Historic

Calligraphers kept their tools in containers which were often beautifully decorated.

Writing case Probably Kashmir, 19th century CE (13th century AH) Painted and lacquered papier-mâché, mother-of-pearl and metal Birmingham Museums Trust (1962S1667.00146) ©Birmingham Museums Trust

Writing case
Probably Kashmir, 19th century CE (13th century AH)
Painted and lacquered papier-mâché, mother-of-pearl and metal
Birmingham Museums Trust (1962S1667.00146)
©Birmingham Museums Trust

The above luxury writing case probably belonged to a high-ranking individual and reflected its owner's social standing and profession.

Pen case and inkwell Probably Syria, 19th century CE (13th century AH) Brass Birmingham Museums Trust (1962S01667.00004) ©Birmingham Museums Trust

Pen case and inkwell
Probably Syria, 19th century CE (13th century AH)
Brass
Birmingham Museums Trust (1962S01667.00004)
©Birmingham Museums Trust

One of the most common types of pen case is a tall cylinder that separates into two parts. Portable pen cases often had an inkwell on the outside (as on the photo above) and could be suspended by chains from a belt (as on the example below).

Pen case and inkwell India, 19th century CE (13th century AH) Brass Birmingham Museums Trust (1962S1667.142) ©Birmingham Museums Trust

Pen case and inkwell
India, 19th century CE (13th century AH)
Brass
Birmingham Museums Trust (1962S1667.142)
©Birmingham Museums Trust


Pen case Iran, 19th century CE (13th century AH) Wood Birmingham Museums Trust (1962S01667.00124) ©Birmingham Museums Trust

Pen case
Iran, 19th century CE (13th century AH)
Wood
Birmingham Museums Trust (1962S01667.00124)
©Birmingham Museums Trust

Pen case Probably Iran, 19th century CE (13th century AH) Painted wood Birmingham Museums Trust (1962S01667.00126) ©Birmingham Museums Trust

Pen case
Probably Iran, 19th century CE (13th century AH)
Painted wood
Birmingham Museums Trust (1962S01667.00126)
©Birmingham Museums Trust

Pen cases were made from materials including brass and wood. Wooden pen cases were often intricately carved and painted, or inlaid with shell.


Pen case Probably Kashmir, 19th century CE (13th century AH) Painted and lacquered papier-mâché Birmingham Museums Trust (1962S01667.00111) ©Birmingham Museums Trust

Pen case
Probably Kashmir, 19th century CE (13th century AH)
Painted and lacquered papier-mâché
Birmingham Museums Trust (1962S01667.00111)
©Birmingham Museums Trust

In Iran, pen cases were most frequently made of papier-mâché, produced when repulped paper is mixed with glue and dried over a mould. These lightweight objects could later be decorated with pictorial scenes like royal assemblies or with floral patterns in vivid colours and gold (as on the example above).


Current Practice

The practice of traditional calligraphy begins with paper preparation to form a smooth writing surface.

A burnishing tool is used to polish paper that has been pre-coated with starch and egg white.

Pens made of reed or bamboo are kept in a pen holder or pen case.

The pen rib is formed with a knife.

A split, which acts as an ink reservoir, is then cut in the nib by placing it onto a cutting surface incorporated into the pen rest.

Once these materials have been prepared writing can start.