Ink Recipe 1596

I’m working on making ink from a recipe from the following long titled book

A Booke of Secrets: Shewing diuers waies to make and prepare all sorts of Inkes and colours: as Blacke, White, Blew, Greene, Red, Yellow, and other Colaurs.

It was translated from Dutch into English by W.P.

The title goes on futher, but by now if you have delved into finding pre-1600 ink recipes you likely are familiar with this book.  A .pdf copy of the book along with an “annex” of how to make wine can be found here.  Why on earth would there be an annex on how to make wine you wonder?  Because wines can be used to make inks.

I am using the second recipe in the book or at least my version of it.

First you gather your ingredients, prepare and measure them.


Yup I started with a modern processed vinegar.  A “raw” vinegar would have been preferred.  I have been unable to procure any.


A dry red wine that has not been fortified or had any sugar added.  Getting a period recipe wine has been all but impossible for me.  Perhaps I shall take up vinting using the period recipes someday.


The wine is added to the vinegar in a plastic bowl.  A note. The practice of the time most likely would have been to put all this into a baked clay pot called a pipkin.  I have asked around about having one made for me. The prices while very appropriate have been out of my price range.


Typically speaking water from a clear running stream or rainwater would have been preferred for ink making.  Purified drinking water is a close analogue for that.  I generally prefer store bought distilled water.  It is not lab grade quality distilled so it has enough impurities to pass as unpolluted rain water from the pre-1600 world as well.


Into the bowl they all go.  Yes, stir them together.

Now that the wet ingredients have been put together, it is time to tackle the dry ingredient.

Break up the oak galls.  The recipe says powder them and sift it through a sieve.  I simply could not handle doing that the day I was doing this work.  Non-paid product placement there.  I buy all my Aleppo Oak Galls from John Neal Bookseller.  Also a great place for just about any calligraphy, decoration or illumination supply you may need.

The water, wine, vinegar mixture is separated out into three containers.  The dry ingredients go into each one separately for now.


I dumped the broken (but not powdered) galls into the mixture.  This is how they looked.  They all need to be submerged if they are going to give up their tannic acid.


That’s much better. They are all submerged now.


A view from the side.  This is normal.  Some pieces float, most pieces sink

Ferrous sulfate is Iron Sulfate is Green Copperas.  4 ounces for this recipe.


This is the most copperas I have used in any recipe ever.  Typically I use 1 oz to make an entire gallon of ink.  This recipe makes less than three pints.

Copperas is highly soluble in water.  The side view shows how much it isn’t dissolving.  A testament to how much is in there verses how much solution.  Also, that isn’t all water in there. Don’t worry it did dissolve after mixing it over time.

Four ounces of gum arabic.  We tend to think of gum arabic as a liquid.  In period the recipes assume solid gum arabic.  Gum arabic takes a while to go into solution.  As of the writing of this blog post more than 30 hours later, it still hasn’t completely dissolved into solution.

Once you are done putting all the parts into the proper containers remember to always label each container.  This is very important.


It is an excellent habit to get into.  Some people go so far as to label the date as well.  Since they were all started at the same time and they will be soaking for only three days (that means more pictures taking on Monday,)  I chose not to label them.

Stir these three to four times a day.  On the third or fourth day, we do some boiling and filtering and combining and maybe even make some ink.  I plan to post the results with a day or two of the finished project.  Along with some sample writing with the subsequent results.


One response to “Ink Recipe 1596

  1. Pingback: Writing With Period Ink | scribescribbling·

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