Known in Arabic as mihbara and in Perisan as dawat, inkwells were common tools used by scribes in the medieval Islamic world, along with pen boxes (see AKM609) and other writing implements (see AKM622). This inkwell may once have held black ink manufactured from a mixture of oak galls and metal. The two handles situated either side of the inkwell’s body may have been used as slots for a handle or sling, facilitating the object’s transport.
Inkwells served practical functions, protecting ink from dirt and powder and enabling ink to be transported easily—a necessity since scribes travelled often. Inkwells were made from a variety of materials, including glass or wood. Although textual records indicate that writers prohibited the use of inkwells made of precious materials, such as those seen in this example from the Aga Khan Museum Collection, this interdiction was rarely heeded. The use of bronze and silver here may suggest the inkwell was owned by a scribe employed as a high-ranking bureaucrat, or, alternatively, a member of the urban middle class, which emerged in the 12th and 13th centuries.
The many instances of calligraphy on this object reference its function as a writing implement. A benedictory inscription is engraved on the lid, wishing good fortune to the owner. Joining this invocation of blessings is another series of benedictory inscriptions on the flat surface of the lid, encircling the tapered hand. Two bands bearing similar messages frame the upper and lower bands of the inkwell’s body, as if adding to a cacophony of voices expressing well wishes to an unseen owner.
The calligraphic theme of the inkwell’s iconographic program is continued in the horizontal band located at the centre of the container’s body. Here, the repeated motif of inlaid silver figures features a pair of merrymakers: to the right, an abstracted figure raises a glass towards their companion, who appears to be seated, arms outstretched. The geometric outlines of the figures, highlighted by the silver inlay, echo the composition of the calligraphic messages of goodwill dispersed across the inkwell’s body.
The striking visual contrast between the silver inlay in the letter and figural outlines was achieved by using copper alloy to cast the body of the inkwell. This casting process allowed for the large-scale production of similar, rounded inkwells with a tapered handle. Such production is thought to have been centred in the region of Khorasan (northeastern modern Iran and Afghanistan) in the 12th and 13th centuries. Examples include an inkwell  in the David Collection in Copenhagen, whose inlaid decorative program includes a signature from its maker by the name of Shah Malik. Similarly, an inkwell in the Walters Art Museum  in Baltimore names Muhammad ibn Abu Sahl al-Harawi as the artist. 
Indeed, while the shape of the Khorasan inkwells is largely uniform, their surface decoration is often customized according to the patron in question. The numerous supplicatory messages on this inkwell in the Aga Khan Museum Collection undoubtedly added to the social value of the object, as the reading of the inscription activated its benedictory powers. This reading—whether performed aloud or silently—would have likely occurred while handling the small object, which measures about ten centimetres in height and less than eight centimetres in diameter. The inkwell’s diminuitive size and circular shape may have encouraged its owner to hold and turn it, discovering through touch the details of its inlaid decoration.
 Baer, Metalwork in Medieval Islamic Art, 66–67.
 Déroche, Manuel de codicologie des manuscrits en écriture arabe, 120.
 Graves, The Arts of Allusion, 109.
 Baer, Metalwork in Medieval Islamic Art, 67.
 Ibid., “dawat,” in Encyclopedia of Islam II, 203–4.
 Taragan, “The Speaking Inkwell from Khurasan,” 39–40.
 Graves, The Arts of Allusion, 106.
 Inkwell, cast, engraved, and punched bronze, inlaid with copper and silver, Eastern Iran; 2nd half of 12th century, The David Collection, Inv. No. 32/1970.
 Inkwell with "Kufic" and "Naskhi" Inscriptions, bronze, inlaid with silver and copper; ca. 1200 (Medieval), The Walters Art Museum, 54.514.
 Melikian-Chirvani, “State Inkwells in Islamic Iran,” 70–94; 75.
 Kana’an, “The de Jure ‘Artist’ of the Bobrinski Bucket,” 175–201.
 Graves, “Say Something Nice,” 328.
 Ibid., The Arts of Allusion, 116–17.
Baer, Eva. Metalwork in Medieval Islamic Art. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1983. ISBN: 9780873956024
---. “Dawat.” Encyclopaedia of Islam II, eds. P. Bearman and Th. Bianquis. Leiden: Brill: 1981, 203–4. ISBN: 9789047412007
Déroche, François, ed. Manuel de codicologie des manuscrits en écriture arabe. Paris: Bibliotheque Nationale de France, 2000. ISBN: 9782717721065
Graves, Margaret. The Arts of Allusion: Object, Ornament, and Architecture in Medieval Islam. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018. ISBN: 9780190695910
---. “Say Something Nice: Supplications on Medieval Objects, and Why they Matter.” Studying the Near and Middle East at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, 1935-2018, ed. Sabrina Schmitde. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2018, 322–30. . ISBN: 9781463207502
Inkwell, cast, engraved, and punched bronze, inlaid with copper and silver, Eastern Iran; 2nd half of 12th century, The David Collection, Inv. No. 32/1970. https://www.davidmus.dk/en/collections/islamic/materials/metal/art/32-1970
Inkwell with "Kufic" and "Naskhi" Inscriptions, bronze, inlaid with silver and copper; ca. 1200 (Medieval), The Walters Art Museum, 54.514. https://art.thewalters.org/detail/19874/inkwell-with-kufic-and-naski-inscriptions/
Kana’an, Ruba. “The de Jure ‘Artist’ of the Bobrinski Bucket: Production and Patronage of Metalwork in pre-Mongol Khurasan and Transoxania.” Islamic Law and Society 16.2 (2009): 175–201. DOI: 10.1163/092893809X12469547140955
Melikian-Chirvani, “State Inkwells in Islamic Iran.” Journal of the Walters Art Gallery 44 (1986): 70–94.
Taragan, Hana. “The Speaking Inwell from Khurasan: Object as “World” in Iranian Medieval Metalwork.” Muqarnas 22 (2005): 29–44. . ISBN: 9789004147027
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