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The Household Cyclopedia

INKS, etc.


Ordinary black writing-ink contains a mixture of the tannates and gallates of the proto and sesquioxide of iron. These are insoluble in water and are suspended by means of gum. Creosote or essential oils are added to prevent moulding.

Many receipts are given for inks; those found below are reliable. As a general rule, the use of vinegar, logwood, and salts of copper is not to be recommended. Inks so prepared are richer at first, but will fade and act on pens.

Most ink is pale when first written with, but becomes dark; this is owing to oxidation. Such ink lasts better than that which is very black.

When ink fades, it is from a decomposition of the organic matter; it may be restored by brushing over with infusion of galls or solution of ferrocynnide of potassium. The durability of any ink is impaired by the use of steel pens.

Writing Fluids.

Ink which is blue when first used (Stark's, Stephens's, Arnold's) contains sulphate of indigo, or soluble Prussian blue. It is an ink which is a true solution, and not merely a suspended precipitate. The same is true of Runge's Chrome Ink.

Marking Ink, containing nitrate of silver, are not indelible they may be removed by cyanide of potassium.

Carbon inks, such as coal-tar diluted with naphtha, are indelible.

Aniline black is nearly indelible; it is turned yellowish, but not removed, by chlorine.

To make common Black Ink.

Pour 1 gall. of boiling soft water on 7 lb. of powdered galls, previously put into a proper vessel. Stop the mouth of the vessel, and set it in the sun in summer, or in winter where it may be warmed by any fire, and let it stand 2 or 3 days. Then add 1/2 lb. of green vitriol powdered, and having stirred the mixture well together with a wooden spatula, let it stand again for 2 or 3 days, repeating the stirring, when add further to it 5 oz. of gum Arabic dissolved in a quart of boiling water; and, lastly, 2 oz. of alum, after which let the ink be strained through a coarse linen cloth for use.

Another. - A good and durable black ink may be made by the following directions: To 2 pts. of water add 3 oz. of the dark-colored, rough-skinned Aleppo galls in gross powder, and of rasped log-wood, green vitriol, and gum arabic, each, 1 oz.

This mixture is to be put in a convenient vessel, and well shaken four or five times a day, for ten or twelve days, at the end of which time it will be fit for use, though it will improve by remaining longer on the ingredients.

Stark's Ink (Writing Fluid).

Twelve oz. nut-galls, 8 oz. each, sulphate of indigo and copperas, a few cloves, 4 or 6 oz. of gum Arabic for a gallon of ink. The addition of the sulphate of indigo renders the ink more permanent and less liable to mould. It is blue when first written with, but soon becomes an intense black.

Chrome Ink (Runge's Ink).

This ink is of an excellent blue-black, does not fade, and, as it contains no gum, flows freely from the pen. It does not affect steel pens. Take 1 oz. extract of logwood, pour over it 2 qts. of boiling water, and, when the extract is dissolved, add 1 dr. of yellow chromate of potassa. This ink can be made for twenty-five gents a gallon. If put into an old inkstand, it must be thoroughly cleansed, as ordinary ink decomposes chrome ink.

Non-corrosive Writing Fluid.

Dissolve sulphate of indigo (chemic or Saxony blue) in twelve times its weight of water, add carbonate of soda as long as any precipitate falls, dissolve this in 160 parts of boiling water, let it settle and use the clear portion. It dries nearly black, flows very freely, and will not corrode pens or paper.

Alizarine Ink, Leonhardi.

Digest 24 parts Allepo galls with 3 parts Dutch madder and 120 parts warm water. Filter. Mix 1.2 parts solution of indigo, 5.2 parts sulphate of iron, and 2 parts crude acetate of iron solution. This ink contains no gum, cannot get mouldy; the tannate of iron is prevented from separating by the sulphate of indigo. Alizarine ink may be evaporated to dryness and formed into cakes. One part with 6 parts hot water will then form an excellent writing fluid.

Indestructible Ink for Resisting the Action of Corrosive Substances.

