So, I stumbled on to this tidbit while working on some 1887 fashions. A penwiper is exactly what the name implies. They were made to wipe the ink off the pens and keep your pen nibs clean and the area where you're writing clean. Below is an image of a Penwiper from 1887 Peterson's Magazine with the directions to make one. Can't you just see one of your historical characters making this for a Christmas gift?
This fan-shaped pen wiper consists of four pieces of thin cardboard cut to shape, and covered on the outside with embroidered black satin, and on the inside with black cashmere. The leaves are black cloth, pinked out at the edges.