"I have for many years had an interest in the English way of life from 1750 to 1900 and spent many hours researching and attending lectures. During this time I used to frequent the popular antique fairs and it was here that I first became aware of travelling inkwells. This way was quite a revelation as my previous interest had been on desk inkwells. Soon afterwards I discovered early 18th and 19th century penners and ultimately this lead to small writing compendiums with their differing contents designed for the traveler. To me this last category was totally captivating.
About fifteen years ago, during one of my foraging visits to look for interesting items, an antique dealer in Richmond told me of the Writing Equipment Society and I joined without delay.
In 2002, attending one of the Society's meeting in Bath, I saw my first John Sheldon 'Escritoir' travelling compendium, and was immediately smitten. It contained so much more than any other compendium I had seen. John Sheldon was a new name to me but I decided from that moment to research him further and before long another 'Escritoir' appeared in the Portobello Market and my collecting fate was sealed.
Until then my wife Shirley and I had never been to Birmingham where John Sheldon lived and worked from 1802 to 1863. So my research became a journey of discovery, in many ways, for both of us. As we walked the same streets that John Sheldon had done one hundred and fifty years ago, the old buildings and canals came to life. When we searched the records in the Central Library; visited the sites of John Sheldon's manufactories and even his grave we became more and more conscious of the significance of this man's achievements. It was also great fun meeting so many interesting and helpful people wanting to talk about Birmingham.
The highlight of my research came in 2003, when I met and accompanied John Sheldon's remaining direct descendant Mary Tiene (nee Sheldon), who had travelled from the United States to make a tour of 'Sheldon Birmingham'. This was followed two years later with a similar visit and tour with her son Guy, wife JoAnne and grandsons Philip and Charles.
By 2009 I had accumulated a wealth of researched detail on aspects of John Sheldon's life and I thought others may be interested to share in his story. I had for some time thought about a book and once again had this on my mind, when having a general chat with Jim Marshall about writing bits and pieces and the rest as they say is history.
Over the years Dr. Jim Marshall has found collectable treasures for me and been a source of information and I am most grateful to him for that. Now I am greatly indebted to him for his recent encouragement and publishing assistance without which this book would certainly not have been complied and the information would have remained on my shelves. I am also indebted to Colin Giles for his support over the years in researching the Birmingham Central Library records to complete my Sheldon story; to Mary Tiene for providing family information and photographs; others have helped in various ways, with information and advice: John McKenzie, John Poole, Kevin Connoly, Tom Gandhi, Bryan Jones, Larry & Margaret Hanks, Jane Marshall, Peter Garnett, Dr. Sally Baggott, Dr. E. Dorothy Graham, the staff of Birmingham Central Library, Archives & Heritage, Digital Lab and Genealogical Department, the staff of the Guildhall Library Reference and Manuscripts Department, the staff of the Liverpool Central Library Archive. Finally my sincere special thanks to my wife Shirley for her encouragement, proofreading and allowing me the time to produce this book."