On many occasions it is of importance to employ an ink indestructible by any process, and will not equally destroy the material on which it is applied. For black ink, 25 grs. of copal in powder, are to be dissolved in 200 grs. of oil of lavender, by the assistance of a gentle heat, and are then to be mixed with 2 1/2 grs. of lampblack and 1/2 gr. of indigo; for red ink use 120 grs. of oil of lavender, 17 grs. of Copal, and 60 grains of vermilion. A little oil of lavender or of turpentine may be added if the ink be found too thick. A mixture of genuine asphaltum dissolved in oil of turpentine or benzine, amber varnish and lampblack, would be still superior.

This ink is particularly useful in labelling phials, etc. containing chemical or corrosive substances.

Ink Powder.

Take 4 oz. powdered galls; dried sulphate of iron, 1 oz.; powdered gum, 1 oz.; white sugar, oz.; to make a quart of ink with water or beer.


Jules Guillier, who received five years' exclusive privilege in Paris for making marking inks, gives the following formulae. But one preparation is required, and the inventor states that they will not wash out or fade.

No 1. Nitrate of silver, 11 parts; distilled water, 85 parts; powdered gum Arabic, 20 parts; carbonate of soda, 22 parts; solution of ammonia, 30 parts. Dissolve the carbonate of soda, and afterwards the gum (by trituration in a mortar) in the water, dissolve the nitrate of silver in the ammonia and add to the carbonate of soda solution. Heat gently to the boiling point; the ink at first turbid, becomes clear and very dark.

No. 2. Nitrate of silver, 5 parts; distilled water, 12 parts; powdered gum Arabic, 5 parts; carbonate of soda, 7 parts; solution of ammonia, 10 parts. Heat as before, and heat until it has a very dark color. This ink is very black and is suitable for marking by stamps.

A Purple-red Ink for Marking Linen.

The place where the linen is to be marked is first wetted with a solution consisting of 3 drs. of carbonate of soda, and 3 drs. of gum Arabic, dissolved in 1 1/2 oz. of water, then dried and smoothed. The place is now to be written on with a solution composed of 1 dr. of chloride of platina dissolved in 2 oz. of distilled water, then allowed to dry. When quite dry, the writing is to be painted over with a goose's feather, moistened with a liquid consisting of one dr. of protochloride of tin dissolved in 2 oz. of distilled water.

Blue and Indelible Black Ink.

Take of iodide of potassium, 1 oz.; iodine, 6 drs.; water, 4 oz.; dissolve. Make a solution of 2 oz. of ferrocyanide of potassium in water. Add the iodine solution to the second. A blue precipitate will fall, which, after filtering, may be dissolved in water forming a blue ink. This blue, added to common ink, renders it indelible.

Carmine Ink

Dissolve 10 grs. of the best carmine in the least quantify possible of solution of ammonia. Let it stand for 24 hours, and add 2 1/2 fl. oz. of distilled water.

To take out Spots of Ink.

As soon as the accident happens, wet the place with juice of sorrel or lemon, or with vinegar, and the best hard white soap, or use a weak solution of oxalic acid.

To take out Marking Ink.

Ordinary marking-ink is removed by wetting with a solution of cyanide of potassium and afterwards washing with water. The cyanide must be carefully handled, as it is a violent poison.

To make New Writing look Old.

Take 1 dr. of saffron, and infuse it into 1/2 pt. of ink, and warm it over a gentle fire, and it will cause whatever is written with it to turn yellow, and appear as if of many years' standing.

To Write on Greasy Paper or Parchment.

Put to a bullock's gall 1 handful of salt, and 1/4 pt. of vinegar; stir it until it is mixed well; when the paper or parchment is greasy, put 1 drop of the gall into the ink, and the difficulty will be instantly obviated.

To Restore Decayed Writings.

