The following commentary is from the EWTN series, The Papacy: A Living History, The Papal Artifacts Collection of Father Richard Kunst. This artifact was featured on the fourth episode of the series, Popes of the 19th & 18th Centuries. A DVD of the series is available from EWTN.
Here is Father’s commentary about this artifact:
This brings to mind the thousands of letters a week the Pope receives and the innumerable pieces of correspondence this entails. His secretary would open much of this mail, but there were those letters that secretaries would have known were personal that only he should open. So Pius IX had his own letter opener.
At the time this Pope was dealing with the suppression of the Papal States and the 1st Vatican Council. He was dealing with so many important issues that we look back on as important parts of the history of the papacy and of the Church. Who knows what he opened with this letter opener.
The handle is intricately carved ivory with his coat of arms, and writing, including the Pope’s name, is engraved on the blade. It is a very delicate and beautiful addition to the Collection.