Early Modern Ink Recipes

from A Booke of Secrets (1596)


It is first to bee vnderstood that if you wil make a great quantitie of Inke together, you must encrease the waight, and measure, according to the proportion you meane to make, as for example, if you will make ten quarts of Inke, then take foure quarts of water, and sixe quarts of vineger and wine, that is, three of each sort, which together with the water make ten quarts, and so must you doe with other quantities, either more or lesse. The like must you doe in the waight of your other stuffe that belongeth therevnto, as for a pint of water, sixe ounces of gaule, foure ounces of victriall, and foure ounces of gum, and if you take foure quarts of water (which is eight pints) if you giue to euery pint his proportion, then multiplying eight by sixe they make fortie eight, so many ounces of gaule must you put to ten quarts, mixed as aforesaid with wine, vineger, & water, and of victrial and gum, of each xxxii ounces, according to the first proportion, and so must you obserue your quantities, of waight and measure in each proportion, as you are minded to encrease the same, as in this treatise you shal read.

To make Inke to write vpon paper.

Take halfe a pint of water, a pint wanting a quarter of wine, and as much vineger, which being mixed together make a quart & a quarter of a pint more, then take six ounces of gauls beaten into small pouder, and sifted through a siue, put this pouder into a pot by it selfe, and poure halfe the water, wine, and vineger into it, take likewise foure ounces of victriall, and beat it into pouder, and put it also in a pot by it selfe, whereinto put a quarter of the wine, water, & vineger that remaineth, and to the other quarter, put foure ounces of gum Arabike beaten to pouder, that done, couer the three pots close, and let them stand three or foure daies together, stirring them euery day three or foure times, on the first day set the pot with gaules on the fire, and when it begins to seeth, stir it about till it be throughly warme, then straine it through a cloath into another pot, and mixe it with the other two pots, stirring them well together, and being couered, then let it stand three daies, till thou meanest to vse it, on the fourth day, when it is setled, poure it out, and it wil be good inke. If there remaine any dregs behind, poure some raine water (that hath stand long in a tub or vessell) into it, for the older the water is, the better it is, and keepe that vntill you make more inke, so it is better then clean water.

To make Inke for parchment.

Make it in all points like to the inke aforesaid, only take a pint of water, & of vineger and wine a pint more, that is of each halfe a pint.

Another sort of Inke.

Take a quart of cleare water, and put it in a glasse, put into it thirteene ounces beaten victriall, let it stand three daies, and stir it three or foure times euery day, then take thirteene ounces of beaten gaules, and put them into a new earthen pot that is wel leaded, poure into them a quart of cleane water, that done, set it on the fire, and let it seeth till it consumeth about a finger deepe, but suffer it not to seeth so fast that it seeth ouer the pots brim, then strain it through a wollen cloath, into another pot, that is leaded, poure into the cloath a cup full of good vineger, and strain it through likewise, that done, if there remaineth any thing in the cloath, cast it away, then put into the matter, foure or fiue ounces of beaten gum and stir them well together, then againe straine them through a cleane wollen cloath, and poure into it a cup full of good vineger, and straine it through the cloath, and let it stand till it be coole, then put it into a straightnecked glasse, stop both the glasses well, till you haue occasion to vse them, then take of each water a little quantitie, and mix them together, so haue you good inke.

Another of the same sort, but easie to make.

Take the beaten gauls, and put them in the water doe the like with the victriall in a pot by it self let those two waters stand, and when you haue cause to vse inke, poure out of each pot a like quantitie, and it will be blacke, then put into it a little beaten gum, & it will bee good inke.


Take a quart of strong wine, put it into a new pot, and set it on a soft fire till it be hote, but let it not seeth, then put into it foure ounces of gauls, two ounces and a halfe of gum Arabike, and two ounces of victriall, al beaten into smal pouder, and sifted through a siue, stirre it with a wooden sticke, and it will be good inke.


Take an ounce of beaten gaule, three or foure ounces of gum Arabicke, put them together in a pot with raine water, and when the gum is almost consumed, strain it through a cloath, and put into it almost halfe a cup of victriall beaten to pouder.


Take a pint of beere, put into it an ounce of gaules beaten to pouder, let it seeth till it seeme somewhat red, then put to it three quarters of an ounce of greene victriall, in small pouder, and let it seeth againe, when you take it off the fire, cast into it three quarters of an ounce of gum, and a small peece of alum, both in pouder, and stir them all together till it be cold.


Take two handfulls of gauls, cut each gaule either into three or four peeces, poure into them a pint of beere or wine, (which you wil) then let it stand eight houres, straine it from the gaules, and put victriall therein, and to the victriall a third part of gum, set it on the fire to warm, but let it not seeth, and it will bee good inke: and of those gaules you may make inke foure or fiue times more.

To make inke vpon a suddaine, to serue in an extremitie.

Take a wax candle, and light it, hold it vnder a cleane bason or a candelsticke, till the smoke of the candle hangeth theron, then put a little warme gum water into it, which tempered together will be good inke.

To keepe Inke that it sinketh not into the paper neither that it come not off, and that moths nor mise hurt not the paper.

Take the shels of hazell nuts, and put them into the inke, and it will not sinke through the paper.
And that it may not come off, put a little salt into it.
To keepe that neither Mise nor eat or fret the paper, put a little wormewood water into the inke.

To write without inke, that it may not be seen, vnlesse the paper be wet with water.

Take pouder of victriall, and put it into a cleane inkehorne, put a little cleane water to it, when the victriall is dissolued, write with it either vpon paper or parchment, and let it drie, and it cannot bee read: when you will read it, take halfe a pint of water, and put thereto an ounce of pouder of gaules, mix them well together, then straine them through a linnen cloath into a cleane pot, then draw the paper through the water, and the writing will be blacke, as if it had ben written with inke.

To take Inke out of paper or parchment.

Take Colofoniam, which is called pix græcum, beat it small, and cast it on the paper that is written, then wet a cloath, and lay it on the Colofoniam, vpon the cloath lay some fresh horse dung, & vpon that set a smooth tile stone, then if it be in winter let it stand a whole night, but if it bee summer, let it stand but from morning till nine of the clocke.


Take Salarmoniacke, and alum, still it in a limbeck, and with this water wet the writing and it will goe out.


From A Booke of Secrets: Shewing diuers waies to make and prepare all sorts of Inke, and Colours...necessarie to be knowne of all Scriueners, Painters, and others that delight in such Arts. Translated out of Duth into English, by W.P. (London: Adam Islip for Edward White, 1596), ff. A3r-B2r.