An Austrian Naval Travelling Inkwell

This Austrian travelling inkwell was made for the navy as identified by the double headed eagle and anchor on the inner cap. It’s crude but ingenious: the same catch which releases the outer cap also releases the inner one.

It dates to around 1900, so in the latter years of the Austrian Empire. These items are not unknown. Auction houses in Britain value them at £5-£25 depending on condition. In the USA they fetch higher prices.

This well-used and battered example is at the lower end of these values. It was once as vital and valuable a means of communication for the Austrian seaman as today’s cellphone.

11 thoughts on “An Austrian Naval Travelling Inkwell

  1. Is this really Russian? I’d have thought the letters would be Cyrillic.
    I’d guess Austro-Hungarian; they had a two headed eagle as well and the KK could be Kaiserlich-Königlich something (Armee?)

    1. You make a good point, Alan. However, the double-headed eagle appears to indicate the Russian Empire, and the discussion I found on an antiques site described them as Russian.

      Edit to add: The more I think about it, the more I think you’re right.

  2. I know it’s rather tiny, but look at the shield on the eagle. The Russian one shows St George, this one with three vertical divisions, a square in the middle and a diagonal on the right looks very like the Coat of Arms of Austria-Hungary as shown on Wikipedia. I wonder whether the PRIV is short for something like ‘privilege’ indicating that the design is protected.

      1. Or couldn’t it be just a commercial trademark? The dolphin and anchor device symbolises speed combined with reliable solidity and has been used for centuries, notably by the early printer Christopher Plantin, with the motto ‘Festina Lente’. Maybe it’s not official at all, you know how British items of the time used the royal arms without any authority.

  3. KKA PRIV is short for Kaiserlicher Konigslicher Adler Privilig – Imperial Royal Eagle Priviledge. The Austro-Hungarian equivalent of ‘By Appointment to Her Majesty’.
    Not sure the dolphin and anchor is a naval symbol. It’s the ‘festina lente’ motif (more haste, less speed) known from Roman times, and is perhaps more likely to be the company’s own logo – it was used most famously for the 16thC Italian Aldine Press. Some inkwells can be found with just the dolphin and anchor, and some with the same markings seem too fancy to be purely for naval use.

      1. I have one, and it has taken a while to pin down where it was from – probably more effort than was worth it for the value – but this was one of the more helpful and sensible discussions I came across.

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