[This is taken from David N. Carvalho's Forty Centuries of Ink, originally published in 1904.]
INK TREATISES OF THE FIFTEENTH, SIXTEENTH AND SEVENTEENTH CENTURIES—JOHN BAPTISTA PORTA AUTHOR OF THE FIRST—SECRET INKS---NERI, CANEPARIUS, BOREL, MERRET, KUNCKEL AND OTHER AUTHORS WHO REFER TO INK MANUFACTURE—PROGRESS OF THE ART OF HANDWRITING ILLUSTRATED IN THE NAMES OF OVER A HUNDRED CALLIGRAPHERS CHRONOLOGICALLY ARRANGED.
The literature of the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries on the subject of black and colored ink formulas, secret inks, etc., is both diversified and of considerable importance. The following authors and citations are deemed the most noteworthy:
John Baptista Porta, of Naples, born A. D. 1445 and died A. D. 1515, is best known as the inventor of the “camera obscuro;” was also the author of many MSS. books compiled; he says,
“As the results of discussions of long years held at my own house which is known as de Secreti, and into which none can enter unless he claim to be an inventor of new discoveries.”
Two of these treatises which were extant in the first half of the seventeenth century, dated respectively 1481 and 1483, dwell at great length on SECRET inks and specifically mention as translated into the English of the time “sowre galls in white wine,” and “vitriol;” repeating Italian formulas pertaining to the “Secreta” of the twelfth century.
About secret ink he tells us:
“There are many and almost infinite ways to write things of necessity, that the Characters shall not be seen, unless you dip them into waters, or put them near the fire, or rub them with dust, or smeer them over.
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“Let Vitriol soak in Boyling water: when it is dissolved, strain it so long till the water grow clear: with that liquor write upon paper: when they are dry they are not seen. Moreover, grinde burnt straw and Vinegar: and what you will write in the spaces between the former lines, describe at large. Then boyl sowre Galls in white Wine, wet a spunge in the liquor: and when you have need, wipe it upon the paper gently, and wet the letters so long until the native black colour disappear, but the former colour, that was not seen, will be made apparent. Now I will show in what liquors paper must be soaked to make letters to be seen. As I said, Dissolve Vitriol in water: then powder Galls finely, and soak them in water: let them stay there twenty-four hours: filtre them through a linen cloth, or something else, that may make the water clear, and make letters upon the paper that you desire to have concealed: send it to your Friend absent: when you would have them appear, dip them in the first liquor, and the letters will presently be seen.
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If you write with the juice of Citrons, Oranges, Onyons, or almost any sharp things, if you make it hot at the fire, their acrimony is presently discovered: for they are undigested juices, whereas they are detected by the heat of the fire, and then they show forth those colours that they would show if they were ripe. If you write with a sowre Grape that would be black, or with Cervices; when you hold them to the fire they are concocted, and will give the same colour they would in due time give upon the tree, when they were ripe. Juice of Cherries, added to Calamus, will make a green: to sow-bread a red: so divers juices of Fruits will show divers colours by the fire. By these means Maids sending and receiving love-letters, escape from those that have charge of them. There is also a kind of Salt called Ammoniac: this powdered and mingled with water, will write white letters, and can hardly be distinguished from the paper, but hold them to the fire, and they will shew black.”
With respect to the preparation of black and colored inks and also colors: Antonio Neri, an Italian author and chemist who lived in the sixteenth century, in his treatise seems not only to have laid the foundation for most of the receipts called attention to by later writers during the two hundred years which followed, but to have been the very first to specify a proper “gall” ink and its formula, as the most worthy of notice.
Pietro Caneparius, a physician and writer of Venice, A. D. 1612, in his work De Atrametis, gives a more extensive view about the preparation and composition of inks and adopts all that Neri had given, though he never quotes his name, and adds—“hitherto published by no one.” He does however mention many valuable particulars which were omitted by Neri. Most of his receipts are about gold, silver and nondescript inks, with directions for making a great variety for secret writing and defacing. This book revised and enlarged was republished in London, 1660.
In 1653 Peter Borel, who was physician to Louis XIV, King, of France published his “Bibliotheca Chemica,” which contains a large number of ink receipts, two of which may be characterized as “iron and gall” ones. They possess value on account of the relative proportions indicated between the two chemicals. The colored ones, including gold, silver and sympathetic inks are mostly repetitions of those of Neri and Caneparius. The French writers, though, speak of his researches in chemistry as “somewhat credulous.”
Christopher Merret, an English physician and naturalist, born A. D. 1614, translated Neri into our language in 1654, with many notes of his own about him; his observations have added nothing of value to the chemistry of inks.
Johann Kunckel, a noted German chemist and writer in 1657, republished in the German language Neri’s work with Merret’s notes, and his own observations on both. He also inserted many other processes as the result of considerable research and seems to have been thoroughly conversant with the chemistry of inks, advocating especially the value and employment of a tanno-gallate of iron ink for record purposes.
