D. J. McAdam

Where the World Goes for Free Advice

Forty Centuries of Ink

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A CHRONOLOGICAL NARRATIVE CONCERNING
INK AND ITS BACKGROUNDS

INTRODUCING INCIDENTAL OBSERVATIONS AND
DEDUCTIONS, PARALLELS OF TIME AND COLOR
PHENOMENA, BIBLIOGRAPHY, CHEMISTRY,
POETICAL EFFUSIONS, CITATIONS,
ANECDOTES AND CURIOSA TOGETHER WITH
SOME EVIDENCE RESPECTING THE
EVANESCENT CHARACTER OF
MOST INKS OF TO-DAY AND
AN EPITOME OF CHEMICO-LEGAL INK.

BY DAVID N. CARVALHO


Originally published in 1904.  Edited by D. J. McAdam, 2011.

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The unfortunate conditions surrounding the almost universal use of the oddly named commercial and with few exceptions record inks, and the so-called modern paper, is the motive for the writing of this book.  The numerous color products of coal tar, now so largely employed in the preparation of ink, and the worse material utilized in the manufacture of the hard-finished writing papers, menace the future preservation of public and other records. Those who occupy official position and who can help to ameliorate this increasing evil, should begin to do so without delay.  Abroad England, Germany and France and at home Massachusetts and Connecticut have sought to modify these conditions by legislation and our National Treasury Department only last year, in establishing a standard for its ink, gives official recognition of these truths.

There is no “History of Ink;” but of ink history there is a wealth of material, although historians have neglected to record information about the very substance by which they sought to keep and transmit the chronicles they most desired to preserve. From the beginning of the Christian era to the present day, “Ink” literature, exclusive of its etymology, chemical formulas, and methods of manufacture, has been confined to brief statements in the encyclopedias, which but repeat each other. A half dozen original articles, covering only some particular branch together with a few treatises more general in their ramifications of the subject, can also be found. Seventy lines about “writing ink” covering its history for nearly four thousand years is all that is said in “The Origin and Progress of Handwriting,” a revised book of hundreds of pages of Sir Thomas Astle, London, 1876, and once deemed the very highest authority.

The mass of ancient and comparatively modern documents which we have inherited, chronicle nothing about the material with which they were written.  The more valuable of them are disfigured by the superscription of newer writings over the partially erased earlier ones, thus rendering the work of ascertaining their real character most difficult.  Nevertheless, patient research and advanced science have enabled us to intelligently study and investigate, and from the evidence thus gained, to state facts and formulate opinions that may perhaps outlast criticism.

The bibliographical story of “Ink” is replete with many interesting episodes, anecdotes and poetical effusions.  Its chemical history is a varied and phenomenal one. Before the nineteenth century the ink industry was confined to the few. Since then, it has developed into one of magnificent proportions. The new departure, due to the discovery and development of the “Aniline” family of fugitive colors, is noteworthy as being a step backward which may take years to retrace.

The criminal abuse of ink is not infrequent by evil-disposed persons who try by secret processes to reproduce ink phenomena on ancient and modern documents.  While it is possible to make a new ink look old, the methods that must be employed, will of themselves reveal to the examiner the attempted fraud, if he but knows how to investigate.

How to accomplish this as well as to give a chronological history on the subject of inks generally, both as to their genesis, the effect of time and the elements, the determination of the constituents and the constitution of inks, their value as to lasting qualities, their removal and restoration, is the object of this work.  There is also included many court cases where the matter of ink was in controversy; information respecting ancient MSS. and the implements and other accessories of ink which have from time to time been employed in the act of writing.

To make a comprehensive review of the past in its relationship to ink has been my aim. In the construction of this work recourse has been had to the so-called original sources of information. In these, the diversity of their incomplete statements about different countries and epochs has offered many obstacles.  In presenting my own deductions and inferences, it is with a desire to remove any impressions as to this volume being a mere compilation. “Facts are the data of all just reasoning, and the elements of all real knowledge. It follows that he is a wise man who possesses the greatest store of facts on a given subject.  A book, therefore, which assembles facts from their scattered sources, may be considered as a useful and important auxiliary to those who seek them.” A prolonged and continuous intercourse for over a quarter of a century with ancient and modern MSS., with books and other literature, with laymen and chemists, with students and manufacturers, together with the information and knowledge derived from experiment and study of results may enable the author to make the subject fairly clear. Effort has been made to avoid technical words and phrases in that portion treating of the Chemistry of Inks.

This work will no doubt be variously considered.  Criticism is expected, indeed it is gladly invited, for thereby may follow controversy, discussion and perhaps legislation, which will bring about results beneficial to those who are to follow after us.

  

CONTENTS

I.    GENESIS OF INK

II.   ANTIQUITY OF INK

III. CLASSICAL INK AND ITS EXODUS

IV. CLASSICAL INK AND ITS EXODUS (Continued)

V.  REVIVAL OF INK

VI. INK OF THE WEST

VII.      EARLY MEDIAEVAL INK

VIII.     MEDIAEVAL INK

IX. END OF MEDIAEVAL INK

X.  RENAISSANCE INK

XI. ANCIENT INK TREATISES

XII.      STUDY OF INK

XIII.     STUDY OF INK

XIV.    CLASSIFICATIONS OF INK

XV.      OFFICIAL AND LEGAL INK

XVI.    ENDURING INK

XVII.   INK PHENOMENA

XVIII.  INK CHEMISTRY

XIX.    FRAUDULENT INK BACKGROUNDS

XX.      FUGITIVE INK

XXI.    ANCIENT AND MODERN INK RECEIPTS

XXII.   INK INDUSTRY

XXIII.  CHEMICO-LEGAL INK

XXIV.  CHEMICO-LEGAL INK (Continued)

XXV.   INK UTENSILS OF ANTIQUITY

XXVI.  INK UTENSILS (Quill PEN v. Steel Pen)

XXVII.            SUBSTITUTES FOR INK UTENSILS (“Lead” and other Pencils)

XXVIII.           ANCIENT INK BACKGROUNDS (The Origin of Papyrus)

XXIX.  ANCIENT INK BACKGROUNDS (Parchment and Vellum)

XXX.   MODERN INK BACKGROUNDS (True Paper)

XXXI.  MODERN INK BACKGROUNDS (Wood Paper and Safety Paper)

XXXII.            CURIOSA (Ink and other Writing Materials)

 

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