An exceptional Liberty & Co Cymric silver modernist inkwell

I thought I would end the year with a “bang”.  This large inkwell is simply astonishing. Made in 1905 and probably designed in c 1902, it is the only surviving example I am aware of. Fully hallmarked for Liberty & Co it appears as model 519 in the Liberty silver sketch book page 287. The lid and top of the inkwell have very characteristic arts and crafts design features of Oliver Baker, to whom this inkwell is attributed.  Baker was Liberty’s “second” designer, instrumental in the establishment of the Cymric range but today very much in Archibald Knox’s shadow.

The inkwell’s design may be marine inspired (a mix of starfish, manta ray and crab) but the manner in which the three legs are attached separately from the body creates an entirely different, and very modern, spaceship appearance.  Possibly the inkwell also drew inspiration from H G Wells’  “War of the Worlds”, published in 1898.   For those that know their Star Trek it also bears more than a passing resemblance to the USS Defiant from Star Trek Deep Space Nine – see images!

This inkwell epitomises the reasons I am passionate about silver of the period  c 1880-1914.  Radical and ahead of its time, this type of metalwork was only to be seen again in the Bauhaus / Deco period and the second half of the 20th century. Such designs truly contributed to the version of modernity we take for granted today.

Of this late Victorian and Edwardian metalwork; pieces by Christopher Dresser and Archibald Knox are considered the most modern and ahead of their time.  Dresser gave us Bauhaus before Bauhaus, Knox gave us rockets (in silver) before rockets and now Oliver Baker has, in designing this inkwell, given us a spaceship (in silver) before spaceships. An alien spaceship at that.

A museum piece, it has great presence measuring 21 cm across its widest points.

Price range: Sold

Maker: Liberty & Co

Designer: Oliver Baker (attrib)

Date : 1905

Marks: L & Co, Birmingham, date letter “f”.

Material: Sterling silver

Condition: Excellent. Replacement liner

Size: 21 cm max width, 4.0cm high

Weight : 9.9 oz, 282 grams

SKU: A987 Category:


A photo of the inkwell from the Liberty sketch book is available on request.

Additional information


Liberty & Co / Haselers, Oliver Baker


Sterling silver

Price range



Art nouveau, Arts and crafts