Friday, 27 May 2011

Olde Ink

What’s in a name? The Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities, 1500-1820, authored by Nancy Cox and Karin Dannehl, is a treasure for those who want to put their 18th and 19th words in context. All kinds of names are explained and referenced from Acorus to Zoobditty. 
And there is plenty of ink:

Inkstand, ca. 1500 Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Red ink was made from alum and gum Arabic with brasil, advertised as ink “of superior brilliance – red ink in which there is no waste (1790), “ink from wood of Brazil made, Glowing bright with ruby red (1794). 

Printing ink “made of nut-oil, or linseed-oil, turpentine and lamp-black (1727-41)

Printers black was made from burnt wine lees with the addition of some ivory black or fruitstone black.

A use for cotton: cotton fibres were left unspun and placed in the bottom of ink pots to absorb the ink and prevent spillage.

Sandbox in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Sandbox was a box with a perforated lid for sprinkling sand as a blotter onto the wet ink of the manuscript (earliest use 1572).

In 1705 it was discovered that a solution of cobalt chloride produces an almost invisible ink which becomes blue when warmed and disappears on standing in moist air.

A black hair powder was made by mixing starch with Japan ink.

Various ingredients were used in the making of ink. Apart from gum Arabic, there was also Roman vitriol, alder fruit, green copperas (sulphur compounds of iron, Myrobalan (the astringent plum-like fruits of various tropical species of Terminalia), wort (an infusion of malt).

Terminalia or bastard myroblast by Dinesh Valke

Entries from the Dictionary of Trade Goods and Commodities by Nancy Cox and Karin Dannehl, 2007, published partly on British History Online.

Thursday, 19 May 2011


In a life that is a palimpsest only fragments of past layers remain. These are the final days of her life. On the parchment there is only one thing now that is clearly visible: a shell of a self, a skeleton barely covered with flesh, supported by medical devices, still speaking and often failing to speak or parroting the speak of the former self. The face is a representation of the former face whose remnants are somewhere in the layers of the palimpsest. One has to peel the layers carefully to reveal the former gestures, the former voice, the gait, the smell of the gardenia that was once pinned on the dress one summer evening.

In the absence of written words, I turn to the objects for confirmation and reassurance. Will objects help in the palimpsest’s reconstruction? Will they fill the gaps, help create the fictional life of the person who is my mother and who is now dying? She is a version of my imagination. Childhood injuries, photograph scraps, scents, handwritten notes, fingerprints, words, hearsay are cemented by the weight of time. Like loose sediments they are gathered together and metamorphosed into my version of reality, my version of her who is my mother.

This is an old office stamp. It has her name on it – the initial is missing – I cut it out long time ago when in my youth I tried to appropriate the stamp for my own use (I never did). The stamp confirms. It produces an undeniable, if smudgy, mark of a surname. The typography is familiar. The typeface is most certainly Didot Classic – which found its way from the brain of French typecutter Firmin Didot in 1805 to the name stamp issued by the Public Electricity Company sometime in the late 1970s. The rubber is encrusted with layers of old ink. It is itself a palimpsest retaining and concealing its past marks. A wooden stamp with a bulbous handle, it retains the outline of a memory. It implies the hand that held it, the gesture, the pressure that had been exerted on paper. Maybe I can see a little the face that belonged to the hand. Maybe there is also a faint smell of when life was abundant.

In the face of death objects hold the hope of immortality.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Brainstorming with Pencils

Looking for Gagarin’s pencil, Google revealed an innovative Icelandic company which shares the same name with the Russian cosmonaut. Gagarin develops interactive media solutions. It also came up with the “Six Thinking Pencils” inspired by Edward de Bono’s “Six Thinking Hats.” De Bono introduced the concept of and tools for lateral thinking. The pencils provide a way to plan the thinking processes in a detailed and cohesive way – they provide direction and work well in brainstorming sessions.

Team participants select a pencil each and adopt a mindset to match the pencil’s colour. Pencils are switched around so that team members have a chance to approach the topic from different perspectives. Gagarin describe the pencils as follows:

Data, facts, information known or needed.
Benets. Why something may work.
Feelings, hunches, gut instinct and intuition.
Potential problems. Why something may not work.
Creativity, possibilities, alternatives,solutions and new ideas.
Managing the thinking process, focus, next steps and action plans.

Photos are used with kind permission of Gagarin. Check them out on Flickr.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

To mark the paper was a decisive act

The pen was an archaic instrument, seldom used even for signatures, and he had procured one, furtively and with some difficulty simply because of a feeling that the beautiful creamy paper deserved to be written on with a real nib instead of being scratched with an ink-pencil. ... He dipped the pen into the ink and then faltered for a second. ... To mark the paper was a decisive act.

George Orwell, 1984

Ink used: Diamine Registrar's Ink
Nib used: Sergent-Major No. 500
Paper used: Sennelier for Ink and Calligraphy

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

The Notebook Winner is...

The winner of the Epi Hartou notebook is

Stationery Traffic.

Stationery Traffic said...

Fascinating shop! I wouldn't bet on them selling any bird-splat pens soon, but those notebooks look excellent, especially the Epi Hartou.

Congrats! Please email me with your address at blogpalimpsest at gmail dot com.