Forty Centuries of Ink or, a chronological narrative concerning ink and its backgrounds, introducing incidental observations and deductions, parallels of time and color phenomena, bibliography, chemistry, poetical effusions, citations, anecdotes...

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CHAPTER XII.

STUDY OF INK.
LACK OF INTEREST AS TO THE COMPOSITION OF INK DURING PART OF THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY—THE CONDITIONS WHICH THEN PREVAILED NEARLY THE SAME AS THE PRESENT TIME—CHEMISTRY OF INK NOT UNDERSTOOD— THIS LACK OF INFORMATION NOT CONFINED TO ANY PARTICULAR COUNTRY—LEWIS, IN 1765, BEGINS A SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATION ON THE SUBJECT OF INKS —THE RESULTS AND HIS CONCLUSIONS PUBLISHED IN 1797—THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF ENGLAND IN 1787 RECEIVES COMPLAINTS ABOUT THE INFERIORITY OF INKS —ITS SECRETARY READS A PAPER THE SAME YEAR—THE PAPER CITED IN FULL—DR. BOSTOCK IN 1830 COMMUNICATES TO THE SOCIETY OF ARTS WHAT HE ESTIMATES TO BE THE CAUSES OF IMPERFECTIONS IN INK— ACTION OF THE FRENCH ACADEMY OF SCIENCES— COMPLICATIONS SURROUNDING THE MANUFACTURE OF INK ONLY THIRTY-FIVE YEARS AGO.

THE increasing demands for ink, and the lack of interest as to its composition during the eighteenth century, if viewed in the same lights which prevail in our own times, permitted the general manufacture of cheap grades of ink which possessed no very lasting qualities. The chemistry of Inks was not fully understood, indeed we find Professer Turner of the College of Edinburgh declaring in 1827:

"Gallic acid was discovered by Scheele in 1786, and exists ready formed in the bark of many trees, and in gall-nuts. It is always associated with tannin, a substance to which it is allied in a manner hitherto unexplained. It is distinguished from tannin by causing no precipitate in a solution of gelatine. With a salt of iron it forms a dark blue coloured compound, which is the basis of ink. The finest colour is procured when the peroxide and protoxide of iron are mixed together. This character distinguishes gallic acid from every other substance excepting tannin."

The general lack of information or knowledge respecting ink chemistry or its time-phenomena was not confined to any particular country, and it does not appear that any general or specific attention was scientifically directed to it until 1765, when William Lewis, F. R. S., an English chemist, publicly announced that he proposed to investigate the subject. His experimentations covered a period of many years and their results and his theories as to the phenomena of inks were published in 1797. The most valuable of his conclusions were that an excess of iron salt in the ink is detrimental to color permanence (such ink becoming brown on exposure) and also that acetic acid in the menstruum provides an ink of greater body and blackness than sulphuric acid does (a circumstance due to the smaller resistance of acetic acid to the formation of iron gallo-tannate). Many of his other observations were later shown to have been erroneous. Dr. Lewis was the first to advocate log- wood as a tinctorial agent in connection with iron and gall compositions.

Ribaucourt, a French ink maker, in 1798 determined that an excess of galls is quite as injurious to the permanence of ink as an excess of iron.

Pending the completion of the researches of Lewis, the Royal Society of England, affected by complaints from all quarters relative to the inferiority of inks as compared with those of earlier times, brought the subject to the attention of many of its members for discussion and advice....