By: Terry and Kim Kovel

In ancient Egypt, a rich man would not write his own letters but would travel with a scribe who wrote his letters for him. The scribe used a crude pen that had to be dipped in ink; he carried it on a stone with a slight hollow. As more learned to write, the ink holders became fancier, and carved stones like jade or marble were used.

Liquid ink, a mixture of the blackening and liquid, made a different type of inkwell necessary. A traveling man had a pen and ink in a leakproof container made of ceramic, glass, shells, or later, metal or plastic.

The era of the inkwells that interests most collectors began in the 18th century. Elaborate ceramic containers to hold ink on a desk as part of a set in an inkstand were important accessories. Soon all inkwells were glass set in metal or other leakproof containers that could screw or clamp shut.

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