The Scriptum Blog / Oxford
No, we haven't started our Christmas shopping yet, either. But it's about time to start seeking inspiration, so we have prepared a gift guide to help you find some wonderful ideas: naturally we have some excellent presents for stationery lovers, but we also have a wide range of more unusual items for those hard-to-buy-for people in everyone's life. Simply click on the image above, then pick the collection that best describes the person you are shopping for, and you'll see a selection of unforgettable presents to suit them. Easy!
For those of you raring to start, we are offering Free Standard UK Shipping or £5 Off International Shipping for the whole of the next week. Just enter the code LookHowOrganisedIAm when you checkout between now & midnight on Friday 25th November. Happy shopping!
After a sweltering summer of less-than-peaceful drilling and building work, Turl Street has gained another of those unexpected and tantalising Oxford views which lift the spirits and spur the imagination. Through a wrought iron gate in a Cotswold stone wall, past a well-tended lawn and shrubbery, the arched stonework of a 17th century chapel reflects in the huge windows of Lincoln College's sensitively designed new Garden Building, and against the summer-blue sky you catch a glimpse of the iconic curved roof of the Radcliffe camera. Stunning, and well worth a glance the next time you pass it on your way here. This month we will have been based on Turl Street for ten years (we spent the four before that in a smaller shop in the Golden Cross) and the beauty and character of our surroundings never cease to inspire us.
As is usual at this time of year, over the last few months we have met fascinating people visiting Oxford from all over the world. Our new Zakria Journal (above) has been a particular hit with travellers because of the flap and toggle which keep loose paper tucked in, as well as the stunning embossing on the front cover. They have been bought by customers from as far afield as Chile, the USA, and Australia, making it a truly international favourite! We always love seeing our products in use, so if any of you have photos of our journals which have been scribbled in and battered and used and loved, please send them in, or tag us in your pictures of them on Instagram or Facebook.
This month we've been...
... reading the new Folio Society edition of Terry Pratchett's Mort. And running our fingers over the terrifyingly tactile cover. “THAT’S MORTALS FOR YOU.... THEY’VE ONLY GOT A FEW YEARS IN THIS WORLD AND THEY SPEND THEM ALL IN MAKING THINGS COMPLICATED FOR THEMSELVES. FASCINATING.”
... listening to Verdi's Nabucco
... writing with a Conklin Duragraph Fountain Pen
Have you ever found yourself drifting in the middle of the featureless blue ocean wondering which way to sail for land? Well, no, neither have we, but the fact remains that this sailor's sextant is an entrancing little gadget, used alongside navigational charts to allow you to work out your latitude by measuring the angle between an astral body and the horizon. Usually £65, we offer you this nautical reproduction for only £50 until the end of August with this terrible pun of a discount code, SUMMERSAIL.
We all know that slightly flat feeling when you have spent time, money, and above all, effort on choosing a present which you know is utterly perfect for someone, but you haven't seen them open it. We've all been on the other side too - received a gift which has touched us ("I can't believe she remembered I wanted this!") but have had to restrain our visible enthusiasm lest Auntie Myrtle realise her Twix mug wasn't quite as thrilling as that incredible compass globe from cousin Althea. It's polite to write a thank you card for any present, but the really thoughtful ones truly deserve it. So, whether it's a dutiful note for a gesture gift or a heartfelt thank you for a long-desired treat, here are our four simple rules for the perfect thank you letter:
1. Be prompt. The acceptable length of the note is proportional to the time you've taken to send it. A couple of lines within a week of receiving a present is perfect, while if you leave it longer, you should really write at more length and detail to justify how long it has taken. And let's face it, the longer you leave it, the less likely you are to write it at all.
2. Be specific. Saying "thanks for the present" sounds like (and probably means) you can't quite remember exactly what they got you. Telling the giver how you have used/will use the item they got you is a nice way of letting them know you appreciate the qualities of the present.
3. Draft it. A two minute scribbled draft will help avoid repetition of fulsome adjectives ("lovely" sounds a bit disingenuous when it has been used three times in a row) and also prevent spelling mistakes and messy crossings out. It doesn't have to be a masterpiece of world literature, but coherence and elegance are always worth aiming for.
4. Handwrite it. Even though it puts my views at odds with the über arbiter of etiquette, Debretts, who suggest that an emailed thank-you is sometimes acceptable, to me they will always look like you are just filling a dull 5 minutes at work, and frankly aren't worth the cyberspace they're written on. A spontaneous text at the moment of unwrapping is all well and good, but the rarer it becomes to write by hand, the more appreciated proper handwritten thank you cards become.
The dutiful note with draft, written the day after receiving the present:
The sincerely grateful note, written after a week:
The "I don't care about your present or you" email:
A word of caution to end on - never write a thank you card for a thank you card. This kind of gratitude one-upmanship is not only in poor taste, but can lead to the dreaded thank you loop. If you have friends who are also stationery addicts, it is disturbingly easy to become trapped on a Möbius strip of thank you notes, thanking them for thanking you, and receiving thanks for your thanks of their thankfulness.
The dreaded thank you loop
Once entered, the thank you card loop can only end in bankruptcy, madness, or death (or more realistically, repetitive strain injury in your writing hand). Having said that, if you insist on engaging in competitive gratitude, you can break the loop by sending a thank you card so magnificent that no reply is possible... so get these ones, and follow the four thank you card rules. You'll win every time.
If you have only been on our website, it's difficult to get a feel for just how gloriously overcrowded our little Oxford shop really is. Piles of quills are stacked on every surface, drawers are stuffed with samples of paper, shelves groan under the weight of journals, and inkwells balance precariously in old printers' trays mounted on the walls. Low-flying model balloons and aeroplanes cause ducking and occasional cursing from tall browsers. Sticks of sealing wax jostle for desk space with pencil cases and praxinoscopes. The marble busts look down benignly on all this chaos, as does whatever piece of taxidermy we currently have perched on top of the Folio books (at the moment it's a baby crocodile, which is finding the very concept of "perching" rather tricky).
So, to give you a better idea of the feel of the shop and to show you our products in context, we have launched an Instagram account, @scriptumoxford, which will feed into our new online image gallery. We will show you things you might not usually see on our website, like some of our antiques, and we hope it will give a sense of the curious yet elegant aesthetic of our beloved Turl Street home.
If you've been keeping an eye on our website since we launched it in 2012 you'll have noticed that the selection of products is getting wider and wider. We can still only offer a fraction of what's available in the shop (and if you've visited us on Turl Street you'll understand why!) but have tried to cover as many different areas as possible.
One area that has been completely left out, though, are our antiques. Until now! Look out over the coming weeks as we begin to add an assortment of items taken from our eclectic antique collection. There will be inkwells and, of course, a good few Bavarian carved wood bears (these are now Scriptum mainstays!).
We only have one of each of these very special pieces, here's a sneak preview of some of them:
Ivory & silver page turner, 1909
Bavarian carved wood inkwell, c. 1900
Silver Mappin & Webb inkwell, 1899
Bavarian carved wood inkwell, c. 1890