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Posted: Mon Nov 23, 2009 11:42 pm
I am hoping to make some ink using a couple of different techniques, but i was wonderign where to buy pigments such as vermillion (i think it is!) and lamp black? ferrous sulphate and gum arabic are apparently easily optained (i got some ferrous sulphate from a garden centre)
Posted: Tue Nov 24, 2009 12:57 am
Hi There, you could try The Mulberry Dyer (http://www.tmdevents.co.uk/index.php?cPath=29_35
)for the ferrous sulphate, gum arabic and vine black. Vermillion is a listed product and not readily available - you have to have evidence that you know what you are working with before you can buy it. Some art shops have a synthetic type that is not harmful. Brailwood was used for making red ink, (which we obviously also stock!) haven't come across references for using vermilion - that was used in making sealing wax.
Hope that helps,
Posted: Wed Nov 25, 2009 1:08 pm
you could try Cornelissens. They are an art supplies shop, and do some good pigments. Was in there yesterday to pick up some yellow and red ochre. They also do a renge of historical inks which may be of interest.http://www.cornelissen.com/index.asp
Posted: Wed Nov 25, 2009 7:37 pm
For making black ink, I visit nearby woodland around October/November and collect oak galls (oak apples) in large quantities. Gum Arabic i get from an art shop - one of the larger ones that does all kinds of unusual materials such as gold leaf. Iron sulphate/copperas/green vitriol I bought at a local garden centre, where it is sold as a soil conditioner in large packs. Add rainwater and you have iron gall ink (there are many different versions of the recipe online). I have produced several batches of this ink with very good and permanent results - but it isn't the thing for young children to play around with.
I have also made carbon ink from charcoal - particularly that produced from the spindle tree (Euonymus europaeus, a native of Britain but sadly one which is currently in decline - I was given a bag of the charcoal when at an event in Germany), which grinds to an extremely fine dust in a good smooth mortar. Again add gum arabic and water and you have a good carbon ink.
The big difference is that the first is acidic and etches itself into the writing surface (and your clothes and skin if you are not careful), while the second is merely paint which sits on the writing surface and will invariably rub off if mishandled.
Posted: Thu Nov 26, 2009 9:59 am
Excellent! thank you! the marble gall technique is one I want to try, as I have access to loads, and also the deliquescent ink of inkcaps, heated with cloves (apparently according to the recipe I've read this prevents the ink goiong off) not sure if I need to add gum arabic to this though, prolly try both once I have some.
Thanks for this help!
Posted: Thu Nov 26, 2009 6:02 pm
The main ink used was the iron gall ink, Lamp black was sometimes used to augment the inks, but the majority of western inks were this sort until the early 20thc.
BR has given a fair enough recipe for it. I do suggest getting the gum arabic in lump form, this keeps forever and does not have any of the preservatives that water colour ready mixed stuff does, although when needed in a hurry the liquid version is good. The gum is simply there to add viscosity, not adhesion in iron gall inks.
"and skin if you are not careful"
Do you know of any examples where the ink is that acidic? I have dyed my hands plenty of times with the stuff and there appears to be no appreciable affect, save for a mild stinging on open wounds. But as you say it is acidic, I have had batches that rotted through paper within months and conversely some that are as stable as the day they were laid down years later, this bears with the conservation observations, viz Dehamel etc.
Vermillion, red lead were used as inks, hence the term rubric, ie reddened, they were often mixed with brazilwood as fishwife says, although brazilwood is a bodyless stain, so needs red lead or vermillion for body. Please note that red lead and vermillion are toxic, and synthetic less harmful substitutes can be found.
"Vermillion is a listed product and not readily available - you have to have evidence that you know what you are working with before you can buy it."
It is sold by Cornellissens Fishy, along with red lead and other metal salt based pigments.
Ben, what period is the ink cap and clove recipe? there are literally hundreds of iron gall ink recipes, up to and beyond the 1500s, I would be interested in the primary source if you have it for my own records, ink and pigments are something of a hobby of mine and it all adds up.
Posted: Thu Nov 26, 2009 6:55 pm
I noticed that Cornelissens are selling it - I have been informed that I must get a signature from any customer wishing to purchase the toxic paints to confirm that they are competent to use them - a European Union ruling as I understand it. My supplier insists on this. I can't comment on how Cornelissens are dealing with this.
I kind of understand - I have had enquiries from people saying "my child loves to paint, can I buy the period paints for them to use" Whilst I wouldn't knock the child painting I do think giving them a lead, arsenic or mercury based paint to use may not go down too well when they start licking the brush!!!The brazilwood ink recipes that I have found have not required the addition of red lead, so many sources and so many different methods - it's fab isn't it all this research! I love it!