Salmon, A. D. 1665, in his Polygraphics, proceeds to give instructions relative to inks which notwithstanding their merit are confounded with so many absurdities as to lessen their value for those who were unable to separate truth from falsehood; but he nevertheless dwells on the virtues of the “gall” inks.
Jacques Lemort, a Dutch chemist of some note, issued a treatise, A. D. 1669, on “Ink Formulas and Colors,” seemingly selected from the books of those who had preceded him. He expresses the opinion that the “gall” inks if properly compounded would give beneficial results.
Formulas for making inks are found tucked away in some of the very old literature treating of “curious” things. One of them which appeared in 1669 directs:
“to strain out the best quality of iron employ old and rusty nails;” another one says, that the ink when made is to remain in an open vessel “for thirty days and thirty nights, before putting it in a parchment bag.”
An English compendium of ink formulas, published in 1693, calls attention to many formulas for black inks as well as gold, silver, and the colored ones; no comment, however, is made in respect to any particular one being better than another as to permanency, and these conditions would seem to have continued for nearly a century later, though the art of handwriting was making giant strides.
It is a remarkable fact that notwithstanding the numerous devotees to that art which included many of the gentler sex, reproductions of whose skill in “Indian” ink are to be found engraved in magnificent publications, both in book and other forms, there is no mention in them or in any others included within this period about the necessity of using any other DURABLE ink for record or commercial purposes.
As indicative in some degree of the progress of the art of handwriting and handwriting materials, commencing A. D. 1525 and ending A. D. 1814, I present herewith a compilation of the names of over one hundred of the best known calligraphers and authors of the world, and not to be found as a whole in any public or private library. It is arranged in chronological order.
The first English essay on the subject of “Curious Calligraphy” was by a woman who from all accounts possessed most remarkable facility in the use of the pen as well as a knowledge of languages. Her name was Elizabeth Lucar; as she was born in London in 1510 and died 1537, her work must have been accomplished when only fifteen years of age.
Roger Ascham, best known as the tutor of Queen Elizabeth.
Peter Bales, author of many works, “The Writing Schoolmaster,” which he published in three parts, being the best known. He was also a microscopic writer. His rooms were at the sign of “The Hand and Golden Pen,” London.
John de Beauchesne, teacher of the Princess Elizabeth, daughter of King James I. Author of many copy books.
John Mellis, “Merchants Accounts,” etc.
Elizabeth Jane Weston, of London and Prague, wrote many poems in old Latin.
Hester Inglis, “The Psalms of David.”
John Davies, “The Writing Schoolmaster, or Anatomy of Fair Writing.”
Richard Gething, “The Hand and Pen; 1645, “Chirographia” and many others.
Martin Billingsley, “The Writing Schoolmaster, or the Anatomie of Fair Writing.” This author was writing master to King Charles I.
David Brown, who was scribe to King James I. “Calligraphia.”
William Comley, “Copy-Book of all the most usual English Hands,” etc.
Josiah Ricrafte, “The Peculiar Character of the Oriental Languages.”
Louis Hughes, “Plain and Easy Directions to Fair Writing.”
John Johnson, “The Usual Practices of Fair and Speedy Writing.”
John Clithers, “The Pens Paradise,” dedicated to Prince Charles.
James Seamer, “A Compendium of All the Usual Hands Written in England.”
Edward Cocker, penman and engraver, famous in his time for the number and variety of his productions. Author of “The Pen’s Triumph,” “The Artist’s Glory,” “England’s Penman,” and many more.
James Hodder, “The Penman’s Recreation,” etc.
John Fisher, “The Pen’s Treasury.”
Richard Daniel, “A Compendium of many hands of Various Countries.”
Peter Story or Stent, “Fair Writing of Several Hands in Use.”
William Raven, “An Exact Copy of the Court Hand.”
Peter Ivers, famous for his engrossing and drawings.
Thomas Watson, “Copy-Book of Alphabets.”
John Pardie, “An Essay on the German Text and Old Print Alphabets.”
Thomas Weston, “Ancilla Calligraphiae.”
Peter Gery, “Copy book of all the Hands in use, Performed according to the Natural Freeness of the Pen.”
William Elder, “Copy-book of the most useful and necessary Hands now used in England.”
John Ayers, “Tutor to Penmanship,” and many others.
Caleb Williams, “Nuncius Oris,” written and engraved by himself.
Charles Snell, “The Penman’s Treasury Opened;” 1712, “Art of Writing in Theory and Practice;” 1714, “Standard Rules,” etc.
Richard Alleine, writing master.
Eleazer Wigin, “The Hand and Pen.”
John Sedden, “The Penman’s Paradise.”
John Eade, writing master.
Joseph Alleine, published several books about writing and accounts.
Robert More, “The Writing Masters Assistant.” 1725. “The General Penman.”
John Beckham, father of the celebrated George Beckham, wrote and engraved several pieces for “The Universal Penman.”
