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Algerian Silver Pen Box

19th century

length: 21.3cm, weight: 196g



UK art market

Algerian penboxes used by scribes are relatively rare. This penbox comprises a long reed case and an attached, lidded ink well. It is of silver alloy with parcel-gilt work (partial gold plating) and is decorated with applied filigree and inset with red and turquoise coloured beads and stones.

One side of the case is decorated with six applied crescent and star motifs along with inset turquoise and red beads.

The other side is inset with five silver Algerian coins – quarter Budju coins minted by the Ottoman authorities in Algeria in the 19th century. The coins were struck under the Ottoman regent in Algeria during the reign of the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II (AH 1223-1252 / AD 1808-1839).

The beads used in decoration comprise a mixture of actual stones and glass beads, namely red-white heart trade beads that were made in Venice in the 19th century and exported around the world.

Such a pen box could have been used by a wandering scribe, with the box being slipped under the belt of the user whilst walking.

The box is in fine condition without losses to the beads or filigree. It has ample signs of age.


Garnier, N., et al, ABD El-Kader et l’Algerie au XIXe Siecle dans les Collections du Musee Conde a Chantilly, Somogy Editions d’Art, 2003.

McWilliams M. & D. Roxburgh, Traces of the Calligrapher: Islamic Calligraphy in Practice c. 1600-1900, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2007.

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