Pen Case thumbnail 1
Not currently on display at the V&A

Pen Case

circa 1600
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Portable pen cases or penners were hung from the belt along with inkhorns. They were a convenient way to carry writing implements around and remained in use until the late 18th century. Penners were made of ivory, horn, silver or as this one, engraved gilt copper. They were cleverly compartmentalised so quills and other tools could be stored without damaging them. This example could be fastened to a belt by the loops on the sides.

Penners were essential tools for notaries, merchants and scholars. Around 1490, an Oxford schoolmaster reproved his student for being poorly supplied: “Methinkest thou lackest many things that it is need[ful] for a good scholar to have, first a penner and an inkhorn and then books”. Another young scholar of the same date was better equipped: "[At] the last fair, my uncle on my father's side gave me a penner and an inkhorn, and my uncle of my mother's side gave me a penknife. Now and I had a pair of tables, I lacked nothing".


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Engraved brass with traces of gilding
Brief Description
Copper-gilt. Germany; early-mid 16th century.
Physical Description
Rectangular case of engraved brass with traces of gilding. Oblong with side attachments, decorated with a bird and arabesques with lion masks holding rings. Pull off cover.
Dimensions
  • Height: 17.6cm
  • Width: 4cm
  • Depth: 4.2cm
Gallery Label
UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL Before modern transport people largely travelled on foot or on horseback. Useful everyday items needed to be carried comfortably on the body. Some were miniature versions of larger objects, others folded ingeniously to become portable. Often they were intricate and delicate. These eleven items were personal possessions. Many were made before pockets were commonplace. Some were used in the workplace, some at home and some on the road. Many have cases as stylish as the objects they protect. These cases came in a range of materials, from expensive ivory and sharkskin to cheaper leather and wood. Their decoration shows the same designs that adorn silver, ceramics and textiles. All these objects give us interesting insights into work, leisure and social etiquette 4 PENCASE Engraved brass Germany, 1550-1600 Writing equipment was fragile. Metal pencases, or penners, were cleverly compartmented so pencils or quills to be stored without damaging them. This example could be fastened to a belt by the loops on the sides. Croft-Lyons Bequest Museum no. M.670-1926
Credit line
Lt. Col. G. B. Croft-Lyons Bequest
Subjects depicted
Summary
Portable pen cases or penners were hung from the belt along with inkhorns. They were a convenient way to carry writing implements around and remained in use until the late 18th century. Penners were made of ivory, horn, silver or as this one, engraved gilt copper. They were cleverly compartmentalised so quills and other tools could be stored without damaging them. This example could be fastened to a belt by the loops on the sides.



Penners were essential tools for notaries, merchants and scholars. Around 1490, an Oxford schoolmaster reproved his student for being poorly supplied: “Methinkest thou lackest many things that it is need[ful] for a good scholar to have, first a penner and an inkhorn and then books”. Another young scholar of the same date was better equipped: "[At] the last fair, my uncle on my father's side gave me a penner and an inkhorn, and my uncle of my mother's side gave me a penknife. Now and I had a pair of tables, I lacked nothing".
Bibliographic References
  • Finlay, Michael: "Western writing implements in the age of the quill pen", Cumbria, 1990
  • Rachel Church, Writing Equipment and Women in Europe 1500-1900, Women's Writing, 21:3, 2014, pp. 385-404, fig. 2
  • Orme, Nicholas, "Medieval schools from Roman Britain to Renaissance England", Yale University Press, 2006
Collection
Accession Number
M.670-1926

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record createdJune 24, 2009
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