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Iron Gall Ink & Permanence



Having done some private research in my modest laboratory regarding
manuscript inks, I have found that Iron Gall inks generally contain the
following:

1. Oak galls or tree bark (tannic acid and/or gallic acid in modern
recipes).

2. Ferrous sulfate (for the iron in solution).

3. Acid (to reduce percipitation in solution and increase flow).

4. Gum Arabic (or simular gum for body).

Indeed, many recipes of the past were damaging to paper, parchment and
pen nibs.
This deterioration was noted by the US Goverment and published a new
federal iron gall ink standard in it's 1936 booklet "Inks" by C.E. Waters:

Federal Iron gall Ink TT-I-521

Tannic acid---------------------23.4 grams
Gallic acid---------------------07.7  "
Ferrous sulphate crystals-------30.0  "
Hydrochloric acid,"dilute"------25.0  "
Carbolic acid (phenol)----------01.0  "
Soluble blue--------------------03.5  "
Water to make a volume of 1 liter at 20C (68F)

The carbolic acid is for a preservative: very toxic; the soluble or
prussian blue is for initial color because natural iron gall inks start
as a pale gray or brown and can take 1 to 3 days to attain full black or
dark gray. This is considered to be the first modern archival iron gall
ink.

However the earliest archival iron gall ink surely must be the 14th
century:

Pact Ink for Devils and Spirits.

Gall nuts---------------------------------------------10 oz.
Roman Vitriol or Green Copperas (ferrous sulphate)----03 oz.
Rock Alum---------------------------------------------03 oz.
Gum Arabic--------------------------------------------03 oz. ?

You can just imagine the Devil on Judgement Day with a warehouse of
ruined pacts.

Best Regards, Rich Spelker
Ootheca Press Laboratory
San Francisco

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