Herbin is old, very old. 350 years in fact. When it was established in Paris in 1670, France was still a kingdom and New Zealand was but a twinkle in Abel Tasman's eye. The company's founder, Jacques Herbin, was actually a sailor employed by the French East India Company, and used his voyages to collect ingredients and formulae for inks and sealing wax. He then set about supplying France with inky essentials, and one of his best customers was Louis XIV.
Today, Herbin is still all about ink - even their rollerballs take ink cartridges - and the useful things that go with it, like blotting paper. One of the best things about Herbin's inky collection is that so many of their products have a reference to Herbin's (very long) history.
Take their bottles of 30ml ink, for example. They're known as 'D' bottles, which refers to the old French unit of measure called 'la Demi Courtine'. And the tops of the bottles have a useful indent on which to rest your pen. They're inexpensive, made from entirely natural dyes and are therefore pH neutral. The 35 colours in the range include Violette Pensée, a purple ink used by French schoolchildren between 1870 and 1940, and Perle Noire, which could have been the black ink that Herbin created especially for Victor Hugo. And even if it's not, it's still a lovely name for an ordinary colour.
The 1670 Collection is a range of inks containing tiny flecks of gold, and celebrates the adventures of the sea-faring Jacques Herbin. Ocean Blue and Stormy Grey represent both sides of the coin where the sea is concerned, while Caroube de Chypre is a nod to M Herbin's fondness for carob pods, known as the 'black gold of Cyprus'. He apparently also liked to keep an emerald in his pocket (as you do) for luck, and those sourced from the Chivor mine in Peru were said to be the purest in the world - hence the development of the Emeraude de Chivor ink. Rouge Hematite represents his success where sealing wax is concerned: Chanel use the wax as finishing touches on their perfume bottles, and it's also used during bottling by the French wine industry.
The 1798 Collection commemorates the year that the 4th generation Jacques Herbin introduced his own line of inks, beavering away in his Parisian workshop while the French Revolution was on its last legs and Napoleon Bonaparte was beginning his ascent to power. These contain silver particles, with Amethyste de l'Oural and Cournaline d'Egypte the first ones in the range.
The various Jacques Herbins must have done something right, because the Herbin company is still going strong, and still innovating. They have now introduced Calligraphy Ink: super-opaque ink in vivid colours containing natural resins that ensure the ink sticks to nibs, and for that reason they're NOT GOOD for fountain pens! They also do metallic Pigment Inks in gold, copper and silver, glow-in-the-dark Phosphorescent Ink and Encre Authentique (or Registrar's Ink). Because these all contain particles, they're NOT GOOD for fountain pens either, so think France in 1670 and use a quill. Or a dip pen if you don't have an obliging goose.
As Herbin puts it, 'Writing with ink and pen is much more than just writing, it gives body and colour to our thoughts.'
9 October 2018