Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Ink Cocktails

To facilitate the use of writing instruments, Palimpsest recommends that writers first endeavour to lubricate their thoughts and minds with these reputable ink cocktails. After all 'Tis the season. Palimpsest raises its glass to all fellow bloggers and dear readers and wishes an inkfull new year to all.

The recipes come from the classic Savoy Cocktail Book of legendary bartender Harry Craddock who worked at the Savoy Hotel in London between 1920 and 1930.

Ink Street Cocktail

2 oz. lemon juice
2 oz. orange juice
2 oz. whiskey
Shake and strain

Fleet Street, London

I presume the cocktail was invented by Craddock for his Press clientele who inhabited Fleet Street, also called Street of Ink (meaning printer’s ink), home of the British newspapers, and famous for its “alcohol-fuelled culture” (it’s all over now). Craddock recommends Canadian Club Whiskey for his Ink Street cocktail and advises shaking the mixture for 10 to 20 seconds before pouring it in a cocktail glass.

Artist’s (Special) Cocktail Or
Ink of Inspiration

1/3 Whisky
1/3 Sherry
1/6 Lemon Juice
1/6 Groseille Syrup

Shake and Strain

Recipe is from Craddock Savoy Cocktail Book and comes with a note:
“This is the genuine ‘Ink of Inspiration’ imbibed at the Bal Bullier Paris. The recipe is from the Artist’s Club, Rue Pigalle, Paris.” An alternative recipe is here.

To those who had to confront the lidless Registrar's ink, Palimpsest raises the Ink of Inspiration in sympathy. My thoughts are with you.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Write, Sharpen and Be Merry

Palimpsest joins in the festivities with some Blackwing Palomino combos.
Happy Holidays, etc. See you in 2011. Write, Sharpen and Be Merry!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Ink for Thought

To get drunk with ink is more worthwhile than to get drunk by brandy.

Gustave Flaubert to George Sand, Saint Sylvester’s night, one o’ clock, 1869

There is no genuine food in the whole world, and ink is food for us.

Friedrich Nietzsche to Malwida von Meysenbug, July 1, 1877

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Christmas Pencil Ads

Looking for something festive to enliven Palimpsest I found those in a blog called sneakpeaks. They are Christmas adverts from around the world (published in 2007). 

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Alizarine Ink

Ah, if I hadn’t had to write all these words! All warmth, immediacy, and energy of feeling are gone the moment the word, veiled in Alizarin ink, stands on the page.

Friedrich Nietzsche to Carl von Gersdorff, Basel, September 1869

Today’s ink comes from the 19th century. Alizarine ink was the creation of one Christian August Leonhardi, who in 1854 set up a chemical plant at the 16th-century site of flour mill and glass factory in Dresden, Germany. In 1855 Leonhardi filed a patent application with the Saxon Ministry of the Interior, where he wrote proudly:

“This ink is different. ... It deserves rightly to be called the best ink known until now and the best and most perfect ink.”

Leonhardi’s innovation was the addition of Alizarin dye which is derived from the madder root. Madder gave Leonhardi’s ink a “beautiful blue-green colour” that turned when dried into the “deepest black.” Alizarine ink did not contain gum Arabic and was advertised as free flowing, perfectly suited to steel pens, indestructible, resistant to the effects of acids, fumes and time.

Leonhardi’s was an unoxidised gall ink, that is oxidation was prevented for as long as possible, thus keeping the ink free from insoluble deposit and giving it much greater power of penetration to the paper, explains Mitchell in Inks their Composition and Manufacture (1904). Indigo made the writing blue and within eight days it turned to black. Leonhardi eventually dropped madder as unnecessary but the ink kept the name Alizarine nevertheless.

Alizarine Ink Recipe
42 oz gall nuts
3 oz madder
7 ½ oz green vitriol
2 oz indigo,
3 oz wood acetate of iron
15 oz water

Boil gall nuts and madder in water to produce 5 lb 20 oz of decoction. Filter. Mix in green vitriol, indigo, iron acetate.

Guaranteed not to mould or leave sediment at the bottom of your inkwell. Alizarine ink can be bought in dry form (ink tablets) and then mixed with 6 parts of hot water to form “an excellent writing fluid” (though the latter claim is doubtful as this method tended to produce particles suspended in water).

