A Writer’s Tools

A writer’s tools might include an inkwell and papyrus scrolls or less expensive wax tablets and stylus. The tablets could also be bound and they could be erased with the flat end of the stylus. Papyrus was made of the pith of a water plant; ink was a mixture of soot, resin, wine dregs and cuttlefish.

Roman Terracotta Inkwell (1st or 2nd Century A.D.)

Roman/Egyptian Papyrus Letter (early 3rd Century A.D.)

Byzantine/Egyptian Wooden Tablet (500-700 A.D.)

Roman Bronze Stylus (1st or 2nd Century A.D.)

  (x)(x)(x)(x) The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

Ram’s Head Dagger

India (likely Jaipur), Mughal, 18th or 19th century

Hilt: Gold, enameled and set with precious stones; kundan technique Blade: steel

Often tucked into a sash or horseman’s boot, daggers in Mughal India displayed the wealth and power of their owners. An intricately patterned ram’s head pommel adorns the hilt of this dagger, made in the kundan technique in which gems are set into malleable pure gold foil, allowing them to be arranged in any pattern or density over curved surfaces. In this dagger, pieces of quartz adorning the cross guard are surrounded by raised borders of gold which form the curved lines of a flower. The ram’s head is decorated with a floral scroll and is separated from the hilt grip by a quartz collar, also in the kundan method.

This dagger bears a striking resemblance to another dagger posted recently.

It’s James McNeill Whistler’s birthday! Celebrate by admiring his palette, searching for his butterfly signature in our fully digitized James McNeill Whistler collection, 1863-1906, circa 1940, or going to freersackler and blissing out in the Peacock Room.

James McNeill Whistler’s palette and brushes, ca. 1889. Leon Dabo papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Peru seeks repatriation of 400 cultural artifacts from New York


New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art currently houses hundreds of artifacts from the Mochica culture— and Peru wants them back.

Peruvian cultural artifacts are making their way home from all over the world— Sweden’s return of the Paracas textiles being a particularly high-profile incidence of repatriation. Now, the regional government of Piura is looking to get back 400 pieces currently housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

El Comercio reports that the pieces in question were found in the Loma Negra cemetery, an area in which a number of Mochica elite were buried. Grave robbers sacked the tombs in the 1960s, and no extensive investigation into the site has been carried out, writes El Comercio. Read more.


Teeny Tiny Thursday!

Cute ephemera alert! We just received a donation of two “World’s Fair in a Nutshell” booklets from the Century of Progress World’s Fair in 1933. A generous benefactor found these in a family member’s basement. Tiny accordion booklets were tucked into 1 in. nutshells and tied with red, white and blue ribbon. These are currently being processed and put into our Century of Progress Memorabilia Collection, but I had to share!

We know uispeccoll has a robust collection of miniature publications, but does anyone else? (And we’ll stick to Miniature Mondays from now on, but this was too good to wait!)

Stonehenge's most intricate archaeological finds were probably made by children


Some of the most high-status pieces of prehistoric “bling”, prized by Stonehenge’s Bronze Age social elite, are likely to have been made by children, according to new research.

An analysis of intricately decorated objects found near the ancient stone circle shows that the craftwork involved such tiny components that only children – or extremely short-sighted adults – would have been able to focus closely enough on the ultra-fine details to make them.

The research into the human eyesight optics of micro-gold-working in the Bronze Age has considerable implications for understanding society in Western Europe 4,000 years ago. Read more.