October 9, 2009

Dip Pens and Period Inks

         I love using dip pens. It is very calming to watch ink flow from the pen onto the paper.  Contrary to popular opinion, you don't  have to dip your pen in ink after every word, or even in after every sentence. Dipping the pen is hardly an inconvenience at all. It is so enjoyable I wonder why it went out of fashion--that is until I shake a large splotch of ink onto my paper and then smear my hand it in.
         Believe it or not, my other half used to use a dip pen throughout his high school career and  reports only having one very  bad spill in the classroom.  I was not so brave and used a cartridge calligraphy pen in class and a dip pen at home for drawing. I've had very few serious accidents with ink myself.
       Nothing beats the look and feel of pen delivered ink on paper.  It leaves a very crisp line that is slightly raised to the touch.  The inks vary in color but you can always produce some really beautiful effects and drawings with whatever ink you have. Just remember to clean your pens after each use ( I should take my own advice.)

An Ink Receipt From The New Family Receipt Book (1811):

 To Make Excellent Ink.
            “Take a pound of the best Aleppo galls, half a pound of copperas, a quarter of a pound of gum-arabic, and a quarter of a pound of white sugar-candy. Bruise the galls, and beat the other ingredients fine; and infuse them all in three quarts of white wine, or rain-water. Let this mixture stand hot by the fire three or four days; and then put it on a slow fire so as to boil. Stir it frequently, and let it stand five or six hours, till one quarter of it be evaporated. When cold, strain it through a clean coarse piece of linen; bottle and keep it for use.
            The communicator of this good old receipt is convinced that much pains have been taken to ascertain the due proportions of the galls and copperas: for he has found that, on diminishing or increasing their relative quantities as above, the ink has always been pale; but this defect will sometimes happen if the materials be not of the best kind The quality of the paper written on will also make a difference in the colour of the ink.
            The grand secret in preparing this ink, which will never change its colour, if properly attended to, though kept never so long, consists in the keeping free from that mouldiness, which in hot weather particularly, is apt to form upon the surface. The best way, is to put it into a large, glass bottle with ground stopper and to shake it frequently.”

As some of these chemicals are hard to come by today, I've found some receipts that utilize the same chemistry as the original ink. These are quality inks and seasonally appropriate as they require walnuts as their source of tannic acid instead of  Aleppo gulls. If you like the slightly brown ink of antique documents, you will like the walnut ink.


  1. I used to use ink dip pens for school and I never had a problem... however I don't do it anymore because this year I found my school work paper was not of good quality so the ink would bleed... sigh... I still use the pens allot though.
    PS. Yes, be sure to clean your pens... it makes writing allot easier, though I must admit, I also need to take my own advice once in a while. :)

  2. I like fountain and dip pens a lot. I think the school must use they, so our children will very carefull with wathever item we/they will buy.


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