The inkwell with pen rest shown above is 9.5" long, and is decorated with OT 65.

Writing With Style

by Jim Kempster

This inkwell has a raised pen rest, stands 3.75" tall, and is decorated with an outline transfer (OT) known as OT 11A.

In the Victorian era, long before e-mails, text messages, or the Blackberry, letter writing was a valued art. School children produced page after page of the uniformly slanted loops and lines that were the basic elements of legible and elegant handwriting. Using a dip pen requires patience and practice. Beautiful desk sets with all the tools needed by the letter writer were available in various materials including metal, glass and porcelain. During the mid- to late 1890s, The Reinhold Schlegelmilch Porcelain Company produced some beautiful desk sets to meet all of their customers' writing needs.

Very few complete desk sets have survived the years, so the total number of pieces that constituted a typical desk set is only a guess. It is possible that the pieces could be purchased separately, and a "set" could be built to meet the purchaser's needs and budget.

In the set to the left, the molded details of the pieces resemble those of tableware in Old Mold 40 (OM 40) known to collectors as the Scroll Mold. The decoration is a gold enamel fern leaf pattern. This set includes: (top row) an ink blotter, 2.5" tall , an inkwell and tray, 2.5" tall; (middle row) a stamp box 1" tall, a calendar rack with original cards, 3.5" tall, a footed letter holder 4.75" tall;(front row) three of four blotter corners, 2.5" by 2.5", a pot with fitted nib wipe brush, 2" tall. Other pieces in this mold are known, so this is not a "complete" set.

This inkwell, decorated with a gold bird stencil, is in OM 13, commonly called the Melon Mold. This mold pattern was widely used, and many different objects can be found with its distinctive shape. Double inkwells are also known in this shape.

The inkwell at left is in OM 14, known as the Heart Mold, which was used to make many tableware pieces and accessories. Plates, bowls, lids and openings are all heart- shaped. The décor is a gold stencil that resembles the houseplant called the Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)This inkwell stands 3.3" tall.

The scroll mold calendar holder shown right is the same shape as the one in the large set that begins this article. This one is decorated with OT 30.

This little candle holder, just 4.5" long, is thought to be part of a writing set, used to melt the sealing wax that helped insure that your letter would be read only by that special someone to whom it was addressed.

This desk set dates to around 1900. The blotter is 5.25" long, and the square inkwell is 2.75" tall. The letter holder stands 4.75" tall, and is marked with red "Germany" in a circle. All pieces are in OM 62A, and are decorated with OT 40.

This is a partial desk set consisting of a letter tray in OM 132, and the matching stamp box, opened to show the slots in which the stamps would sit. The tray is 7" long, and the box is 4" long. They are decorated with a gold floral stencil.

The inkwell above is an example of the whimsical novelty items produced by Reinhold's company. It has the shape of an apple sitting on a cluster of leaves (that form the pen rest) with their stem at left. The stem of the apple forms the finial of the lid. It stands just 2.5" tall, and is decorated with OT 26.

The letter holder above incorporates scrolls similar to those in OM 40D. It stands 4.6" tall, and is decorated in OT 26. The letter holder below is 3.6" long, and is decorated in OT 11A

The desk blotter above is in OM 131, and measures 4" long.

This blotter is in OM 62A and is decorated in cobalt with OT 11.

So, if you're looking for a long-term collecting challenge, pick a mold and décor, and assemble your own complete Schlegelmilch desk set. More elegant than any cell phone, needs no batteries, and will not become obsolete in six months time.

Copyright 2009-2012 Jim Kempster