Alizarine ink was very popular in its time. Was it the one Nietzsche longs for when he complaints in a letter to Malwida von Meysenbug on Sunday, 1 July 1877:

This ink is terrible and I sent for it especially! But they have not given me the real thing.

Friedrich Nietzsche in Basel, 1875

The Leonhardi company survived until 1953 and today produces ink under the name of “Barock.” The company’s website has an online museum with images of Leonhardi’s old factory, info about its history and the ink recipe and patent. Leonhardi’s ink is mentioned in David Carvalho’s Forty Centuries of Ink (1904) and in The Household Cyclopedia of General Information (1881) where a recipe can also be found. See also C. Ainsworth Mitchell, Inks Their Composition and Manufacture including methods of examination and a full list of English patents, London 1904.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Conspiracy Against WikiLeaks Deprives Man of Writing Instruments

Reading the WikiLeaks latest, I couldn't resist a free association with the post of September, 25: "Catholic Conspiracy Deprives Man of Ink."

Arrested on December, 7 Julian Assange was transferred to the segregation unit of Wandsworth prison. His lawyer protested that Assange "doesn't have access to a computer, even without an internet connection, or to writing material. He's got some files but doesn't have any paper to write on and put them in."

"Pen, ink and paper to be forbidden a man is an extraordinary restraint," the defenders of Titus Oates protested in 1769.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Jane Austen, her Pen, her Ink

Today’s pen and ink extracts come from Jane Austen. High-quality images of her manuscripts are gathered together in the Jane Austen Fiction Manuscripts Digital Edition, where they can be examined closely. I admit that I delight more in the description of the manuscripts than in Jane Austen’s actual writings, which I have not got around to reading yet.

“The manuscript is written into a shop-bought late 18th-century quarto stationer’s notebook impossible to date precisely. It is bound with quarter tanned sheep over boards sided with marbled paper. The edges of the leaves are plain cut and sprinkled red.”

“The parchment cover is faded to yellow and heavily stained with ink.”

“The manuscript is written and corrected throughout in a variety of brown iron-gall inks and with some variations in the hand.”

“There is a pencil inscription at the head of the left pastedown ‘To my brother, Frank’.

If I was ever offered a job as chief descriptor of manuscript, I would accept. Take note, if anyone’s listening.

Jane Austen, like her contemporaries, wrote with a quill pen and used iron gall ink. The Jane Austen Centre has just the recipe for latter provided by Jane Austen’s sister-in-law:

Take 4 ozs of blue gauls [gallic acid, made from oak apples], 2 ozs of green copperas [iron sulphate], 1 1/2 ozs of gum arabic. Break the gauls. The gum and copperas must be beaten in a mortar and put into a pint of strong stale beer; with a pint of small beer. Put in a little refin'd sugar. It must stand in the chimney corner fourteen days and be shaken two or three times a day. 

A quote from Pride and Prejudice is also presented: I am afraid you do not like your pen. Let me cut it for you. I mend pens remarkably well.

In her letters to her sister Cassandra, Jane Austen occasionally despairs about the quality of her quill pen.

“I must get a soften pen. This is harder. I am in agonies. ... I am going to write nothing but short sentences. There shall be two full stops in every line.” (Sept. 15, 1813)

“... as my pen seems inclined to write large I will put my lines very close together. ... The day seems to improve. I wish my pen would too.” (Nov. 3, 1813)

I agree.

Letters of Jane Austen published by the University of Virginia Library. See her writing desk in Jane Austen’s World blog. Portrait of Jane Austen by her sister Cassandra, in pencil and watercolour.

Friday, 3 December 2010

The Inkwell of Stéphane Mallarmé, or Why Write

L’ encrier, cristal comme une conscience,

avec sa goutte, au fond, de ténèbres
relative à ce quelque chose soit:
puis, écarte la lampe.

Tu remarquas, on n’écrit pas, lumineusement
sur champ obscure, l’ alphabet des astres,
seul, ainsi, s’ indique, ébauché ou
interrompu; l’ home poursuit noir
sur blanc.

The inkwell, crystalline like consciousness
with its drop, at bottom, of shadows
relative to letting something be:
then, take the lamp away.

You noted, one does not write, luminously,
on a dark field; the alphabet of stars
alone does that, sketched or
interrupted; man pursues black
upon white.

