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  • Karen Lee Street

When the Writing Process Was Glamorous (and Laborious)

When researching and writing Edgar Allan Poe & the London Monster which is set primarily in 1840 and includes letters written from 1788 - 1790, the actual process of putting pen to paper is important to consider. Being left-handed, I struggle with a modern fountain pen, dragging my hand and sleeve through the ink, so it's difficult for me to imagine being able to write very legibly with a fountain pen or, more impossibly, a quill pen. But the accoutrements required for writing in 1788 and 1840 are fascinating and beautiful, even if the entire writing process might seem laborious to the keyboard dependent.

(Top row) This oak writing desk is complete with stationery, red lining, leather writing slope, inkwells, blotter, pen and letter openers. When writing the novel, this is quite a bit how I imagined Poe's writing desk to look. I think the bejeweled ink pen and case are more something his grandmother or the stylish Rowena Fontaine would covet-- I'd certainly use them, given the chance, smudged ink and all.

(Row 2) A raven feather pen, probably more in line with Poe's style. Inkwells were also required and might be as gorgeous as this silver dragon inkwell. Even the bottles of ink are lovely.

(Row 3) Pounce pots, such as this pug-shaped one, were used to hold powder for blotting the ink with... a hand blotter. Again, beautiful design.

(Row 4) Once the letter was written and blotted, it was sealed. The first object is an Étui for Sealing Wax seals such as the next item which apparently features the image of a pigeon. (I prefer to think it's a raven.) The final picture is of a wax seal collection that shows how varied they were in design.

Please click on objects for more detail and here to see further details regarding the items (owners, credits, dates of objects)

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