Charlotte went to a market yesterday and came across a stash of old, empty ink bottles. She sent me a picture of what was there and, after spotting the word “Skrip” on the top of one in the photo she sent me, asked her to get it for me.
The other two are very old Winsor & Newton art ink bottles that, despite the ink being completely dried up, are in remarkable condition! These two were also found by Charlotte whilst we were searching for old pens in an antique store.
I really enjoy the look of these old style bottles. You can really tell the subtle differences between today’s bottled inks and the ink bottles of way back when. Much more care has been taken to making sure the whole bottle is functional, high quality, and appealing to the eye. Those W&N boxes look fantastic (and they still make them the same now)!
This bottle of Sheaffer Skrip Washable Blue is a stark contrast to modern ink bottle designs. It has a metal cap, only a luxury on today’s ink bottles, and a very cool ink well built into the inner lip of the bottle. The well has been made such that you can tell it was made for Snorkel filling pens. A large nib won’t fit into the small space. Other bottles have this “well” feature, but it’s often a removable plastic insert that isn’t purpose-built for a specific pen.
This is a bottle from a time where fountain pen use far outweighed ballpoint pen use. Fountain pen brands could afford to make special bottles that were designed only for the pens they sold, because they sold a lot of pens! Today’s ink bottles are designed to take any pen, a sign that even the brands that make both pens and ink have been forced to deal with the fact that their product is not as popular as it used to be. They can’t afford to design a pen that only works with a certain ink bottle and vice versa, because that business model doesn’t work any more.
And now many pen brands are being ruined by modern tastes. Parker and Sheaffer have since been bought out by larger companies (such as BIC) and turned into a shadow of their former selves. The Vacumatic and Touchdown filling systems, two of the most iconic in fountain pen history, have been thrown out in favour of a more modern cartridge filling design. When have you ever seen an affordable, modern, full flex nib? Back then they were relatively common, but no pen maker dares even attempt to manufacture one now.
It’s a sad truth really; like the phasing out of film photography and vinyl records. There will always be the small niche in the market for things like fountain pens and tape recorders, but it’s a niche that can’t always support the brands that make those products. You’ve probably heard reports on how fountain pen use is on the rise, and that more and more people are purchasing vinyl records to listen to the classics as they were meant to be heard. This is encouraging, but you need to wonder how long it will last. Is it just a phase of “vintage = cool” that will burn out in time, or is it something that will keep up forever?
Whilst I love film photography as well, it’s sad to see that more and more film development stores are closing down from lack of business. This kind of thing shows how much we need to support the brands we love, to keep them, and the entire hobby (or passion) itself, alive for years to come. We are also responsible for conveying the joy to others in the hope that they will also share your love for whatever hobby you have, because the more people that share it, the easier it is to keep it going.
And despite all these bottles being rendered useless, either rusted or sealed up from dried ink, I think they’re fantastic for the precise reason that they’re a symbol of what things used to be like, and a contrast to what things are like now.