Blotting the ink!


Writing was a challenging, daily activity, in a time were computers and email or Facebook didn’t exist. Desk accessories as a letter opener, a quill, an inkwell, bibulous paper or a blotter, were useful items, belonging to the standard bureau equipment in bygone era.

When writing your letter with a quill dipped in ink, addressing your envelopes with an old-fashioned pen, even a fountain pen, you’ll still require this excellent tool: the ink blotter. Keep it at hand, to absorb the excess ink and to avoid smudging and smearing.

Before the ink blotter, people scattered sand, later even sprinkled salt, to speed the ink’s drying process. Salt was not at all as cheap as today, so the ink blotter saw the light in 1400. One would assume that went together with the birth of the blotting paper, but no, the bibulous paper was only commonly used in 1850 and also sold as a cosmetic aid to remove makeup or skin oils!

The only one that didn’t mind inkblots, but used them for his famous psychological tests, was the Swiss psychologist Hermann Rorschach.

As ink blotters and blotting paper were used by anybody that wrote and because they lay on people’s desks all the time when writing, they quickly became objects of advertising campaigns. Local establishments gave them away as an inexpensive way of publicity.

The old ledger books, keeping the financial records of firms, used black ink for profit, red for loss, so “being in the black” was a good thing.

I guess you never thought of the ballpoint pen as a deadly weapon, but that’s what killed the ink blotters around the 1950’s. Gone they were from the average office desk. The ballpoint “stained with ink” forever!

I just happen to be the proud owner of an old wooden ink blotter, safely stacked away in my desk. Great was my surprise to see nearly the same one in a local antique shop. Talking to the sales lady, it became quite clear, that vintage blotters today, are collector’s items and can be very highly prized. Now mine is a simple wooden one, but you can find very decorative rocker blotters, all in sturdy materials, made of glass, silver, stone, metal, porcelain or brass, with beautiful handles.

I still remember the old school desks with the embedded inkwells. Blotting paper was something we all had in our diary and we could use it over and over again. Even full of ink spots, it kept absorbing!


My husband was allowed to be an “ink monitor” one day at school: he was the one to fill up the inkwells. That situation changed before the ink was dry! Only one day he was the chosen one, then banned from the job, as he added a little bit of carbide in each inkwell, so they all started to bubble and foam …

Making secret ink and then writing your notes on a paper, was also fun to do in those days. Warming the paper, revealed your secret message.

Do you still love the old-fashioned inkwells, what about handwritten letters? Do you still own an ink blotter or some blotting paper?

Enough ink spilled, whizzing off before the ink is dry



1 Comment on Blotting the ink!

  1. Miek
    September 15, 2014 at 11:39 am (4 years ago)

    🙂 Ik lees dit artikel en wat wil het toeval? Ik schreef enkele dagen geleden een brief, naar jou, MET INKT ! Niet te doen hé? 🙂


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