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Globe, Specialty, Inkwell, Great Exhibition of 1851, Elkington, Silver, Antique, English, 1851


John Leighton (1822-1912) (designer)
Commemorative World Globe and Historical Inkwell
Elkington & Co., Birmingham: c. 1851
Silver-plated copper
5 inches high, 9 inches diameter overall

Ideal corporate or other gift: Antique English Great Exhibition World Globe Inkwell with Commerce, Manufacturing, and Raw Material themes.

Commemorative inkwell produced for the Great Exhibition of 1851 comprised of a silver-gilt terrestrial globe with gilt interior opening to reveal a blown glass inkwell within. It is mounted in the center of a circular silver-plated repoussé base having allegorical vignettes of Raw Materials, Commerce, and Manufacturers. On the base, each category is labeled in Gothic lettering and represented by three illustrations: Raw Materials by a man at a cauldron, a farmhand picking sugar cane, and a sheepherder; Manufacturers by a weaver at a loom, an artist drawing, and a potter; and Commerce by a man with a ledger and pen beside a wrapped parcel, a person apparently laying out a bolt of cloth, and a man moving the parcel in a tropical landscape. The vignettes are separated by elaborate Gothic borders, with three caducei separating the categories. The inkstand was made by Elkington & Co. and was gilded by electric current, an innovative process at the time. There is one in the collection of London’s Victoria & Albert Museum that was donated by its designer, John Leighton.

Product description continues below.


The rim is decorated with a vine and banner border bearing the names of renowned artists, inventors and designers throughout history: Arkwright, Boettger, Boyle, Caxton, Cartwright, Cellini, Crompton, Davy, Durer, Flaxman, Holbein, Gutenberg, Hargreave, Jacquard, Newton, Palissy, Peel, Raphael, Stanhope, Watt, and Wedgwood.

The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations was held from May to October 1851 in the Crystal Palace, a building constructed for the event in Hyde Park, London. Queen Victoria and Albert, Prince Consort, were present at the opening of the exhibition, an international showcase of manufactured products that also included exhibits of raw materials and machinery. The exhibition was part of a government initiative to maintain Britain’s competitiveness with other manufacturing nations by improving design education and inspiring the country’s workforce. The inkwell design aligns very clearly with the goals of the exhibition.

John Leighton was a British designer and illustrator who worked under the pseudonym Luke Limner. He designed stained glass, ceramics and bookbindings. Leighton designed a commemorative inkstand for the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London that was produced in brass and silver-plated copper by Elkington and Co.; the design also appeared as a metal plaque on the cover of the Art Journal catalog of the Great Exhibition.

Elkington & Co. was a British firm manufacturing mainly electroplated domestic wares. It was founded in Birmingham, England, sometime between 1829 and 1836 by George Richards Elkington (1801-1865) and his cousin Henry Elkington (1810-1852). In 1836, the Elkingtons took out the first of many patents for new methods of gilding and plating, including one that covered the electroplating process which gave them control over its exploitation, followed by patents in other countries. When the firm was successfully established it employed French sculptors and designers and became one of the largest producers of silver objects in England, which were manufactured in a large factory in Birmingham.

Edge of rim with maker’s insignia and inscribed “Elkington & Co. 921.” 

Condition: Generally very good with usual light overall wear to silver plating.  Base good, lined on the bottom with faux-shagreen cardboard, as issued.


Blakey, Claire. “The legacy of The Great Exhibition — 170 years on.” National Museums Scotland.30 April 2021. (21 January 2022).

“Commemorative Inkstand.” Victoria & Albert Museum.–co/ (27 January 2022).

Pope-Hennessey, John (introduction). The Encyclopedia of Antiques. New York: Greenwich House, 1982. p. 131.


Additional information


19th Century