top of page


Ingredients and types of ink

Did you know ink was most often sold in powdered form or that shopkeepers formulated their own recipes as a signature item?

The best option was to purchase ink premade from a bookshop since it took at least two weeks to make one’s own ink. Travelling salesmen sold ink, as well, nearly always in powdered form—just add water and stir!

The ink consisted of three primary ingredients: gall (iron or oak), iron sulfate, and gum arabic. The gall ensures it is waterproof, but gall is so acidic, it burns the letters into the paper. Iron sulfate is used for pigmentation. Gum arabic is added to thicken for consistency. Honey can also be added as a binder, as can egg whites, which will go bad over time, obviously. Water or alcohol can be added to thin, but it’s not recommended since it causes the ink to mold.

The ink we see used for quills without a nib vs with a nib was different. The ink used throughout the Georgian era was far too acidic for metal inkwells and metal nibs, so ceramic inkpots were required, and then once metal nibs were introduced, the ink recipe itself needed to be adjusted to prevent corrosion.

Inkpots usually had a wide base to avoid tipping over. The nicest inkpots had holes at the top where one could rest the quill to allow excess ink to drip back into the inkwell, thus preserving ink while allowing the quill to dry and reharden for its next usage.

The paper used needed to be compatible with the ink used, otherwise the ink would bleed through the paper, smear and blot, or burn straight through the paper.

These sources offer great insight into ink preparation, ink types, and more:

Random Bits of Fascination: A Touch of Quill and Ink

Regency Redingote: Ink, Regency Writing Fluid

Golden Romance Research: Writing Implements

Enjoy this video on making ink, as well as some of the features of it that our heroes and heroines would have experienced and known

bottom of page