1. Cover the letters with solution of ferrocyanide of potassium, with the addition of a diluted mineral acid; upon the application of which, the letters change very speedily to a deep blue color, of great beauty and intensity. To prevent the spreading of the color, which, by blotting the parchment, detracts greatly from the legibility, the ferrocyanide should be put on first, and the diluted acid added upon it. The method found to answer best has been to spread the ferrocyanide thin with a feather or a bit of stick cut to a blunt point. Though the ferrocyanide should occasion no sensible change of color, yet the moment the acid comes upon it, every trace of a letter turns at once to a fine blue, which soon acquires its full intensity, and is beyond comparison stronger than the color of the original trace. If, then, the corner of a bit of blotting-paper be carefully and dexterously applied near the letters, so as to imbibe the superfluous liquor, the staining of the parchment may be in a great measure avoided; for it is this superfluous liquor which, absorbing part of the coloring matters from the letters, becomes a dye to whatever it touches. Care must be taken not to bring the blotting-paper in contact with the letters, because the coloring matter is soft whilst wet, and may easily be rubbed off. The acid chiefly employed is the muriatic; but both the sulphuric and nitric succeed very well. They should be so far diluted as not to be liable to corrode the parchment, after which the degree of strength does not seem to be a matter of much nicety.

2. Morid's Process. - The paper or parchment written on is first left for some time in contact with distilled water. It is then placed for 5 seconds in a solution of oxalic acid (1 of acid to 100 of water); next, after washing it, it is put in a vessel containing a solution of gallic acid (10 grs. of acid to 300 of distilled water); and finally washed again and dried. The process should be carried forward with care and promptness, that any accidental discoloration of the paper may be avoided.

To take Impressions from Recent Manuscripts.

This is done by means of fusible metal. In order to show the application of it, paste a piece of paper on the bottom of a China saucer, and allow it to dry; then write upon it with a common writing ink, and sprinkle some finely powdered gum Arabic over the writing, which produces a slight relief. When it is well dried, and the adhering powder brushed off, the fusible metal is poured into the saucer, and is cooled rapidly, to prevent crystallization. The metal then takes a cast of the writing, and, when it is immersed in slightly warm water to remove adhering gum, impressions may be taken from it as from a copper-plate.

Another Method.

Put a little sugar into a common writing ink and let the writing be executed with this upon common paper, sized as usual. When a copy is required, let unsized paper be taken and lightly moistened with a sponge. Then apply the wet paper to the writing, and passing lightly a flat-iron of a moderate heat, such as is used by laundresses, over the unsized paper, the copy will be immediately produced. This method requires no machine or preparation, and may be employed in any situation.

To Produce a Fac-simile of any Writing.

The pen should be made of glass enamel; the point being small and finely polished; so that the part above the point may be large enough to hold as much ink as, or more than a common writing pen.

A mixture of equal parts of Frankfort black, and fresh butter is now to be smeared over sheets of paper, and rubbed off after a certain time. The paper, thus smeared, is to be pressed for some hours, taking care, to have sheets of blotting paper between each of the sheets of black paper. When fit for use, writing-paper is put between sheets of blackened paper, and the upper sheet is to be written on, with common writing-ink, by the glass or enamel pen. By this method, not only the copy is obtained on which the pen writes, but also two or more, made by means of the blackened paper.

Substitute for Copying Machines.

In the common ink used, dissolve lump sugar (1 dr. to 1 oz. of ink). Moisten the copying paper, and then put it in soft cap-paper to absorb the superfluous moisture. Put the moistened paper on the writing, place both between some soft paper, and either put the whole in the folds of a carpet, or roll upon a ruler 3 or 4 times.

To Copy Writings.

Take a piece of unsized paper exactly of the size of the paper to be copied; moisten it with water, or with the following liquid: Take of distilled vingar, 2 lbs.; dissolve it in 1 oz. of boracic acid; then take 4 oz. of oyster-shells calcined to whiteness, and carefully freed from their brown crust; put them into the vinegar, shake the mixture frequently for 24 hours, then let it stand till it deposits its sediment; filter the clear part through unsized paper into a glass vessel; then add 2 oz. of the best Aleppo galls bruised, and place the liquor in a warm place; shake it frequently for 24 hours, then filter the liquor again through unsized paper, and add to it after filtration, 1 qt., ale measure, of pure water. It must then stand 24 hours, and be filtered again, if it shows a disposition to deposit any sediment, which it generally does. When paper has been wet with this liquid, put it between 2 thick unsized papers to absorb the superfluous moisture; then lay it over the writing to be copied, and put a piece of clean writing-paper above it. Put the whole on the board of a rolling-press, and press them through the rolls, as is done in printing copperplates, and a copy of the writing will appear on both sides of the thin moistened paper, on one side in a reversed order and direction, but on the other side in the natural order and direction of the lines.


