Making Your Mark - part 3 of 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

by Mike McNamee Published 01/06/2015


Calligraphic Inks
Calligraphers like a nice dense black ink which also has to run smoothly out onto the media used for this type of art. Real velum is highly specialised and might require the use of Oak Gall inks or some Ox Gall into the mix to make it stick on the rather unabsorbent surface. We had Higgins Calligraphy (from L Cornelissen & Son, London) and tried it out with various options and papers. We managed to separate the constituents by over flooding the ink onto a baryta paper so in some ways it is not as good as ink-jet ink - we do not, for example, know if the inks would continue to migrate sideways over an extended period of time.

Registrar's Ink
This ink should be familiar to wedding photographers as it is the one used by registrars to sign marriage certificates and parish registers. It is a traditional Iron Gall ink made by mixing iron sulphate with tannic acid (obtained from oak galls) and then dissolving iron nails into the mix. Gum Arabic is added to suppress the flow and make it manageable. The ink dries to a rich purplish-black and cannot be erased; it has to be scraped back to bare paper if a correction is needed (that is why the register is always a single detached sheet, you can start again if needs be!) The ink has stood the test of time, the original recipe is attributed to Pliny The Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus (AD 23 - August 25, AD 79)). The acidity of the ink can disintegrate the paper if not formulated correctly but there are manuscripts of greater than 1,000 years in existence in museums around the world. Supplies may be obtained from Ecclesiastic Stationery Suppliers (

Authentic Ink ("Encre Authentique") also known as "Lawyers' Ink." This intense black ink was used by French notaries to write official acts. It contains Campeche wood tannin for exceptional preservation. Lettering done with this ink is said to be legible for 300 years. www.

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