Stéphane Mallarmé is credited for giving “a signifying function to the materiality – the blanks, the typefaces, the placement on the page, the punctuation – of writing.” He has written that the act of writing in its materiality, in its movement confirms the writer’s existence. The act of writing applied on paper sends a “force in some direction, any direction, which, when encountered, gives you immunity from having no result.”

Why write? Why not keep silent? Captain Nemo and I had had a small exchange regarding the reason – the necessity, or the inevitability – of writing. One writes to leave a trace, even if it is not a trace of clarity, even if it’s a trace of ignorance, says Mallarmé. “Your act is always applied to paper, for meditating without a trace is evanescent, nor is the exalting of an instinct in some vehement, lost gesture what you were seeking.”

Stumbled upon the Mallarmé analysis while looking for his inkwell in Jackson Pollock: Interviews, Articles and Reviews, 1943-1993 edited by Pepe Karmel (Museum of Modern Art 2000). Translation from whitneyannetrettien blog.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Stationery Store Series: Smythson of Bond Street, London

Dare you enter? It feels like overstepping some invisible but ever-present class barrier of the old Empire – like soiling the rarefied air of an elite residence, depositing an undignified fingerprint on gilt-edged paper or on a handmade sterling silver fountain pen. Smythson, “the world’s foremost purveyor of luxury stationery,” at the heart of London’s Bond Street, sells excessive luxury and the allure of heritage to those who do not need courage to spend £165 on a “Brunches, Lunches, Suppers and Dinners Hardbound Book”  or £275 on a “Game Book”.

Far from me of course to prevent these moneyed persons from recording “formal or informal parties”, table plans, guests, menu and wines in hardbound books made of pigskin. I am ignorant of such matters and the categories “Place”, “Guns” and “Bag” in the brown Mara leather Game Book mystifies me. Fox hunting springs to mind, for instance, but perhaps I am wrong. There is of course the “Dreams and Thoughts” notebook for an astounding £240, for those with time to dream and think in the precious moments left over after brunches and hunts.

If Smythson brand was not enough distinction, there is the personalised service for an additional fee. Hallmarked sterling silver, handmade in England, pencil, Sir? £285 not rising to the occasion? What about our sterling silver fountain pen for £510 plus £50 to engrave it? Smythson ink retails at £16 a bottle. Apparently the likes of Queen Victoria, Grace Kelly, Katharine Hepburn, Edward and Mrs Simpson and Madonna have all bought diaries and address books from the venerable stationery shop. Samantha Cameron, wife of current PM, is the creative director. Enough said.

When I was in Bond Street last with the intention to step over the invisible barrier and review this “old English institution that a politician’s wife had revitalised,” Smythson had just closed for the day. Mahogany-dark bookcases half empty (for fear of book thieves?) glimmered darkly contrasting with the vanilla white Corinthian columns and imposing arches. A security guard emerged to monitor my photo taking of the exterior and once satisfied of my innocent intentions withdrew to Smythsons’ illuminated depths.  

Institutions such as these are useful to the historian who subscribes to the concept of historical empathy. Their existence can explain the causes of history’s great revolutions.

See also “An unauthorised history of Smythson’s” by The Guardian’s Ian Jack, 27 March 2010. Smythson trades also online.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Palomino Blackwing, Smooth Operator and Smear King

Standing tall at an amazing 20cm (or 8 inches) the Palomino Blackwing is a colossus of a pencil: matt black (peppered on close inspection with specks of gold), with golden lettering, a band of gold at the top, a golden ferrule and white tablet of an eraser at the crown. The box of 12 and its contents from is a dazzling black and gold affair, the sleek barrels like dark, hexagonal wands, the ferrules glimmering in the light, the erasers emerging like rubber pearls.

But at $19.95 I won the right to moan.  And I start with the presentation. Well, call me Mrs Whinge, if you will, but the pencils do not line up in the box as they should.  They simply do not fit neatly with the lettering all showing on one side and the ferrules lined up at the same angle. The box is too small for these colossal pencil specimens. And then they are the specks of gold that randomly adorn the matt surface of the barrels. Like the pencils were produced in a factory that handles also glitter.

The Palomino Blackwing gives an exceptionally dark line. Making a line on paper feels like gliding. Writing is a pleasure if you like your pencils soft.The Blackwing is much darker and much smoother than the California Republic Palomino HB. Maybe too smooth. A smooth operator but also a smear king. It is inevitable of course. You can’t have this amount of smoothness with no smear.