Ink for the rolling-press is made of linseed-oil, burnt just as for common printing-ink, and is then mixed with Frankfort black, finely ground. There are no certain proportions, every workman adding oil or black to suit. Good ink depends most on the purity of the oil, and on its being thoroughly burned. Test it occasionally by cooling a drop on the inside of an oyster-shell; feel it between the thumb and finger, and if it draws out into threads, it is burnt enough. Weak oil well charged with black is called stiff ink. Oil fully burned and charged with as much black as it will take in, is termed strong ink. The character of the engraving to be printed determines which is suitable. It is cleaned out with spirits of turpentine.

Another Method.

Instead of Frankfort, or other kinds of black commonly used, the following composition may be substituted, and will form a much deeper and more beautiful black than can be obtained by any other method. Take of the deepest Prussian blue, 5 parts, and of the deepest colored lake and brown pink, each 1 part. Grind them well with oil of turpentine, and afterwards with the strong and weak oils in the manner and proportion above directed. The colors need not be bright for this purpose, but they should be the deepest of the kind, and perfectly transparent in oil, as the whole effect depends on that quality.


Ten or 12 galls. of nut or linseed-oil are set over the fire in a large iron pot, and brought to boil. It is then stirred with an iron ladle; and whilst boiling, the inflammable vapor arising from it either takes fire of itself or is kindled, and is suffered to burn in this way for about 1/2 hour; the pot being partially covered so as to regulate the body of the flame, and consequently the heat communicated to the oil. It is frequently stirred during this time that the whole may be heated equally; otherwise a part would be charred, and the rest left imperfect. The flame is then extinguished by entirely covering the pot. The oil, by this process, has much of its unctuous quality destroyed; and when cold is of the consistence of soft turpentine; it is then called varnish. After this, it is made into ink by mixture with the requisite quantity of lampblack, of which about 2 1/2 oz. are sufficient for 16 oz. of the prepared oil. The oil loses by the boiling about 1/8 of its weight, and emits very offensive fumes. Several other additions are made to the oil during the boiling, such as crusts of bread, onions, and sometimes turpentine. These are kept secret by the preparers. The intention of them is more effectually to destroy part of the unctuous quality of oil, to give it more body, to enable it to adhere better to the wetted paper, and to spread on the types neatly and uniformly.

Besides these additions, others are made by the printers, of which the most important is a little fine indigo in powder, to improve the beauty of the color.

Another Method.

One pound of lampblack ground very fine or run through a lawn sieve; 2 oz. of Prussian blue ground very fine; 4 oz. of linseed oil, well boiled and skimmed; 4 oz. of spirit of turpentine, very clear; 4 oz. of soft varnish, or neat's-foot oil. To be well boiled and skimmed; and while boiling the top burned off by several times applying lighted paper. Let these be well mixed; then put the whole in a jug, place that in a pan, and boil them very carefully 1 hour.

A Fine Black Printing ink.

Less turpentine and oil, without Prussian blue, for common ink.

Best Printing-Ink.

In a secured iron pot (fire outside when possible), boil 12 galls. of nut or linseed-oil; stir with iron ladle, long handle; while boiling put an iron cover partly over; set the vapor on fire by lighted paper often applied; keep stirring well, and on the fire 1 hour at least (or till the oily particles are burnt); then add 1 lb. of onions cut in pieces, and a few crusts of bread, to get out the residue of oil; also varnish, 16 oz.; fine lampblack, 3 oz., ground indigo, 1/2 oz. Boil well 1 hour.

Good Common Printing Ink.

Take 16 oz. of varnish, 4 oz. of linseed-oil well boiled, 4 oz. of clear oil of turpentine, 16 oz. of fine lampblack, 2 oz. of Prussian blue, fine, 1 oz. of indigo, fine. Boil 1 hour.

Printers' Red Ink.

