The History of Ink Production, Part 2

the history of ink production

We continue our series on the history of ink production.

Last week, we began our in-depth look at the history of ink production. This time, we continue our ongoing series. We’ll pick up with gall inks as we transition into the age of medieval inks. Then we’ll begin to move towards the present day. Read on to learn even more about the history of ink production!

The History of Ink Production Continues in the Middle Ages

As you’ll recall, we finished last time talking about iron gall inks. The monk Theophilus was the first to write about this type of ink. In the eleventh century, he described it in a book known as an encyclopedia of Christian art. Thorn wood was used as the basis for ink preparation. In this method, the thorn wood was first drenched in water, and then it was allowed to dry out. Once it was dry, a powder was mixed in with it, a powder made up of two substances. These were either green vitriol or iron sulfate.

From the eighth century onwards, however, production improved. Black ink began to become more prominent around this time. Believe it or not, wine and pomegranate rinds were used in the development of early chemical inks during the reign of Charlemagne in medieval France. Also, tannic inks were innovated as an improvement over basic carbon inks.

As ink evolved, so too did the paper it was printed on. While parchment was a popular writing format and medium, it was soon considered too greasy to be reliable because of it being created from sheepskin. What’s more, it was also extremely scarce and valuable. Inks had to be able to accommodate rewritings and revisions, often of completely different writings. Cotton paper and vellum eventually replaced parchment.

Throughout the Middle Ages, carbon inks, iron gall inks, and iron tannin inks were all in widespread use. The gall inks are believed to have surpassed carbon inks, as the secret to formulating a passable carbon ink was lost to mists of time. Iron gall inks popular from the eleventh century (remember Theophilus?) on became known as oxidized inks. The iron gall inks surprisingly lasted until the middle of the nineteenth century. Join us next time as we delve into the more modern era in the history of ink production!

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