Philobiblon: What's your ink?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

What's your ink?

A fascinating collection of posts on the 18th-century email list has been exploring historic inks. It's a reminder of how much more complicated everyday living was in the past; how much you had to know about all sorts of things that now happen invisibly, off stage.

I once intended to learn Chinese painting - might even get back to it one of these days, since I love the results - so I have got a lovely stone palettes and ink sticks, which just have to be ground with water.

But in the West these don't seem to have developed; instead you started from scratch. There are some recipes here. (And if you are wondering about the seemingly essential "gallnuts" they are: "A nutlike swelling produced on an oak or other tree by certain parasitic wasps.")

But the results, it seems, from the The ink corrosion website - which deals in detail with "major threat to our cultural heritage" - were not always ideal.

This left me musing about modern inks: pen and computer. How durable are they? But then again as librarians often warn, electronic records are certainly worse.


Blogger Ronnie Smartt said...

Gallnuts are sometimes, I think, called oak-apples.

8/25/2005 01:42:00 pm  
Blogger Elayne said...

Well, my husband is a professional comic book inker, and he approximates that the India ink he uses will probably last a few hundred years once put to paper. Hope that helps.

8/28/2005 02:40:00 pm  

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