J. Herbin is a manufacturer of ink for fountain and dip pens. Founded in 1670, it is the oldest surviving ink manufacturer in Europe.

Herbin fountain pen ink is available in bottles and the shorter sized 'international' cartridges used by many European pens. It comes in a wide variety of colours (twenty six at the time of writing), some of which are fairly conventional (Eclat de Saphir, Violette Pensée and Perle Noire cover the standard blue, French school purple and black respectively) and others which are not found in inks made by fountain pen manufacturers.

Herbin inks, like those from Waterman, are very free-flowing and fast to dry. They are reasonably resistant to sunlight but do not fare well against water. The ink is reasonably consistent, but will fade off slightly around the edges of lines. Many of the colours are relatively washed out, making them suitable only for use on white or very lightly tinted paper — when compared to Private Reserve's vibrant colours, they can seem somewhat timid.

Perle Noire is the exception. As black inks go, this is probably the best choice on the market. It is as smooth as Waterman's Black but without the grey appearance, as dark as Private Reserve's Velvet Black (although slightly glossier) without the slow drying time and thickness and better in every respect than the terrible offerings from Parker and Diamine. A good black ink for fountain pens seems to be surprisingly difficult to produce, but Herbin have really got this one right.

Herbin also produce dip pen inks. Using these inks in a fountain pen will ruin the feed. As well as some stronger colours, the dip pen ink range includes metallic and pearlescent inks and an invisible ink that can only be read when heated.

Finally, a few Herbin colours are also available in scented form. These are supposedly safe for fountain pens, but it probably isn't a good idea to use them in a pen which you care about. The most interesting aspect about these inks is the crystal inkwells in which they are sold; the smell from the ink is too obnoxious for normal every-day use and for special occasions there are other equally effective ways of adding scent to paper.

Herbin inks can occasionally be found in high street stores, but they are usually easier to obtain via mail order. Even occasional fountain pen users should consider trying it out; the difference in quality between ink from specialist producers and many manufacturer branded inks is huge. If you prefer to use a ballpoint pen to avoid blotching and mess, you probably just need a better ink.

      The large pile of ink bottles on my desk

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