Soft varnish and vermilion with white of eggs not very thick. Common varnish, red lead and orange. Colcothar is indelible.


Prussian blue and a little ivory-black with varnish and eggs very thick. Common indigo and varnish; then wash off with boiling lees.


Sesquioxide of chromium (chrome green). This is the ink used in printing Greenbacks. It is indestructible, and cannot be photographed.

Perpetual Ink for Inscriptions on Tombstones, Marbles, etc.

This ink is formed by mixing about 3 parts of pitch with 1 part of lampblack, and making them incorporate by melting the pitch. With this composition, used in a melted state, the letters are filled, and will, without extraordinary violence, endure as long as the stone itself.

Ink for Writing on Zinc Labels.

Horticultural ink. - Dissolve 100 grs. of chloride of platinum in a pint of water. A little mucilage and lampblack may be added.

Another. - Mix thoroughly 2 parts (by weight) verdigris, 2 of sal ammoniac, 1 of lampblack, and 30 of water. Always shake well before using, and write with a quill pen. Writings made on zinc with this ink will keep many years.


Let ivory or lampblack be mixed with a small portion of Prussian blue or indigo, for a blue-black, and let the same blacks be united with raw or burnt umber, bistre, vandyke or any other brown, instead of the blue, for a brownblack. These should be mixed together in a weak gumwater (perhaps matt-work would answer the purpose better), first levigating them very fine, in common water, on a marble slab. When dried to the consistence of a paste, let the glutinous matter be well mixed with them; that will be found sufficiently strong, which binds the composition so as to prevent rubbing off by the touch. Indian-ink drawings should be handled as lightly as possible. Too much gum in the composition will create an offensive gloss.

Another Method.

Isinglass, 6 oz.; and 12 oz. of soft water; make into size; add 1 oz. of refined liquorice, ground up with 1 oz. of genuine ivory-black, and stir the whole well. Evaporate the water in balneum maria, and form the sticks or cakes.

A Substitute for Indian-ink.

Boil parchment slips or cuttings of glove-leather in water till it forms a size, which, when cool, becomes of the consistence of jelly; then, having blackened an earthen plate, by holding it over the flame of a candle, mix up, with a camel-hair pencil, the fine lampblack thus obtained with some of the above size, while the plate is still warm. This black requires no grinding, and produces an ink of the same color, which works as freely with the pencil, and is as perfectly transparent as the best Indian-ink.


Sympathetic inks are such as do not appear after they are written with, but which may be made to appear at pleasure by certain means to be used for that purpose. A variety of substances have been used as sympathetic inks, among which are the following:

Chloride of Gold and Tin.

Write with a solution of gold in aqua regia, and let the paper dry gently in the shade. Nothing will appear, but draw a sponge over it, wetted with a solution of tin in aqua regia, and the writing will immediately appear, of a purple color.

Starch and Iodide.

Write with weak boiled starch, and when the writing is required to appear, brush over with a weak solution of iodine; the letters will appear blue.

Chloride of Cobalt,

When pure, is invisible in dilute solution, but gives a blue when exposed to a gentle heat; if it contains (as it usually does) some nickel, the color will be green. A little common salt should be added to the solution, so that it will remain more on the paper. It can then be brought out and suffered to fade for many successive times.

Other Sympathetic Inks.

Write on paper with a solution of nitrate of bismuth, and smear the writing over by means of a feather with some infusion of galls. The letters, which were before invisible, will now appear of a brown color. If the previous use of nitrate of bismuth be concealed from the spectators, great surprise will be excited by the appearance of writing, merely by the dash of a feather. The same phenomenon will take place when infusion of galls is written with, and the salt of bismuth applied afterwards.

Another. - Write on a sheet of paper any sentence with a transparent infusion of nut-galls, and dip the paper in a transparent solution of the sulphate of iron. The writing, which was before invisible, will now, on a slight exposure to the air, turns quite black. A neater way of performing this experiment will be by smearing the written parts over with a feather dipped in the solution of the metallic salt; it may also be reversed, by writing with the salt and smearing with the infusion.

