We recently received a copy of a fine new book titled TeaKettle Ink Price and Reference Guide 2016 written by Joe L. Mathews Jr. The terrific full-color pictures in this 51-page hardcover book are alone worth the price of admission. Mathew’s work delves into the history, colors, and the different types of teakettle inkwells and includes a price guide, a good addition as a lot of people are a little uncertain as to prices today.
Mathews begins the book explaining teakettle inkwell history, going as far back as the 1700’s, people began using these “fountain inkwells,” as they were first referred to, to not only implement the basic procedure of writing a letter but to decorate their desks as well. Made primarily in England, France and the United States, as time went by the teakettle name stuck as all but a few of the often highly decorative inkwells resembled a teapot. Advertisements appeared as early as 1835 promoting the use of the “new and improved fountain inkwell.” Mathews goes on to explain that some of the earlier examples were very fancy and adorned with bronze and silver alloy medallions. “These medallions,” Mathew’s points out, “are important to collectors as they assist in dating teakettle inks.” Most teakettle inkwells date between the years 1830-1885, the golden era of teakettle inkwell production. In essence a 50 year period in which fashion and style lead the way when writing letters, despite the much higher costs of the teakettle inkwell of the day. So he begins introducing the reader to some of the finely crafted examples collectors are searching for today. In the end and after much research Mathews feels that most of the inkwells in collections today were made from the 1840’s to the 1870’s. That makes them one of the earliest produced category of bottle collected today.
As Mathews points out, teakettle inkwells are fairly rare and although they were produced in basic unadorned examples, the lengths the makers went to in order to produce the fanciest of teakettles was limited only by their imaginations. Mathews estimates that today possibly a total of only 1300-1400 total specimens exist worldwide with around 160 different molds. As Mathews points out, you can imagine an owner of a teakettle ink not disposing of it until it either broke or they died and so it’s not surprising there are relatively few still in collections compared with almost every other category of bottle or glass collecting. With the average quantity of only nine per example, that makes the teakettle inkwell among the rarest of collectible glass containers sought by collectors today.
One can imagine that when a company began making a teakettle inkwell much of the thought going into their creation was based on visual appeal. Today as we survey the landscape for early teakettle inks it’s apparent that the color blue was the most often used color and that is verified by Mathews in his book. So if blue was most prevalent then we can delve into the various shades of blue which can go from blueberry to peacock and everything in between. Some companies used the same mold blowing their wares in different colors. According to Mathew’s the color order in rarity goes like this; pure red, black, yellow, amber, purple, green, amethyst and various shades of blue. Clear glass was also used and the black Mathew’s refers to is actually a very dark amethyst.
Since most of the teakettle related information was previously part of other efforts, the most noted is Covill and Sullwood’s Ink Bottles and Inkwells written back in the 70’s. There have been some auction catalog results but it is high time someone took this project on and Mathew’s has done it with good solid information and research and beautiful color photos. If you have any interest in inkwells, you can’t go wrong picking up a copy of this new beautifully illustrated and well organized book. For US orders the price is $55 which includes shipping. International is $50 plus shipping costs. Those who would like a book should email Joe@mathewsgroup.org They can pay via check or Pay Pal.