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Inks as Instruments of Writing

Ibn al-Ǧazarī’s Book on the Art of Penmanship

Lucia Raggetti


A short treatise attributed to Ibn al-Ǧazarī (born Damascus 751/1351) deals with what was considered necessary knowledge about the art and craft of penmanship. Along with linguistic and antiquarian remarks, scribal practices, and social applications of writing, an entire section is devoted to the preparation of inks. The selection of recipes includes different ink typologies and technical approaches to ink making, with a preference for metallic compounds; the manipulation of metallic substances often absorbed technological aspects of alchemical practice. This article provides an edition and a commented English translation of the section on inks in the Book on the Art of Penmanship, as preserved by its unique manuscript witness, MS Berlin Sprenger 1918. A recipe for the distillation of an artificial golden ink has been replicated in order to better understand the interaction between the text and the chemical reality behind it.


Ward Berenschot, Henk Schulte Nordholt and Laurens Bakker