Stationery Office Ink Well

During the Second World War refillable fountain pens were still in their infancy, and most people writing in ink still used traditional dip pens where the nib was dipped into the ink bottle before writing to fill up the little ink reservoir in the nib before writing. This required regular refills as the nib could only hold enough ink for a few words, but was far cheaper and less likely to result in a damaged ink reservoir and a big mess than early fountain pens with rubber bladders. The Stationery Office supplied all the office supplies needed by Government services, including the military, and they were a conservative organisation that continued with traditional materials for many years so it is unsuprising that ink wells and dip pens were still in common use in World War II. Today we are looking at an example of a Stationery Office ink well:

The ink well is made of glass and has a broad square base to make it harder to knock over. The lid id made of a plastic composition and has a red rubber pad inside to help make a water tight seal when it is screwed on, to both prevent spillages and the ink drying out:

The crown and ‘SO’ mark of the Stationery Office is impressed into the lid, together with a stores code:

The ink bottle itself has the maker’s details pressed into the glass:

This is a little hard to photograph, but reads S&D Criterion. This is the marl of Setten and Durward of Criterion Works in Hockley in Birmingham. This was a well established stationery manufacturers that had been set up in 1877. They would become most famous for manufacturing the IXL range of office files, but made all sorts of stationery up to desks and clearly received contracts to supply the government.

This ink well came from, of all places, Malta where several boxes of them were found earlier this year and offered on the collectors’ market. As has been said before, there is no way of knowing if this specific example was used by the military, but they were certainly supplied to them and this makes a nice addition to my growing collection of military office supplies.

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