I like an acute point in a pencil and to achieve this with the Palomino Blackwing you have to sharpen it constantly. It wears quickly.  But for one appreciating the pleasures of sharpening, this is not a bad thing. Because this new Blackwing sharpens like a dream. It produces such fragrant and visually pleasing shavings that I can see Palomino-Blackwing-sharpening used as a form of therapy.

Would I use for everyday writing? I have not decided yet. I fear it is too long and too soft. Too heavy and it wears easily. But oh the buttery feel. And the sharpening. And the pressing down of the point on paper and the feeling of wearing down the graphite on every move. 

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

And the winner is...

Thank you, dear Readers, for your kind wishes and your quotes.
I have a very scientific system of choosing the winner. I write the commenter's name on a tiny piece of paper, fashion it into a tiny ball and call upon one of my son's to pick one.
And the winner is...


who wrote:
"Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn't wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say." ~Sharon O'Brien

Congratulations, Blandine. Please send your contact details to to receive your parcel.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

First Anniversary

Dear Readers,

Palimpsest is today one year old. Since its conception on November 20, 2009, its pages have been visited 45,564 times on purpose or by chance. Palimpsest says thank you. Feedburner informs me that the Top Ten most popular pieces throughout all this time have been as follows:

  1. Rebirth by Sharpening on the pleasures of pencil sharpening
  2. Bic, Edding 55, Ball Pentel, Papermate: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly on the old classics.
  3. From France to China on pencil finds.
  4. Stationery Store Series: P.W. Akkerman in Amsterdam and Anne Frank and her Fountain Pen
  5. On Bics (Again) on the adored and despised Bic.
  6. Ticonderoga, Ticonderoga, an extract from Vladimir Nabokov’s Pnin
  7. Gandhi, his Pencil and Mont Blanc on Mont Blanc’s Limited Edition fountain pen.
  8. To Write Well by Nietzsche: the philosopher on writing and Stationery, Pen, Pencil: Etymology Lesson.
  9. Winston Churchill and his Pens; new/old evidence on the pens that Churchill used from the archives. The eighth place is shared also by The Proud Pen by Hans Christian Andersen and  from the Pick-a-Pen series of readers’ contributions, fellow blogger’s Woodclinched: Uni-Ball Vision Green and Evergreen.
  10. Catholic Conspiracy Deprives Man of Ink on the 17thC Popish plot; D.H. Lawrence Pen and Intercourse; Woman’s Ink, on my personal ink problems

It is traditional to organise a giveaway as a means of celebration for one’s blog first anniversary. So here it goes. A surprise parcel shall arrive at the doorstep of a reader who will be chosen at random and who will be kind enough to leave a quote about writing instruments or inks in place of a comment.

The parcel will contain a selection of writing instruments, including two vintage Sergent-Major nibs No.500.  Kindly leave a quote until Wednesday 24 November. I shall post internationally.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Conway Stewart Fountain Pen that Leaks

It is perhaps appropriate that this Conway Stewart 106 leaks. Appropriate for my situation that is. Let me elaborate.

I bought said Conway Stewart in the London Writing Equipment Show in October and pleased I was to go away with a pen bearing a name of note at the modest price of £20. It is a slim pen - slimmer than I would have preferred, for I think I would have normally gone for a heftier writing instrument, had I possess the necessary funds to finance my preference. The colour is a pleasant green, the nib is a fine, 14K gold one, the clip and trim are gold plated and it has got an aerometric filler. It writes smoothly. And it leaks.

The Conway Stewart adds to the adversity of the time. When I wish for life to stop throwing me any more nasty surprises, there is a flood. When I hope for a respite, there is drought. And so with the pen: it alternates between bouts of inkfulness (a profusion and effusion of Pelikan 4001 Turquoise Ink as demonstrated on my finger and right palm) and paucity of writing fluid with nib refusing to deliver even on to the finest paper.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Writing Instruments and the Rage of Silence

“Why don’t I just choose silence?” asks the good Nemo. I am drawn to silence. But I (too) need inscription. Inscription is an antidote to silence. It requires a writing instrument and a hand and a piece of paper or a keyboard; there is, in other words, a materiality about inscription that saves the mind – my mind – from the inchoate rage that lives within my silence.

