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Methods for sanding letters

We often read about our heroes and heroines “sanding” their letters after composition.

Ink was wet and took time to dry, so unless one wanted to smear ink across the page, one would need to use pounce to “sand” the ink dry or roll an ink blotter to absorb the excess ink so that one could then hand off the letter or fold it, as appropriate. If one had all the time in the world, they could leave it on the desk to air dry.

Drying could take as long as 20 min. With quality ink and quality paper, that length is significantly reduced, but not to our modern standards. Pounce didn’t necessarily quicken the drying time, as you might think, but it helped the ink from smearing while it dried, which still resulted in accelerating the time between finishing the letter and folding it.

The “sander” had nothing to do with sand, rather it was a pounce pot, used similarly to a saltshaker, and filled with powder made of finely ground pumice, sandstone or talc, crushed cuttlefish bones, or earlier in the era, gum-sandarac rosin.

If someone did not have pounce handy, a blotter could be rolled across the paper to absorb excess ink, similar to how modern blotting paper works. It was best, though, to allow ink to dry on its own without the use of pounce or blotter, but when one was in a hurry, these options were available, even if they did not work quite as quickly as our modern expectations would assume.

Golden Romance Research: Writing Implements

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