J Herbin Anniversary Inks – The Complete Guide
Founded in 1670 in Paris, J Herbin is the oldest ink manufacturer in the world and has supplied ink to the likes of Victor Hugo, who wrote Les Miserables with an ink specially made for him, Louis XIV and Napoleon Bonaparte, both of whom presumably signed important documents with it. In 1798 Jacques Herbin moved the family business to a different part of Paris in St Germain and started producing his own range of inks, an important date for reasons that will become clear later.
Initially, back in 2010, Herbin produced an interesting ink called Hematite Red, made to celebrate the 340th anniversary of the foundation of Herbin and thus called 1670 Anniversary Ink. The red colour was meant to reference the wax they made for seals and the Herbin logo: Hematite is an iron ore used as a red pigment. The ink came in a heavy and impressively solid bottle with a red wax seal on the front and cap. It wasn’t a big seller, red not being an especially popular colour for writing, but it was a nice deep red.
In 2012 Herbin produced a second anniversary ink – Bleu Ocean – a royal blue with gold flecks. The name came from the maritime adventures of Jacques Herbin who was a bit of a globe trotter. India was a primary supplier of indigo dye and so it is named to recall his journeys across the sea to the Mughal Empire. It was later reformulated, as was Hematite Red, to include more of the shimmering particles.
Two years later and Stormy Grey was released. This was a stunning deep anthracite grey, again with flecks of gold, and at this point people really started to take notice. It was named as a nod to Herbin’s ocean trips – the wild and dark oceans with the gold hints representing lightning strikes.
After the success of Stormy Grey, Herbin decided it should become an annual event and so in 2015 they released Emerald of Chivor to great fanfare. This was perhaps the best of the series and certainly sold the best at Bureau. It was a fabulous deep green with gold flecks and took its inspiration from the Chivor emeralds that Herbin apparently carried in his pocket as a good luck talisman.
2016 saw the release of Caroube de Chypre, a warm brown with gold flecks. Herbin was fond of carob pods as a source of food during his voyages and they were known as the black gold of Cyprus. The ink was actually rather beautiful but sold less well, perhaps as brown is a harder sell. A shame really.
In 2017 Herbin decided to break with the formula and start a new anniversary series, this based on the 1798 launch of his ink brand (see above) and flecked with silver instead of gold. For the first ink they came up with a royal purple Amethyste De L’Oural, inspired by an ‘ancient gemstone from the gates of Asia’ (the Ural Mountains) and launched in a new wider-neck bottle. An issue with the inks had been the narrow-neck bottles and all the inks were subsequently relaunched in the new-design packaging.
2018 saw the launch of Cornaline d’Egypte, a gorgeous orange with silver flecks and inspired by the semi-precious stone Carnelian, said by the ancient Egyptians to be one of the most calming and healing semi-precious gemstones.
And so, 2019 is the year of Kyanite du Nepal, a blue verging on turquoise with silver flecks and named for the sapphire-coloured mineral linked to the Kali Gandaki, a famous mining region of Nepal. Not as dark as the Bleu Ocean but not quite turquoise either, a pretty colour nonetheless.