Posted: Thu Nov 26, 2009 7:46 pm
I was sent a batch of home-made iron gall ink, plus a very fine stone mortar and pestle by a contact in Germany (who works in a lab), not sure in what way his recipe differs from my own but it stained my thumb for over a month and no amount of washing or scrubbing would shift it. I put it down to high acidity, but I am no chemist. I have read with interest all the warnings about this ink gradually eating manuscripts, but I have not found a single instance of it in any of the 12th century documents, Bibles or other books I have seen . Perhaps there was something about the recipe they used, or the method of preparing vellum, or the form of iron in the mix?
I have often encountered people (both children and adults) who clamour to "have a go" with period pigments, thinking that they are just another kind of paint or ink such as you would find in your friendly neighbourhood W H Smith's. The idea that people routinely used mercury-, arsenic- and lead-based colours seems incomprehensible to them. Not sure that Public Liability Insurance covers cases of mercuric poisoning . . .
Posted: Thu Nov 26, 2009 8:53 pm
"it's fab isn't it all this research! I love it!"
Exactly. For red lead/vermillion red ink recipes, look up Lebegue manuscripts, plus scientific analysis shows it up on existing MSS, the brazil wood is not dense enough to provide the body that rubrics often have, but rightly as you say it is a damn sight easier and safer than using red lead etc. The only thing with brazil ink is its tendency to rot, the fine particles of wood remain and over time start to moulder, plus if brazil solution is left to stand for long it can be corrupted and start to precipitate as it becomes more alkaline, my way round that was to have a very thick gum solution and then wet it when needed.
" not sure in what way his recipe differs from my own but it stained my thumb for over a month and no amount of washing or scrubbing would shift it. I put it down to high acidity, but I am no chemist. I have read with interest all the warnings about this ink gradually eating manuscripts, but I have not found a single instance of it in any of the 12th century documents, Bibles or other books I have seen . Perhaps there was something about the recipe they used, or the method of preparing vellum, or the form of iron in the mix? "
Had you but mentioned it dear brother! the sovereign remedy for removal of iron gall stain from skin is lemon juice, probatum est! I adapted that from a medieval recipe for palimpsesting vellum/parchment where orange juice was used, if you make lemon tea, the same action occurs, the tannin is bleached out. In the sumer holidays I made a large batch of ink/dye and I was literally up to my forearms in black grey, because I was in too much of a hurry to get gloves, I realised too late that I had to head home, so kind friend Chickun took me to Tesco whereupon I bought two bottles of lemon juice and spent the next half hour rubbing and bleaching my arms and hands clean. My cuticles and under my nails were a lot harder to sort out and I had to resort to some scraping.
The iron sulphate acts as the mordant as well as the reactant (to make the black), that is the most likely reason for it biting into your skin. As an aside I have by accident managed to dye glass with brazil and alum, if left to stand it will penetrate the surface scratches and flaws and be a little resistant to rubbing, a similar recipe was used to colour glass to make fake rubies etc.
"but I have not found a single instance of it in any of the 12th century documents, Bibles or other books I have seen . Perhaps there was something about the recipe they used, or the method of preparing vellum, or the form of iron in the mix?"
Quite possibly, the variations and subtleties in the ink recipes is vast, have you thought to write to any conservators with that observation? The rot certainly exists in later MSS and works, but as you say, maybe there was a shift somewhere.
"I have often encountered people (both children and adults) who clamour to "have a go" with period pigments, thinking that they are just another kind of paint or ink such as you would find in your friendly neighbourhood W H Smith's. The idea that people routinely used mercury-, arsenic- and lead-based colours seems incomprehensible to them. Not sure that Public Liability Insurance covers cases of mercuric poisoning . . "
Exactly, for those reasons I have always used synthetic versions of toxic pigments and inert normal ones, not just for workshops but for actual work, keeping real examples of them at hand in sealed jars, if necessary.
Posted: Thu Nov 26, 2009 10:35 pm
Thanks for that Gregory - I had not thought of citrus juice and I will keep it in mind if I am stained again
Thinking a bit more about the ink used in 12th century documents, I am not certain the iron sulphate was as widely available as it later became - the industrial-scale collection of the stuff washed ashore at Tankerton Slopes (not far north from me) didn't get going until later. I suspect that things like old horseshoes and rusty nails would have been used instead, with (presumably) subtly different chemical results.
Posted: Fri Nov 27, 2009 10:03 am
wow! this is amazing!
As to the ink gall recipe I got it from a text book on fungi identification that a friend of mine owns. He is 77 and he calls the book old, so i's turn of the last century at least i think, I'll get the details of him at the weekend if I remember! Essentially the recipe is part of a musing by the author on the uses of the inkcap, and suggests that to let them deliquess and then boil with cloves to prevent spoiling, I'll try to get the full details of this bit too.
Thanks for this everyone!
What would you suggest as a safer alternative to red lead oxide? or is it reasonably safe to use if one is careful, and doesn't ingest it/inhale it/rub it in/bathe in it? (none of which I intend to do by the way, in case anyone wondered!
