An Old Rhyming Recipe To Make Ink


The following is a quaint mnemonic of a recipe for making ink which first appeared in John de Beauchesne’s Writing Book, 1602, and quoted in David Nunes Carvalho, Forty Centuries of Ink, 1904:

To make common Ink, of Wine take a quart,
Two ounces of Gumme, let that be a part;
Five ounces of Galls, of Cop’res take three,
Long standing doth make it the better to be;
If Wine ye do want, raine water is best,
And then as much stuffe as above at the least,
If the Ink be too thick, put Vinegar in,
For water doth make the colour more dimme.

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15 thoughts on “An Old Rhyming Recipe To Make Ink

    1. Black ink has the strongest contrast against paper so that’s why it’s the preferred choice for writing. Traditionally, black is the only acceptable ink color in formal writing and publishing. Blue is for informal writing. Red is used for emphasizing something such as editing marks and urgent messages. I’m not certain if other colors were used but I’m sure that there were some oddballs who used different colored inks.

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      1. That makes sense. I favor black ink myself, with the occasional red to make certain notes stand out. I think my sister would have been one of the oddballs. She favors the unconventional and colorful. Thanks for the info!

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    1. Cop’res must be copperas or ferrous sulphate while gall is either Allepo gall (gall harvested from Allepo oak leaves) or iron gall (made from tannic acid and iron salts). I’m not sure which though since I don’t have access to the original book though both were used for making ink.

      Anyway, Shakespeare had a line about galls in his Twelth Night III, 2:

      “Go write it in a martial hand; be curst and brief;
      it is no matter how witty, so it be eloquent, and
      full of invention; taunt him with the license of
      ink; if thou thou’st him thrice, it shall nor be
      amiss; and as many lies as will lie on a sheet of
      paper, although the sheet were big enough for
      the bed of Ware in England, set ’em down; go,
      about it. Let there be gall enough in thy ink,
      though thou write with a goose pen, no matter:
      about it.

      The gall here also methaporically means poison.

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