Another. - If a letter be written with a solution of sulphate of iron, the inscription will be invisible, but if it afterwards be rubbed over by a feather dipped in a solution of prussiate of potassa, it will appear of a beautiful blue color.

Another. - Write a letter with a solution of nitrate of bismuth, The letters will be invisible. If a feather be now dipped in a solution of the prussiate of potass, and rubbed over the paper, the writing will appear of a beautiful yellow color, occasioned by a formation of prussiate of bismuth.

Another. - Write with a solution of sugar of lead or tartar emetic; moisten the writing (or drawing) and expose to a current of sulphuretted hydrogen gas. The lead will turn black, and the antimony orange brown.

Chemical Landscapes.

These are drawn partly in Indian-ink and partly in sympathetic inks, which are only visible when gently heated. The picture represents ordinarily a winter scene, but when heated the sky becomes blue, the leaves green, and flowers and fruit are seen. The materials are as follows: Green, chloride of nickel; blue, pure chloride or acetate of cobalt; yellow, chloride of copper; brown, bromide of copper. If the picture is too highly heated it will not again fade.


Gold Ink.

Mosaic gold, 2 parts, gum Arabic, 1 part, are rubbed up with water until reduced to a proper condition.

Silver Ink.

Triturate in a mortar equal parts of silver foil and sulphate of potassa, until reduced to a fine powder; then wash out the salt, and mix the residue with a mucilage of equal parts of gum Arabic and water.

Brown Ink.

Digest powdered catechu, 4 parts, with water 60 parts, for some hours; filter, and add sufficient of a solution of bichromate of potassa, 1 part in 16 of water.

Yellow Ink.

Macerate gamboge, 1 part (or 1 1/2); alum, 1/2 part; gum Arabic, 1 part, in acetic acid, 1 part; and water, 24 parts.

Blue Ink.

Triturate best Prussian blue, 6 parts, with a solution of 1 part of oxalic acid in 6 of water, and towards the end of 1/4 of an hour or so add gradually gum Arabic, 18 parts, and water, 280. Pour off clear.

Red Inks.

1. Pernambuco-wood, 4 parts; alum and cream of tartar, each 1 part, with 30 of water; boil down to 16 parts, let stand, pour off, filter, and dissolve in the liquid gum Arabic, 1 1/2 parts; white sugar, 1 part.

2. Digest powdered cochineal, 8 parts, and carbonate of potash, 16 parts, in 144 of water, for 24 hours; then boil up with powdered alum, 4 parts, and add 24 of cream of tarter, with 3 parts of tartaric acid, and, when effervescence has ceased, another part of the acid, or enough to produce the color; let cool, filter, and boil the residue on the filter with 12 parts of water; filter again, mix the liquids and dissolve in them 24 parts of gum Arabic, and lastly 1/3 part of oil of cloves. No iron vessels must be used in this process.

3. Digest powdered cochineal, 16 parts; oxalic acid, 2 parts; dilute acetic acid, 80 parts; distilled water, 40 parts, for 36 hours; then add powdered alum, 1 part; gum Arabic, 1 to 10; shake up, let stand for 12 hours, and strain.

4. Dissolve 1 part of carmine in 8 to 10 parts of aqua ammonia, and add mucilage of gum Arabic sufficient to reduce it properly.

Violet Ink.

Eight parts of logwood and 64 parts of water; boil down to one-half, then strain and add 1 part of chloride of tin.

Green Inks.

1. Digest 1 part of gamboge with from 7 to 10 parts of the blue ink.

2. To powdered bichromate of potassa, 8 parts, contained in a porcelain dish, add oil of vitriol, 8 parts, previously diluted with 64 of water; then heat, and, while evaporating, add gradually 24 parts of alcohol, and reduce to 56 parts, which filter, and in the clear liquor dissolve 8 parts of gum Arabic.

Crimson Ink.

A beautiful crimson ink is made by mixing red ink No. 1 with the violet ink; about equal parts will answer.

The parts given are those of weight, not measure. The mucilage of gum Arabic prevents the fine particles of color falling to the bottom in the form of a sediment. Sugar gives to inks a glossy appearance, but very little of it should be used, as it is liable to make the ink sticky.