Edward Smith, “The Mysteries of the Pen in fifteen Hands, Unfolded,” etc.
Henry Legg, “Writing and Arithmetic.”
William Banson, “The Merchants Penman.”
John Dundas, microscopic writer.
George Shelley, “The Penmans Magazine.” In 1730 he wrote several pages for “Bickman’s Universal Penman.”
John Clark, “The Penmans Diversion.”
James Heacock, writing master.
George Shelley, “Natural writing in all hands.”
George Bickham, one of the most famous of writers of his time, born 1684, died 1758, author of “The Universal Penman.” He published many works. 1711, “The British Penman;” 1731, “Penmanship in its utmost Beauty and Extent” and “The Universal Penman” are the best known.
John Rayner, “Paul’s Scholars Copy-Book.”
Humphrey Johnson, “Youth’s Recreation: a Copy-Book of Writing done by Command of Hand.”
William Webster, writing and mathematics. 1730, wrote several pages for “The Universal Penman.”
Thomas Ollyffe, “The Hand and Pen.” 1714, “The Practical Penman.”
William Brooks, “Delightful Recreation for the Industrious.” Contributor to “The Universal Penman.”
Abraham Nicholas, “Various Examples of Penmanship.” 1722, “The Compleat Writing Master.” Wrote also for “The Universal Penman.”
Ralph Snow, “Youths Introduction to Handwriting.”
William Richards, “The Complete Penman.”
John Jarman, “A System of Court Hands.”
Henry Lune, “Round Hand Complete.”
John Shortland, writing master and contributor to “The Universal Penman.”
Edward Dawson, writing master and contributor to “The Universal Penman.”
Moses Gratwick, writing master and contributor to “The Universal Penman.”
John Langton, “The Italian Hand.”
John Day, writing master and contributor to “The Universal Penman.”
Gabriel Brooks, writing master and contributor to, “The Universal Penman.”
William Keppax, writing master and contributor to “The Universal Penman.”
John Bland, “Essay in Writing.” Also contributor to “The Universal Penman.”
Solomon Cook, “The Modish Round Hand.”
William Leckey, “A Discourse on the Use of the Pen.” Contributor to “The Universal Penman.”
Peter Norman, writing master and contributor to “The Universal Penman.”
Wellington Clark, writing master and contributor to “The Universal Penman.”
Zachary Chambers, “Vive la Plume.” Contributor to “The Universal Penman.”
Bright Whilton, writing master and contributor to “The Universal Penman.”
Timothy Treadway, writing master and contributor to “The Universal Penman.”
George J. Bickham, writing master; also wrote for “Bickham’s Universal Penman.”
Emanuel Austin, writing master; he wrote 22 pages in “The Universal Penman.”
Samuel Vaux, writing master and contributor to “The Universal Penman.”
Jeremiah Andrews, writing master and tutor to King George III.
Nathaniel Dove, “The Progress of Time,” and contributor to “The Universal Penman.”
John Blande, “Essay in Writing; 1730, contributor to “The Universal Penman.”
Richard Morris, writing master and contributor to “The Universal Penman.”
Mary Johns, microscopic writer and author.
Charles Woodham, “A Specimen of Writing, in the most Useful Hands now Practised in England.”
John Oldfield, “Honesty.” He wrote one piece in “The Universal Penman.”
Joseph Champion, “The Parallel or Comparative Penmanship.” 1762, “The Living Hands.”
Edward Lloyd, “Young Merchants Assistant.”
Richard Clark, “Practical and Ornamental Penmanship.”
Benjamin Webb, writer of copy books, etc.
William Chinnery, “The Compendious Emblematist.”
William Massey, “The Origin and Progress of Letters,” containing valuable information about the art.
John Gardner, “Introduction to the Counting House.”
Edward Powell, writing master and designer.
E. Butterworth, “The Universal Penman” in two parts, published in Edinburgh.
William Milns, “The Penman’s Repository.”
William G. Wheatcroft, “The Modern Penman.”
John Carstairs, “Tachygraphy, or the Flying Pen.” 2. “Writing made easy, etc.”
Illustrated works on the subject of penmanship of contemporaneous times and not of English origin are but few. The best known are:
Luduvico Vicentino, “A Copy book” published in Rome, seems to have been the first.
Il perfetto Scrittore (The Perfect Writer) by Francesco Cresci, published in Rome.
Spieghel der Schrijkfkonste (or Mirror of Penmanship) written by Van den Velde, published in Amsterdam.
“Writing and Ink Recipes,” by Peter Caniparius, Venice and London.
Der Getreue Schreibemeister (or True Writing Master), by Johann Friedr Vicum, published in Dresden.
From 1602 to 1709 many “Indian” ink specimens were extant and are still of the different schools of penmanship. The productions of Phrysius, Materot and Barbedor illustrating the French style, Vignon, Sellery and others, for the Italian hand, and Overbique and Smythers for the German text, and Ambrosius Perlengh and Hugo, with a few more, complete the list.
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