Why You Should Own a Bottle of Ink

Why You Should Own a Bottle of Ink

One hundred years ago fountain pens were high tech. They offered the novel advantage of carrying ink right inside their barrels, thus saving people from having to dip their pens...

May 10, 2024

By Steve Leveen

One hundred years ago fountain pens were high tech. They offered the novel advantage of carrying ink right inside their barrels, thus saving people from having to dip their pens in a nearby inkwell.


You can identify writing that dates before fountain pens by looking for the telltale fading of the words preceding the mandatory dip into the inkwell, followed by another cycle of fading from darker to lighter words.


The Modern Man of 1924 might stride into a Manhattan office, glance at his wrist watch (which had replaced his father’s pocket watch) and seeing a guest registry at the reception desk, would whip out his fountain pen, casting a disdainful glance at the dusty inkwell on the counter, sign his name with a flourish, screw the cap back on and return his modern marvel back to the pocket of his double breasted suit. The receptionist might look up, impressed. 



During the Roaring Twenties, fountain pen manufacturers outdid themselves making pens of beauty and utility, fountain pens that Gatsby himself might clip inside his summer tux. But, alas, the heyday of the fountain pen didn’t last long. 


While they answered the centuries-long desire of writers to be free of their inkwells (at least while the ink in the barrel lasted) fountain pens still required maintenance. If you went a few days without writing, the nib might dry out and be reluctant to flow. Periodically you would have to pull your new pen over for a pitstop, rinsing and drying it out before fueling it again with fresh ink. All this the Modern Man might take in stride, afterall, his pipes also took some maintenance. (Remember pipe cleaners?) But a world-shattering innovation having nothing to do with writing was about to T-bone the fountain pen, and that was the airliner.




Traveling by high speed train posed no problem for fountain pens, but when travel took to the air, fountain pens went bonkers. The problem is physics. Air trapped inside pens at sea level expands at higher altitudes, often making an inky mess should you try to write with a fountain pen mid-flight. Asking fountain pens to go aloft was like asking horses to go on the Interstate.


Even today, if you’re flying I recommend leaving your fountain pens at home. But if you insist on taking them up, at least consider these four rules for avoiding a dry cleaning bill.


The solution to writing aloft came in the form of the ballpoint pen, which used  paste ink, and took over the writing world, especially when ballpoints became mass produced as single-use, disposable objects.



Just nostalgia, or something more?


Today we have tech marvels far beyond those available to Modern Man of one hundred years ago, yet we also have a habit of keeping old technologies around, either because we just like old stuff, or because we appreciate the subtle benefits they provide. Or maybe both.


Most of our homes still have some real candles despite the proliferation of inexpensive, more convenient and safer electric ones. And LP records have made an unlikely comeback, now outselling the CDs that supposedly made vinyl obsolete 40 years ago. Today plenty of people still ride horses, although not on the Interstate.


Fountain pens, being the last mechanical reproductions of the feather, deliver the ancient pleasure of writing with liquid ink. Like feathers, they produce those broad downstrokes and contrasting thin horizontal lines that characterize this venerable writing style that served humankind for a millennium.


Why not go way back?


The way most people use fountain pens today is to run them on cartridges. (Our True Writer fountain pens conveniently hold two, including a spare inside their barrels.) But if you use only cartridges, you’re missing out on an experience that comes from going all the way back to inkwells.


Levenger Ink bottles are modeled after inkwells, but they have a hidden asset. Inside they are hiding a small plastic reservoir that fills with ink when you turn the bottle upside down. Turn it rightside up, twist off the cap, and the reservoir holds a mini martini glass of ink high in the neck of the bottle, inviting your nib in for a quick dip.


Even if you use cartridges, the nib of your pen can dry out. Instead of making blank circles until the ink finally gets flowing again, simply dip your dry nib in a bottle of ink and instantly you’re writing with dark, fresh ink. You’re also priming the pump, helping the feed underneath your nib to draw ink from the cartridge.




But don’t stop at this practical tip.


You can also dip your fountain pen when you have no ink at all in your pen. Use it just as you would a centuries-old metal dip pen: Dip, write, dip, write, etc. You’ll get a hands-on feeling for what writing used to entail. You might discover that you like the older pace of writing life.


The historian Shelby Foote wrote with a metal dip pen exactly because he enjoyed the pacing the old technology imposed on him.  


There’s even more you can do by dipping your pen in ink bottles. We offer 14 different colors of ink in bottles, including such specialities as Peony Pink and Blazing Sunset. Yet you can create even more colors yourself on the page by dipping into a different color from the ink cartridges in your pen. I like to run one of our six different blue inks in my pens, but then dip my pen into black. This produces a range of blue-blacks as I pen my note, creating something unique. You can’t do this with any other kind of pen.


All of these reasons to dip your fountain pen in bottled ink are completely unnecessary, which is why, perhaps, they are cool.




To invite you into the pool, here’s a special offer—buy one bottle of Levenger ink and receive a second bottle of your choice in any color for 50% off through May 31, 2024. 


To me, one of the best things about our current age is the ability to choose when to type on your computer, when to speak into your phone, and when to write by hand with technology that is centuries old, capturing the romance that still awaits.


With gratitude for your business,


Steve Leveen, Co-Founder