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Author Topic: Manchester? c.1875 Anvil Inkstand  (Read 2358 times)

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Offline Bernard C

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Manchester? c.1875 Anvil Inkstand
« on: May 13, 2008, 05:21:12 AM »
See:-

This inkstand comprises an anvil containing an inkwell on two plateaux, the lower plateau incorporating pen rests on all four sides.   Length 6½"/16.5cm x width 3½"/8.7cm x height 3¾"/9.3cm, weight 1lb 7¼oz/664g (all measured, not derived or calculated, so no brackets).    Pressed originally from clear, uncoloured glass, it is now a faint amethyst colour, probably due to the action of sunlight.   An early pressing with tight clean joints between the five outer sections of the mould.   The mould components are:
  • Top, including the inkwell and edge chamfer
  • Right side and right front of the anvil, and part of the top of the upper plateau
  • Left side and left front of the anvil, and part of the top of the upper plateau
  • Back of the anvil, and part of the top of the upper plateau
  • Sides of the upper plateau with top and sides of the lower plateau
  • Ring
  • Plunger

The anvil is modelled upon a typical English blacksmith's single-horn general purpose anvil, unlike English farrier's and Continental anvils which generally have a horn at both ends, one round and one square in cross section.   The step on a real anvil has been moved in from the end and converted to a curved pen rest.   The rim of the inkwell could have taken either a loose lid or a hinged lid, cemented on with plaster of paris, but there is no trace of any cement on this example.

We now come to the design itself.   As you will see from the photographs, the void under the inkstand has been cleverly designed to give the illusion of the anvil having spreading legs and feet, just like a real anvil, even down to the front legs under the horn being slightly thicker than the back legs to reflect the need for strength at this action end of the anvil.   This illusion works well viewed from the sides or the ends, and up to about 25°–30° from those positions.   In between, viewed from the corners, this illusion disappears.   You will also have noticed from my photograph of the base that the plunger is close ribbed around the inside of the lower plateau, and under the ends of the upper plateau.   So, as parts of the outside of the inkstand are plain, what you see is a mixture of upper and lower surfaces.   So, a very sophisticated design which works well, and for which I can't think of any parallels.

I thought that was all until I happened to put the inkstand down on my oak dining table, which has a very obvious and strong grain.   It was interesting to see that the grain was relatively undistorted through the sides of the upper plateau and between the "legs" of the anvil, further emphasising the illusion described above, and achieved by ensuring that the inside and outside surfaces curved at almost exactly the same rate, so the glass here became almost invisible.   Fabulous.   What a stunning piece of design.

Then I happened to be looking at a reference book while sitting at the table, and moved the inkstand a little closer to me.   I then noticed something else.   So I cleared this end of the table, and set it up like a writing desk, with the inkstand in line with my right arm, about 12" (30cm) from the edge of the table, lined up with the edge of the table.    As it was dark, I positioned a table lamp a little further away.    And it leapt out at me.    "What?" I hear you ask.   Well, as you will see from the photographs, the upper surface of the upper plateau is plain, so the anvil is positioned on a plain surface.   If you look at the inkstand from above, you see the ribbing of the underside of the upper plateau at each end of the anvil.   However, in the exact writing desk position, you see the ribbing of the underside of the upper plateau surrounded on all three far sides by a perfectly ribbed border.   On the far side and the right this is the ribbing on the inside of the lower plateau being transmitted though the glass, and on the left it is the gadrooning on the outside of the lower plateau that you see, again being transmitted through the glass.   I will try to photograph this effect later on this morning, when the light improves.

The closest match to the simple gadrooned rectangular lower plateau is the Sphinx by Molineaux, Webb & Co., Rd. 26 July 1875.   The plateau of John Derbyshire's Winged Sphinx has similar gadrooning, but surmounted by a band of additional ornamentation.   While any English glassworks could have made it, the incredible sophistication of design, the accurate mouldmaking, and the similarity with Manchester ornamental paperweights suggest to me that the manufacturing glassworks was one of the big three in Manchester at that time, Percival Vickers, John Derbyshire, or Molineaux, Webb & Co.   Alternatively the obviously fully competent appreciation of the properties of light transmitted through glass could indicate a manufacturer like Chance Bros (lighthouse lenses) or Hayward Bros (complex prismatic pavement lights), see here.

