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Alphabethursday I is for Ink

January 17, 2013

For my previous ‘I’ for Alphabethursday I wrote about my collection of  ink wells so I thought would keep to the trend and research ink. Many books have been written on the history and art of printing yet little has said on the subject of ink; however for my humble blog there is more than enough.  

Also, I realise that the ink discussed below bears no resemblance to the ink I would find in a pot. 

A celebrated Chinese calligrapher said in 4th century AD that ‘Paper represents the troops arrayed for battle; the writing-brush, sword and shield; ink represents the soldier’s armour ; the ink-stone, city’s wall and a moat … in so saying the mental attitude of the Chinese towards the arsenal of learned is well crystallized : paper, brush, ink and ink-slab are the four great emblems of scholarship and culture.

Printing ink by Frank B. Wilborg

Printing ink by Frank B. Wilborg0001

Records show that the earliest typographic printers made their own inks usually furnished with their own ingredients.  There are many romantic historical notes on the subject of early ink  manufacture.
When ready to make a new batch of ink for the season, the master printer with his  and apprentices, with their families and friends would take a holiday. A fire would be built, over which would be hung a huge iron pot for boiling the linseed oil.  The merry makers would feast on meat and bread that had been roasted or fried in the hot linseed oil.

Printing ink by Frank B. Wilborg0002

Ink balls were made with wooden handle  and a sheepskin bag filled with horsehair and used in pairs.  The inker would ‘mill’ the ink between the balls and then apply the ink to the type before printing.  This method was used soon after the invention of the press and for the follow 340 years

For further reading Printing ink by Frank B. Wiborg

alphabet thursday

6 Comments leave one →
  1. January 17, 2013 10:32 am

    So informative – and wonderful accompanying images!

  2. January 18, 2013 12:19 pm

    how great that you were able to find prints to go along with this post. great and informative post on the letter “I.”

    • January 18, 2013 12:32 pm

      I am lucky that I work in a library! Thank you for dropping by and the kind comments _/\_ xx

  3. January 24, 2013 2:57 pm

    Holy moly.

    I didn’t know any of this!

    What a fascinated and intriquing history.

    And the images you found are incredible.

    This was really a wow read for me this week!

    Thank you!


    • January 24, 2013 3:32 pm

      Yes, it is fascinating printers were at the cutting edge … and have the WOW factor _/\_ x

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