I see the words slip through my fingers and when I lose them I know there is nothing else beyond them. No other redemption, no parallel universe, no afterlife for the lost words. If I lose my words (and recently I do), I lose my ability to invent reality. The reality of my silence is intangible. The pen reminds me of the material world.

Not that said material world appeals to or appeases my ingrained misanthropy. Not that I can see meaning. But the world gives me material to invent. And there is nowhere else to go. In inventing I retreat and in inventing I contain the rage in my silence for a while.

I am on the brink. Pens, nibs, pencils, inks hold the promise of escape.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Shaeffer Pen of Sylvia Plath

Your writing was also your fear.
It made a noise like your typewriter.
It hid in your Shaeffer pen –
That was its favourite place. Whenever you wrote
You would stop, mid-word,
To look at it more closely, black, fat,
Between your fingers –
The swelling terror that would any moment
Suddenly burst out and take from you
Your husband, your children, your body, your life.
You could see it, there, in your pen.

Somebody took that too.

Ted Hughes, Birthday Letters  - Apprehensions.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Sergent-Major Nibs

The past is invoked in the presence of a slow and harrowing death. I shun it; it lays claim on me, nevertheless. The dying person insists in telling me stories - it records them for me to hear, it narrates them embellished, it mumbles them in states of delirium. Is it in search of lost time that this narration takes place? Is there enough time to tell the stories and make our peace? Is there peace?

 As I am unable to contemplate the search for the lost time, I remain content with the possession of Sergent-Major nibs - the nibs that Proust used to retrace his. They are made by Gilbert and Blanzy-Poure and come in a small box colourfully illustrated with the Battle of the Wattignies which was fought 1793 during the French Revolutionary Wars. They are very fine and make delicate lines. Sometimes there’s too much ink in the nib and so dipping it in the ink bottle needs some skill. The paper can take it. It is a French exercise book I’m using -  it’s called simply “Cahier Grands Carreaux”.

With these fine Sergent-Major nibs I copy extracts from Swann's Way. “For a long time I would go to bed early.” Or: “Our social personality is a creation of other people.” It is soothing, there is no intellectual strain involved - only the numbing pleasure of watching the nib gliding onto paper with other people's words. Death is the end. Searches are irrelevant today. Only the small pleasures in objects - in the small sound of nib marking the paper - remain. What is lost, is lost. 

Sergent-Major nibs by Gilbert & Blanzy-Poure; 
purchased from Vintage Fountain Pens

Monday, 18 October 2010


No post will appear for a while in Palimpsest due to a medical emergency.
Shall return as soon as I can.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Vintage Carpenter Pencil Cases

A collector's display of pencil cases ("favours") at the London Writing Equipment Show. These cases are designed to take a small carpenter pencil like the E. Faber No. 2 shown.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Palomino Blackwing, Something for the Weekend

Friday was all doom and gloom. But then this arrived. It helped.

The Palomino Blackwing! Something for the weekend. 

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Vintage A.W. Faber Pencil and Mr Scholar

The palimpsest that is Brick Lane in east London is buzzing with activity on a Sunday. It is known as Banglatown due to the large Bangladeshi-Sylheti community that lives here but the area has seen a succession of immigrants starting with Huguenot weavers in the 17th century followed by Irish and Ashkenazi Jews. Food from all corners of Asia is being frantically prepared, stirred, fried, wrapped and handed over to pundits anxious to consume it while leaning against walls, seating on benches, or crouching on the pavement; all kinds of objects and bric-a-brac are being displayed on rickety tables, on the tarmac, in tiny shops squeezed into alleyways and in stuffy halls (vintage clothes, costume jewellery, broken Victorian porcelain babies, ancient film reels, gramophones, old cameras, peacock feathers and chipped flowery tea cups).

Crouching on the pavement the old man is surveying his goods on offer. He looks a bit fed up or he's just tired - it's nearly the end of the day. Amidst the bric-à-brac there is a cardboard box. The typography with its calligraphic flourishes grabs me. Therein is a blue A.W.Faber pencil - a Mercantile Pencil - I've never seen before. It has been sharpened with a knife most probably. Next to it another: an old-dining-table brown pencil, inscribed "Scholar 'Office' Jupen 2257 Blue". Negotiations are performed almost in sign language.

