A shagreen Ransome Patent Travel Inkwell.
The Ransome's Patent inkwell folds flat to pack to a relatively small size. To use it you push where indicated on the metal body and slide the inkwell on its frame until it locks at a right angle. The lid is opened by depressing a flush button to the inkwell to reveal a small glass well. The lid interior has a sprung rubber pad to seal the bottle when closed.
The inkwell is stamped Ransome's Patent above De La Rue & Co. to one side. Thomas De La Rue were a well established company that are still in existence. They would have bought the rights to make the inkwell design.
The inkwell is a great space saver as well as being a practical design. The Army & Navy store advertised the inkwell in various sizes as one of the photos illustrates. Not only is this inkwell a large size compared to most Ransome's available but the use of shagreen to decorate the frame in unusual. We have seen metal, mahogany and leather before but this is the first in shagreen we have had. Late 19th Century.
The size closed is given.
Thomas De La Rue formed the company in Guernsey in 1813 before moving to London in 1821 to set up as a printer, stationer and fancy goods manufacturer.
The business was a great success and innovative. By the middle of the 19th century they were producing both fiscal and postage stamps for the government before moving into the printing of money. They became London stationers of great renown that produced a large variety of items from portable inkwells and business cards to pocket travel chess sets and playing cards.
A number of retailers sold their wares including the Army & Navy C.S.L., Edwards & Sons of 161 Regent St. London (stationers & dressing case makers) and Harrods.
As far as travel items are concerned, they are perhaps best known for the Ransome Patent Inkwell, several of which are illustrated on this website. The inkwell was designed by Ransomes, Sims & Jefferies Ltd. in 1861 but didn't take off until De la Rue licensed the design. It was made in at least 3 sizes and we have seen examples in leather, all metal and silver. They also sold sets of inkwells to hold various different colours of ink.
The company is still in existence.