Large cylindrical inkwell with knobbed lid, cast
and engraved on the base with concentric ridges.
The lid is kept in place by three long knobbed
rivets that insert through the lid into the chanlles
attached to the interior of the well.
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.
For a comparable example see:
Hayward Gallery, The Arts of Islam, 1976: pl.183,
LO.689. Inkwell (mihbara, dawat), cast bronze.
Cylindrical body with flat narrow splayed base,
everted flat rim with low and everted and flat
part whuch has three small knobs, domical
part topped by a knob-shaped finial.
Afghanistan, 9th – 10th century.
Prof. Geza Fehervari
Prof. Geoffrey King