Author Topic: Iron Gall Ink - long term stability  (Read 79 times)

Offline LeonieS

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Iron Gall Ink - long term stability
« on: July 07, 2018, 06:44:55 AM »
Hello all,
I apologize if this is the wrong place to post, but it's my first question  :)  I am still learning about the various inks and have found the Q&A discussions very interesting. I have one concern about iron gall ink and this comes from my background in paper preservation at the Queensland State Archives.

I have seen hundreds of old documents and registers originally written with iron gall ink. Sadly, over time the acidity in the ink has eaten through the paper completely.  Eventually the whole page falls to pieces (this is despite the fact that the paper back then was usually very high quality and manufactured before the use of acidic wood pulp).  So, for me, the term iron gall has a negative connotation.  I'm wondering if those 19th century inks were possibly  more acidic than the ones in use today.   Not sure...

Can someone tell me if the iron gall inks you use now are more stable in terms of pH? It would be very sad if this were to happen to a beautiful work of calligraphy in 20 years' time. Cheers

Offline AAAndrew

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Re: Iron Gall Ink - long term stability
« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2018, 10:35:58 AM »
Modern iron gall inks are not nearly as acidic as the old inks. The inks like Diamond Registrars and such like are formulated, by law Iíve been told, to be stable and lightfast for over 100 years. Even by the mid 19th-century, commercial inks were not nearly as acidic as the older inks. You rarely find documents after 1850 that are ďburnedĒ by the ink. Now, the paper, on the other hand, in the 19th-century was often awful, especially that used in printing. Thatís why so many 19th-century books from around 1840ís-1880ís are crumbling. A new, cheaper way of making paper turned out to be very acidic.

Use good-quality modern inks on good-quality modern paper and youíll be fine.

Andrew
Check out my steel pen history blog
https://thesteelpen.com/

Offline KristinT

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Re: Iron Gall Ink - long term stability
« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2018, 10:53:12 PM »
Great question!  I've been wondering about that also, and maybe putting off investing in iron gall ink on account of those same concerns.

AAAndrew, that's really informative!  Thank you!

Offline LeonieS

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Re: Iron Gall Ink - long term stability
« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2018, 06:04:38 PM »
Thanks Andrew. Very interesting.  Yes, the paper choice is also crucial. I have seen paper that is hundreds of years old without any discoloration at all. Usually these were made with rag fibres.  In the pre-wood pulp days, they would soak rags (mostly cotton and linen  back then) in lime to soften the fibres for pulping.  Because the was alkaline, it resulted in very good quality paper.  The worst thing that ever happened for paper quality was the shift to wood pulp, which was full of lignin (very acidic).   Great to hear that today's inks are more stable :)