Having said that I can't recall the recipe for red ink using vermillion (other than it was mixed with gum arabic in solution)
Posted: Fri Nov 27, 2009 1:32 pm
"I am not certain the iron sulphate was as widely available as it later became -"
There are ink recipes using the 'black water that is under the grindstone', free iron ions as a result of grinding, or as you say other sources of free iron ions. Less acidic for sure as there is no sulphate.
Ben, simple red ink is gum arabic with vermillion or red lead and or brazil, brazil is a fair substitute but has no body, and synthetic vermillion is cheap and readily available from Cornellissen.
Top tip, use a bit of vodka to break the surface tension of the pigment as it is not readily mixed with the gum.
Posted: Fri Nov 27, 2009 3:01 pm
excellent tip! thanks! Someone should write the 101 things to do with Vodka! Clearly drinking and antifreeze being the top 2! but I shall give this a go for sure!
It's just a shame my writing is so unutterably poor!
Posted: Fri Nov 27, 2009 5:02 pm
"It's just a shame my writing is so unutterably poor!"
Learn to cut and use a quill, avoid metal pens, for why? metal pens are too forgiving of pressure and when you make the transition there may be a tendency to over press, the key to quills is a lightness of touch, that takes the time, especially if you are used to using a ball point. Then get hold of a good paleography book, showing either formal hands and how they break down into characters, then see how the formal hands become bastardised into cursive, assuming you want to write cursive. It is much the same process as we learned at school, single characters in a formulaic style then turned into joined up writing with our own nuances. Then there is the issue of contractions, many more than are in play today, so be wary of full transcripts, rather than how they are actually written, so check out any abbreviation marks, eg superscriptions, tildes over letters, some are latin and some are English, often mixed in the same document (I am referring to say letters of the 15thc).
I am away this weekend, but by all means drop me a line if you need any more info.
Posted: Fri Nov 27, 2009 5:11 pm
Slightly off topic. Last night I watched Hugh Fearnley-Eatsitall's River Cottage prog. He was gutting a squid and removed it's 'quill', thus called, he said, because it was used for writing. True? By whom, where and when? It did sort of look like a feather made of cartelidge.
Posted: Fri Nov 27, 2009 5:18 pm
I saw Hugh Dick-Whittington say that and I recall doing a double-take. For a quill to work it has to have a hollow interior, like a tube, which serves as a reservoir for the ink and allows a nib to be cut. The bone from a squid doesn't appear to have that characteristic, more like a curved single surface. While this would probably retain enough ink to write a letter or two (as in letters of the alphabet), the novelty of dipping it so often would soon wear off. I suspect that the bone has been called a "quill" because it resembles a feather - but the quill is strictly speaking just the central hollow rib, not the whole feather.
Reeds work, goose quills work (as do most other feathers) because of their tubular shape. I have never come across any reference to squid quills in writing anywhere in the world - maybe someone else has?
Posted: Fri Nov 27, 2009 5:49 pm
Theophilus mentions green vitriol (12th century) and Alchemists from the late 13th century onwards have little trouble getting it to make acids with. So I think we can safely say that most educated people who needed it would have had little difficulty sourcing it, although they might have to wait a month or two or travel to the nearest large town with a decent faire.
I got to look at some original medieval Alchemical manuscripts last month, and I couldn't read the handwriting. The red ink was amazing though.
Posted: Sat Nov 28, 2009 7:24 pm
The book with the ink cap recipe is:
'handbook of larger british Fungi'
The cover page goes on to say:
'Based on: Guide to Sowerby's Models of British Fungi in the department of Botany, British Museum (natural History)
Published 1951 (much later than i thought) by the british museum
He cites the recipe as coming from P Bulliard (1742-1793) the deliquescent ink caps (shaggy ink cap in this case I think) are boiled with a little water and cloves to prevent mouldiness.
He goes on to mention that Boudier experimented with this 80 years later, but I couldn't find any further referance to whom this Boudier might be.
Hope that helps!
Posted: Sun Nov 29, 2009 10:31 pm
The only squid quills I have handled feel like slightly thick polythene, with as much resistance as same.
I suspect they are called quills because they are long and taper, not heard of them being used for anything though.
Ben, thanks for that snippet.
Posted: Mon Nov 30, 2009 10:15 am
Although i'm not calligrapher (the idea is almost laughable!) I have seen solid writing impliments, although the uzsually have a spiral appearance, rather like a plastic 'mr. whippy' icecream if you can picture such a thing? The ink, i assume sits in these grooves. How old this is I have no idea.
Posted: Mon Nov 30, 2009 12:05 pm
Italian glass pens, apparently Roman in origin, they rely on the channels, the grooves carry the ink to the point. There are metal ones of similar design where the grooves are straight not spiral.
Posted: Mon Nov 30, 2009 12:27 pm
thats the bunny, i wondered if there is any possible link between the porported writing use of squid quills and these implements?
I am still more prepared to belive that it is the shape of them that gives them the name. A possible link to the squid ink maybe, causing some confusion?