Contributions and ideas invited and warmly welcomed.

This is quite the most interesting and fascinating item of glass I have found since the Hayward Bros pavement light shown above, and what makes it rather pleasant is that I made the most important discoveries about it on my 60th birthday.   Is bus pass entitlement always so exciting?

Bernard C.  8)
Happy New Year to All Glass Makers, Historians, Dealers, and Collectors

Text and Images Copyright 200415 Bernard Cavalot

Offline krsilber

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Re: Manchester? c.1875 Anvil Inkstand
« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2008, 06:32:37 AM »
 :hiclp: :hiclp: :hiclp: :hiclp: ;D

Yay!!!  Happy Birthday, Bernard!  Wow, that is just so excellent...what a fine fine piece of glass to celebrate with.  I love the way you describe it, too, with such an appreciation of its optical properties.  And design!  wow, what a beaut!  It looks different from every angle, eh? Thanks for sharing it with us!
 :hiclp: :hiclp: :hiclp: :hiclp:
Kristi


"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science."

- Albert Einstein

Offline Leni

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Re: Manchester? c.1875 Anvil Inkstand
« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2008, 10:13:44 AM »
Bernard, thank you so much for your description  :clap:  Especially thank you for helping us to really 'see' what we're looking at!  Something which many of us often fail to do  ::) 

As you say, a truly fascinating piece of glass!  :hiclp:
Leni

Offline ian.macky

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Re: Manchester? c.1875 Anvil Inkstand
« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2008, 03:50:55 PM »
Hello Bernard, hope you are well on your 60th.  I am 45 now, which I consider Quite Old Indeed, bordering in Pre-Ancient.

Well, that's a very nice figural piece, and I'm not sure I've seen anything like its optical effects, with the legs being extended down into the base etc.  It would have taken quite a sharp and informed designer to have produced  that on purpose.  Could it have been accidental?  There seem to be too many optical features for them all to be accidental.

Or could it be a sort of wishful thinking, like when you look for numerology and such in the pyramids?  If you have enough data, any pattern can be found.  If I took some of my prismatic pieces and looked at them from all angles, might I pick out some optical features?  Don't know; doubtful.

I'd guess the optical features of your anvil were intentional.  Wish I could see it in person to be sure.  Quite an unusual combination of features in one piece.

Anvil paperweights are a "type" in a U.S., there are many patterns, but not too many are glass.  The most interesting to me is the Knights of Labor piece, since it is related to Hemingray, the insulator manufacturer.

I'm thinking more about paperweights, and figural paperweights in particular, and I can't recall seeing much where the optical properties of the glass are actually put to use.  But, I am not a paperweight man.

Cheers!

--ian

Offline Bernard C

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Re: Manchester? c.1875 Anvil Inkstand
« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2008, 04:52:24 PM »
Quote from: ian.macky
...   Or could it be a sort of wishful thinking, like when you look for numerology and such in the pyramids?  If you have enough data, any pattern can be found.  If I took some of my prismatic pieces and looked at them from all angles, might I pick out some optical features?   ...

Ian — Thanks for you good wishes, and the cautionary note.   I had this very much in mind when I was describing the inkstand.   What decided it for me was the plunger.   In almost all cases, the plunger was there just to save glass and reduce the weight.   Both to be so carefully shaped AND to be ribbed in such a specific way was something so unusual that it had to be deliberate and designed in.

Thanks for the benefit of your opinion, always highly regarded.   Please would you you bring this inkstand to the attention of any other authorities you know who might be able to contribute or know of parallels.

