antique French pump inkwell

Marian ParsonsAll Things Home, Antiques, Favorite Finds26 Comments

I have always been fascinated by old things, things that were made before modern manufacturing, before computers and electricity.  I marvel at the ingenuity and problem-solving abilities of their creators.  I initially bought this inkwell because…well, I just love art supplies, ink wells, beautiful dip pens, and the like, and I had missed out on a similar one a couple of years ago.  But now that I’ve played around with it and have done a bit of research, I love it even more.  I’d like to introduce you to the clever design of an antique French pump inkwell…

antique porcelain French pump ink well | miss mustard seed

It’s another item I purchased from the Dreamy Whites’ birthday sale a few weeks ago.  I initially thought it was an ironstone inkwell and, as I mentioned, I had pondered purchasing a similar one a couple of years ago, but I missed out on it.  When I saw it listed in Maria’s shop (and at a 45% discount), I didn’t hesitate.

It is a very interesting, unique piece, so I decided to do some research on it.  I discovered that it isn’t ironstone, as I thought, but it’s porcelain.  It is very heavy for its size and has the same luster as ironstone, so I made that incorrect assumption.  I also learned that it is called a pump inkwell and, after a lot of digging, I found a video showing how it works.

You remove the weight from the inkwell and fill it with ink.

antique porcelain French pump ink well | miss mustard seed

Put the weight back in place and turn the knob on the top…

antique porcelain French pump ink well | miss mustard seed

As the knob loosens, it lowers the weight, displacing the ink into the little well.  To drain the well, tighten the knob to pull up the weight.

antique porcelain French pump ink well | miss mustard seed

I was so pleased to discover that mine is in perfect working order!  Here is a little video showing how it works…

Isn’t that amazing!  What a clever design!  I didn’t have the lid on completely straight, but you get the idea of how a pump inkwell works.  I have that part figured out now, too!

antique porcelain French pump ink well | miss mustard seed

I also learned that I got mine for a steal.  These are very rare, especially in working order and in good condition, so they are expensive when they surface for sale.  I haven’t done additional research on the specific maker (the writing on the top is a little hard to read), but this is circa mid-1800s.

antique porcelain French pump ink well | miss mustard seed

So, it goes perfectly with my 1820s sterling silver dip pen I purchased in Paris a couple of years ago.

The kitties thought it was very clever, too.

antique porcelain French pump ink well | miss mustard seed

I love learning new things, even something as small as how a mid-1900th century French woman used her inkwell.  Now you learned something today, too!


antique French pump inkwell

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26 Comments on “antique French pump inkwell”

  1. I’d love one of these! I’m learning calligraphy from Lindsey at The Postman’s Knock and it would be perfect. Ingenious 😀😀

  2. I love things from the past and how they work and how the person used them. I love this inkwell. It is fabulous. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Oh! What a clever piece! And to find one in perfect working order is a treat!

      Thanks for the video on its use.

  3. What a beautiful find and at a good price! I have never seen an inkwell of this style before so I learned something also.

  4. WOW. I feel smarter already. That is extraordinary and it looks awesome.

    It couldn’t have been obtained by a more perfect person whom will cherish it more.

    How is your calligraphy coming along? What a perfect set for practice-making-perfect!!!!

  5. Oh my gosh. To think that someone “engineered” such a clever and useful tool in the 1800’s is mind blowing. You have a TREASURE for sure. Pretty amazing. Good for you – what an eye you have!!

  6. Wow – haven’t seen one before or if I did probably did not recognize it for what it is! Interesting & to be treasured

  7. I’ve never seen such a thing as this inkwell! I too am fascinated by older things but I guess I’ve lived a sheltered life. I’m so glad you included the video on how it works, such genius.

  8. Oh my! How delicate it looks , yet it still works! Thank you for the back story on it. What a lucky find.

  9. I had to return and tell you; I loved it so much that I googled it. Is it missing a tiny cover that matches the metal lid, where the ink well fills up?

    1. Yes, I think it is. There is a small hole to the right of the well and I believe that is where the chain and the lid would’ve attached. That second cover would prevent the ink from drying out.

  10. That is absolutely incredible! I have never ever seen this although I am from across the pond and found so many unusual things in flea markets, antiques shops, and visiting all kinds of museums. It is such a clever functional item. I am glad for you to own this rare ink pot.

  11. I remember seeing fancier versions of antique inkwells many many years ago at a high end antique show I used to go to in Pasadena California. I don’t remember why they stopped having the show I really enjoyed going even though I couldn’t afford much it was still fun! Enjoy your inkwell it’s beautiful!

  12. As you were turning the knob and the ink came out mouth opened in just the same manner, and when you turned it the other way I just smiled. It’s very special and what a treasure!

  13. That is a beauty!!! Well, it shows quality lasts. Nothing today lasts for very long. Enjoy your new toy.
    It is AMAZING how it works….love it!!!!

  14. I would love to work with such a inkwell; too bad they don’t make such handy things anymore. Thanks for the video 🙂

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