Small cylindrical inkwell with knobbed lid,
cast and engraved with inscription in pseudo
Kufic on the lid, engraved wave pattern
around the body. Three tiny applique loops
on the sides of the body corresponding to
other three little handles attached to the
sides of the lid would have channelled the
ropes through for carrying.Similar inkwells are
known signed by
craftsmen from Nishapur and Herat.
Most of the early Islamic metalwork was
cast in quarternary bronze, i.e. brass with
the addition of tin and lead. The decoration
was either cast, pierced or engraved and
especially this last type had a tendency
before the 11th century to become
increasingly complicated and detailed.
Although small bronze inkwell were
used by the Romans, glass ones were
preferred in early Islamic times. Large metal
inkwell emerged during the 11th century
and this particular typology became standard
in Mesopotamia and Persia during the 12th
century. Two types of ink were used in
medieval Islam, one a soluble solid with a
soot base known as midad, the other a liquid
mixture of gallnuts and vitriol called hibr.
Inkwells such as this were intended for the
latter ink, hence their name mihbara. They
commonly held a liq or piece of ink-soaked
felt or wool and were also provided with an
inner horizontal rim to prevent spilling.
comparable example see: Hayward Gallery,
The Arts of Islam, 1976: pl.183, p. 172.