wonderful book -- but keep

in mind that most of it is out of the SCA period... but enough of it is inside

our period to be worthwhile.)


The most ornate of the two is actually out of our period -- it is from 1779

(sorry) -- but it is absolutely fantastic.  It looks to be made of silver, gold

(or brass?), and perhaps ivory.  It consists of a bar that looks to be about 10"

long with very ornate ends (I would guess that pens were kept inside it, but the

photo doesn't show it).  Attached to this bar is an ornate silver and gilt

(again, can't say if it is gold or brass) ink well with a snap in place lid.


The other one they show looks like it just might be from an earlier, less

ostentatious period.  It is basically a tube shape piece brass (this one says it

is brass), that has several parts that all screw into each other.  It held the

pens, cotton, a shaker of what I would assume is "pounce" (but is a rose color

in the photo), and an ink well with a screw lid.  They show it all unassembled,

but I think they all screw into each other for easy carrying.


For a portable, period style of pen case and ink well you could do like Mistress

Megan ni Liaine (?sp), Baroness Stonemarche, did for an A&S one year (long

before she was Laureled for her Limning).  She took a metal cigar case and

covered it with leather, and attached the top and bottom with a long rawhide

cord. To the other end of the cord she had taken a regular ink bottle (the kind

with a screw lid) and covered it in the same leather.  These then hang off a

belt. It is almost exactly like some of the drawings of scribes in manuscripts.

Too cool for words!! <grin>


You might also consider joining the SCA Scribes list -- to do so, send an e-mail to: majordomo at castle.org   with no subject.  In the body put "subscribe SCA Scribes" and your name.  This list is a great place to ask any scribal type question and get 20 or 30 different answers (or all the same ones, too). It is for beginners and for some of us "old pharts" <grin> of the scribal arena.


Meisterin Katarina Helene von Schoenborn, OL

Shire of Narrental, Middle Kingdom (that's Peru, Indiana, folks)



From: Elizabeth Young <lizyoung at fenris.net>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Islamic inkwells/pen sets

Date: Sun, 19 Dec 1999 18:51:38 -0800


JBaker wrote:

> There was some discussion earlier about what period Islamic travelling

> inkwell/pencase combinations started cropping up.  I have a small collection

> and remember some interest in seeing examples and possibly selling them since

> I don't do calligraphy at this time.


> In the meantime, I'm wondering how many of you have seen other SCAdians or do

> you yourself carry one of these? Also if there has been much research done on

> such items, I can't find a bit of documentation on the internet or the local

> library.


some documentation:

Islamic Metalwork by Rachel Ward 1993 Thames and Hudson $16 US, paperback


p. 107 mid 14th century, brass inlaid with silver and gold, Damascus or

Cairo, 30.7 cm

p. 83 13th century, brass, Mosul, 36.8 cm

p. 90 1281AD, brass inlaid with silver and gold, West Iran, 19.7 cm


There are a number of books in this series, all quite good, inexpensive,

and lots of photos.


Elizabeth Young

'A'isha bint Khalil al-Herati



Date: Fri, 5 May 2000 13:38:43 -0500 (CDT)

From: "Pixel, Queen of Cats" <pixel at hundred-acre-wood.com>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Re: Penners?


On the west front of Wells Cathedral there is a statue of a woman who has

a number of things hanging off her belt. One is very obviously a pouch.

There are two other things hanging beside/behind it that are less obvious

as to what they are. One of the two looks very like a small container of

some sort, and the other one could be a penner, or a knife, a large

needlecase, or any number of other things which are longish and narrowish

and might be hanging off a woman's belt.


I was planning on taking a closer look at the photo this weekend--my love

has been scanning them and printing them out, and I only saw the b/w

printout--and seeing if I could figure out what the mystery objects might

be. If you like, I could probably convince him to email you a copy of the






From: mary_m_haselbauer at yahoo.com (Slaine)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Period Writing Implements?

Date: 5 Jan 2004 12:22:34 -0800


> In my slow progress towards an authentic persona, I am looking for more

> information and I am hoping someone here can help.  I enjoy journaling a

> great deal, and enjoy keeping a journal / diary at events.  However, I am

> wondering what writing tool I should use to do this, if I want to keep my

> tools period.


Hi Julie,

There are period recipes for a travelling ink. All of my ink research

is at this site:


I haven't made the travel ink and only make passing reference to it on

my site. However, the bibliography may be of use to you.


You would grind the oak galls into a very very fine powder and mix the

recipe dry. Then reconstitute the ink as needed and dump what you

don't use. At least this way you wouldn't have to carry a potentially

leaky bottle of ink.


You could also use silver point. You'd need thicker wire than is

usually used for drawings. You would also need paper with a hard

texture or coating.


However, I do like the idea of a fountain pen with a meerly decorative

bottle of ink nearby.


Good luck! That's a very cool yet subtle way to make your persona more




Barony of Three Rivers, Calontir

St. Louis, Missouri


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org