"How much?" I mouth to the man holding the pencils up in the air and he gestures as if shooing a fly "just take them." "Are you sure?" I ask with a questioning flick of the head and a wave of the palm. "Take them, just take them", he gestures impatiently and with a face that has seen the world. I nod "thank you" and he looks elsewhere as if philosophically tired of it all - pencils and the rest.

And here they are:

Mr Mercantile and Mr Office Scholar.

Mr Mercantile is 17.5 cm long; diameter 10mm; Lead colour: Blue; Barrel colour: Blue
Markings in white: Made in Germany  Mercantile Pencil [Faber logo] A.W.FABER * 2686 
Writing: Light blue 
Sharpening: It has been sharpened with a knife or similar. I didn't sharpen it because I don't want to spoil its ragged appearance.

Mr Office Scholar is approx. 14cm long; diameter 7mm; Lead colour: Blue; Barrel colour: Brown (what I call an old-dining-table brown) with four distinct black or dark brown markings along the barrel, not evenly spaced. 
Markings in faded gold: SCHOLAR "OFFICE" JUPEN * 2257 * BLUE
Writing: Dark blue - soft feel, kind of pastel-like - but it leaves nice, bold markings on wood.
Sharpening: Lead was worn out. It didn't fit in a normal sharpener and I used the wide hole in my new Dux sharpener. It sharpened fine.

Thank you Mr Brick Lane man.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Viarco Desenho Pencil

The reason why this pencil is packaged thus is beyond my comprehension. The East London  shop it graced with its presence was ambient with a boutique/designer feel offering vintage overpriced ware. I say overpriced because this single pencil retailed at a whopping £1.60 or £8 for 12. Makes the eyes water not least because although it is a good pencil it is definitely not out-of-this-world.

Viarco, I found out, is a century-old Portuguese company that produces writing and drawing pencils and in their online shop you can buy those for 2.40 Euros for 12. A far cry from £8. And a far cry from "designer" too, as these pencils are under the School/Office categories. But enough with the ranting.

Viarco 250 Desenho Classic graphite pencil
A hexagonal, writing pencil, 18cm; Ø 6.9mm; glossy red with golden lettering, no eraser:
On the barrel: "Portugal . 250. Viarco Desehnho HB=2

The packaging claims "Viarco" o lápis de qualidade para todos os fins: Viarco, a pencil of quality for all purposes, or an all-purpose quality pencil. Industria Portuguesa. S. Joao da Madeira ~ Portugal.

Grades B=1, HB=2, H=3, 2H=4, 4H=5

Writing: HB produced good solid writing - clean, sharp lines, or letters. It feels a bit stiff, or hard - no buttery feel here. A good school pencil at a good price (2.40 Euro for 12, online).

Sharpening: normal (I used my new Dux sharpener, of which later...); Erasing: fine.

If you'd like to make the Viarco pencil I have reviewed your own, leave a comment and I shall chose one lucky commenter at random. Until Wednesday, 13.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Ink on Toast

Printer’s ink is made solely with the smoke of rosin [lampblack] and is tempered with liquid varnish. It must be seethed a little to make it more liquid and [or] harder. In winter, it needs to be more liquid than in summer. To make it flow more, add more linseed or walnut oil. To thicken, add less oil and more smoke and let it boil for longer. The thicker it is, the more beautiful, clean, black and glossy the letters are. However you make it, it must be mixed thoroughly. To print in red, add perfectly ground vermilion in place of said smoke.
­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­­
­ ­ ­ ­ ­

This secret renaissance recipe published in 16th-century Venice provides some clues as to how printing ink was made. It is quoted in Jo Wheeler’s book Renaissance Secrets which contains more tantalizing details on early ink. Ink on toast for example: for those not acquainted with this delicacy let it be known that the print workers in Salamanca, Spain, “when they make the varnish... eat the linseed oil spread on toast, and their hands black with varnish, eat the bread covered with ink.”

It is not difficult to see how a 21st ink enthusiast would be tempted to do the exact same. Especially after watching the “How Ink is Made” video clip posted by Woodclinched. Edible, delectable, luscious, glossy ink as prepared by the craftsmen of the Printing Ink Company.

The printing house of Christophe Plantin in 1581 was, says Wheeler, unsurpassed in Europe. The ink was bought in large quantities from Antwerp where it was manufactured by specialist ink makers. I am sure their ink was superb too ~ I’d love to find out more about those 16th-century ancriers  or faiseurs d’encre.