Home Page

Stefan's Florilegium


This document is also available in: text or Word formats.

Blk-Walnt-Ink-art - 5/20/07


"Black Walnut Ink" by Baroness Clarice Roan.


NOTE: See also the files: inks-msg, iwandpc-msg, calligraphy-msg, Beg-C-a-I-lnks, callig-suppl-msg, nuts-msg, parchment-msg, scrpt-develop-art, p-graffiti-lnks.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org



Author’s Note:  My entry for this year's (2007) novice pentathalon is a Villanelle poem entitled "Our Hero", set to song and hand-calligraphed on handmade paper with ink that I made from black walnuts gathered from our yard.  This article and bibliography on Handmade Black Walnut Ink is excerpted from the paper.


Black Walnut Ink

by Baroness Clarice Roan


     My idea for ink came from research on black walnuts. Our yard contains one very prolific black walnut tree and I wanted to know what uses there were for the nuts.  I came across ink recipes and references to commercial inks online. I also came across some SCA sites with recipes for black walnut ink. I extrapolated my own recipe for ink from a variety of these recipes, as none of the sites had a direct reference to a period recipe.


     Most period recipes are for lampblack ink or iron oak-gall ink. I have found some references to walnut use in dyes and pigments, but they are vague. In Compleat Anachronist #43, it is mentioned that "walnut ink was referred to as student ink in 15th century Paris." [1] There is reference to walnuts in the Mappae Clavicula, chapter 193. [2] Walnuts are also referenced in the commentary in the Gottingen Model Book, as a measurement of size. [3]


     I located a period recipe for a "black liq" from a translation of the Arabic manuscript of Ibn Badis. The recipe is as follows:


‘Three parts of fresh walnuts, before they are formed, are taken and one part of vitriol. They are pounded with some gum arabic and dissolved in water of the gallnut mixture. Use it."  


A footnote mentions that the word "jawz" referred to many types of nuts, but when the term is not modified, it refers to the walnut since it is common in this time period.  Walnuts were used as part of "antidotes for poison, supparations and alopecia" and were known to "provoke pustules in the mouth and inflammation of the tonsils."  There is even a "test" referenced for verifying that the walnut mixture is not "falsified," as substitution was prevalent for the highly demanded ingredients. [4]

Photo courtesy of:  http://www.history-science-technology.com/Notes/Notes%207.htm

Portion of the Ibn Badis Manuscript, recipe for writing with silver filling pulverized in distilled wine.



To make my ink, I ran two batches and tested the ink as I progressed during the boiling and then I tested it at the end. (My recipe is on the Annotated Bibliography page.) The first batch was designed for use as a dye or ink, and I did not add gum Arabic to it.  I added gum arabic to the second batch to improve the flow and durability of the ink.  



Boiling the black walnuts in water on the stove.  Batch #2.



“Cooking” notes and measurements for Batches #1 and #2 of the walnut ink.  

Batch #2 is the calligraphy ink for this project.





[1]. The Compleat Anachronist #43, A Palette of Period Pigments. Meghan ni Laine de Belle Rive. May 1989. Published by the Society for Creative Anachronism. Page 20.

[2]. Mappae Clavicula: A Little Key to the World of Medieval Techniques. Cyril Stanley Smith; John G. Hawthorne. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Ser. Vol 64, No. 4. (1974), pp. 1-128.

[3]. The Gottingen Model Book. Editor: Hellmut Lehmann-Haupt. Univ. of Missouri Press Columbia, 1972. ISBN #0-8262-0261-6.

Page 65: Interpretation of a "bon nusz" which may be a scribal error for "baum nusz" evidently meaning walnut. Used as a comparative size measure in a recipe for assis (or the great gold ground) 4r.

[4]. Mediaeval Arabic Bookmaking and Its Relation to Early Chemistry and Pharmacology. Martin Levey. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Ser. Vol. 52, No. 4. (1962), pp.1-79.

Excellent, comprehensive resource of the translation of the ibn Badis manuscript on bookbinding, entitled "Book of the Staff of the Scribes and Implements of the Discerning with a Description of the Line, the Pens, Soot Inks, Liq, Gall Inks, Dyeing, and Details of Bookbinding" ca A.D. 1025, and the translation of the work of North African master craftsman al-Sufyani, A.D.1619.


My recipe for Black Walnut Ink:

35 black walnuts, picked up from the yard in September. (used gloves!)

Place walnuts in bucket and cover with tap water. Soak for approx. 3 months or until water is murky black.

Strain walnuts out, place walnuts in large metal pot. Add 19 1/2 cups of the murky water. Boil for 30 minutes, strain out walnuts. Continue boiling uncovered for 1 1/2 hrs more.

Turn off heat. Add 1 tsp. kosher salt, 1 tsp white vinegar, 1 tsp Gum Arabic.  Stir to mix thoroughly. Let ink cool.

Filter ink through cheesecloth into jars. (use gloves…very messy and will stain!). Ink is now ready to use as calligraphy ink.


Copyright 2007 by Dana Robertson, 17 Huckleberry Lane, Liverpool, NY 13090. <carwinr at aol.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited. Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org