My warmest,

Bernard C.  8)
Happy New Year to All Glass Makers, Historians, Dealers, and Collectors

Text and Images Copyright 200415 Bernard Cavalot

Offline pamela

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Re: Manchester? c.1875 Anvil Inkstand
« Reply #5 on: May 13, 2008, 05:25:26 PM »
Bernard, thank you for sharing this with us - congratulations on your fascinating birthday find! (I do some goldsmithing also, but unfortunately my small desk anvil is made of brass  :mrgreen: )

 :bday:      :dance:
Pamela
Die Erfahrung lehrt, dass, wer auf irgendeinem Gebiet zu sammeln anfngt, eine Wandlung in seiner Seele anheben sprt. Er wird ein freudiger Mensch, den eine tiefere Teilnahme erfllt, und ein offeneres Verstndnis fr die Dinge dieser Welt bewegt seine Seele.
Experience teaches that anyone who begins to collect in any field can feel a change in his soul. He becomes a joyful man filled with a deeper empathy, and a more open understanding moves his soul.
Alfred Lichtwark (1852-1914)

Offline ian.macky

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Re: Manchester? c.1875 Anvil Inkstand
« Reply #6 on: May 13, 2008, 06:03:20 PM »
In almost all cases, the plunger was there just to save glass and reduce the weight.

I would add: also to reduce the maximum thickness of the glass, thus reducing the annealing time.

--ian

Offline Bernard C

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Re: Manchester? c.1875 Anvil Inkstand
« Reply #7 on: May 14, 2008, 03:58:02 PM »
Ian — Thanks for the additional infomation, not immediately obvious to me, although I should have reasoned it out.

Why an Anvil?
In a parallel dicussion by email on this inkstand, the subject came up of why an anvil.

I believe that the anvil was symbolic of worthy hard work, probably derived from Longfellow's poem The Village Blacksmith, published in 1842, and learned by most English speaking children in Victorian times, see here.   You may recall the opening lines:-
Quote
Under a spreading chestnut-tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;

and it finishes:-
Quote
Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend,
For the lesson thou hast taught!
Thus at the flaming forge of life
Our fortunes must be wrought;
Thus on its sounding anvil shaped
Each burning deed and thought.

Incidentally "honest sweat" is a quotation from this poem.

Are there other possible origins of this symbolism?
 
The Knights of Labor, an early American labour union, mentioned by Ian above, may have chosen the anvil as representative of the oppression of the labouring classes, a clever inversion of the symbolism.    Here is the relevant US patent, issued 1 March 1887;  link provided by GMB member Sid.   Incidentally, note the beautiful language of the patent specification.   Tom Bredehoft noted that the KofL piece is illustrated on p.161 of Victorian Glass Novelties by Bob Sanford.

Bernard C.  8)
Happy New Year to All Glass Makers, Historians, Dealers, and Collectors

Text and Images Copyright 200415 Bernard Cavalot

Offline krsilber

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Re: Manchester? c.1875 Anvil Inkstand
« Reply #8 on: May 15, 2008, 05:22:45 AM »
According to this site, blacksmithing is linked to magic, and anvils are good luck charms.
http://www.helium.com/items/903571-blacksmith-central-figure-ancient

"The blacksmith was a central figure in ancient communities and linked the gods of the forge and the spirit world to everyday village life.

Since ancient times, blacksmiths have been linked to magic, due to their power to make metal from barren rocks. Forging weapons for hunting and tools for farming placed the blacksmith firmly at the center of the community."

Not only is it cool, it's MAGICAL! ;D

What a conceptual contradiction, to have something that's the epitome of hardness and durability represented in glass.
Kristi


"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science."

- Albert Einstein

Offline ian.macky

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Re: Manchester? c.1875 Anvil Inkstand
« Reply #9 on: May 15, 2008, 05:33:45 AM »
What a conceptual contradiction, to have something that's the epitome of hardness and durability represented in glass.

I was just thinking today how a glass anvil prefigures Dada by 50 years...

...and also remembering an advertisement for some sort of toughened glass, where a cylinder of the stuff a couple inches in diameter (but thin wall) was used to hammer a nail into a board.

That surface compression trick for toughening is amazing, so you just might be able to make a workable, toughened glass anvil.  Who knows??

--ian

 

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