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