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.
The title page of MS Berlin Sprenger 1918 [Fig. 1] informs us that the following pages contain the Kitāb al-iṣāba fī lawāzim al-kitāba (‘Book on the art of penmanship’)3 and attributes it to Ibn al-Ǧazarī. Scholars have viewed both this title and the attribution with suspicion. Aloys Sprenger—who acquired this manuscript in Damascus—penned a note on the title page, which suggested the manuscript could be attributed to one of the Ibn al-Aṯīr brothers (d. 606 H / 1210 CE):4
History of the art of writing, and | various alphabets, recipes for ink as | by Majd uDyn Abú-lsaʾádàt al-Mobárak | Ibn al-Athyr Jazary who died the last day of 606 | ASprenger | Damascus 24 December 844
Ahlwardt, too, was concerned with the authenticity of this claim. For him, the title is questionable and the attribution doubtful, especially given the number of intellectuals who bore the name Ibn al-Ǧazarī.5 Among them, he cautiously indicated the traditionist Šams al-Dīn Ibn al-Ǧazarī, born in Damascus in 751 H / 1350 CE, as a possible author of the text.6 Modern Arab editors of other works by Ibn al-Ǧazarī tend to include the Kitāb al-iṣāba fī lawāzim al-kitāba in the author’s literary output, listing it under the rubric ‘various subjects’.7 The attribution indeed presents some problematic and potentially weak points; the match between this text and more than one Ibn al-Ǧazarī remains plausible, taking into account the scholarly and professional background of these scholars. This same element, however, would also work perfectly in the construction of a pseudo-epigraphic attribution.
The text survives in this single manuscript witness and the codex unicus is a delicate tradition to handle.8 The lack of other witnesses avoids an accumulation of variants and this may lure readers into a false sense of security. In fact, the philologist is left alone with a single, randomly extant copy of the text. The fact that a witness represents the last handhold for a text before it falls into oblivion does not automatically grant this unique witness any other special quality. Indeed, the last surviving witness of a text has an equal chance of being its least, or even its most refined version, and anything in between.9
The structure of the text presents some oddities: these can be detected but remain hard to explain in the narrow perspective of a tradition witnessed by a single codex. Ahlwardt remarked that the first and last leaf had been replaced and that the introduction announced three sections, whereas the text preserved in MS Berlin Sprenger 1918 has six. The first three speculations (anẓār) are extremely concise and describe three basic aspects of writing: the technical and material aspects connected to pen, paper and ink; the grace of God in revealing His Scripture; and the mental process that leads a man to write down his thoughts and impressions. The other three speculations are longer and deal with the advantages of writing, the different kinds of script, and the causes of writing. The simplest explanation for this discrepancy is a problem of transmission with the number of speculations, giving the introduction ‘three’ instead of ‘six’, though, admittedly, this hypothesis is on shaky palaeographical ground. One must also consider the case in which an entire sentence in the introduction, referring to the second three speculations, was lost. Another possibility is that the text originally had a core of three parts, that the rest is a later addition, and that, in the course of this process, the reference to the number of its components in the introduction passed unnoticed and was not updated. Since the manuscript does not surrender any other clue, and in the absence of other witnesses, this list of plausible hypotheses is the point at which the philological guesswork must stop.
A further minor incoherence emerges in the passage dealing with secret messages (al-mulāṭafāt) to be written with invisible inks.10 The text suggests following a previously indicated procedure, but there is no trace of it in the rest of the section dealing with anecdotes on the subject. This mismatched internal reference may derive from a source considered for the compilation, or it may bear witness to the loss of part of the text that preceded this remark. Apart from the first and the last folio, the whole text was copied by the same hand, in a very cursive and not particularly refined or accurate style, even more when it comes to technical expressions. This lack of familiarity with technical terminology usually produces only trivial mistakes that do not increase our knowledge of the textual tradition (for instance, جذع for جزع ‘onyx’ in recipe no. 19).
Whether introduced by this copyist or entered in the tradition at another stage, the Arabic of the text is mixed and include several expressions that can be reconnected to spoken language. This could also be the reason behind the peculiar spelling of some words. Some pages are annotated by more than one hand, including the one that left an undated reading note on fol. 27r.
This is not the only short treatise on penmanship preserved in Arabic literature. Al-Tawḥīdī (d. 414 H / 1023 CE) composed an essay on calligraphy entitled Risāla fī ʿilm al-kitāba. (‘Book on the science of penmanship’).11 Similar contents can also be found in another textual genre, the Adab al-kuttāb (‘Etiquette of scribes’), as illustrated by many different titles, from the early work written by al-Ṣūlī (d. 335 H / 947 CE) to the Mamluk Ṣubḥ al-aʿšā (‘The dawn for the blind’) composed by al-Qalqašandī four centuries later (d. 804 H / 1401 CE).12 What our manuscript, the Kitāb al-iṣāba fī lawāzim al-kitāba, has in common with this other composition is that a consistent part of the text is represented by a collection of anecdotes. A number of passages from the Kitāb al-iṣāba fī lawāzim al-kitāba echo parallel sections in this array of compositions. What emerges from Rosenthal’s study of al-Tawḥīdī’s Risāla, however, is that different authors tapped into the same sources, using them freely in the composition of the textual blocks they chose to include in their work. Both the choices of the different authors and the transmission of the texts introduced significant variance with regard to the exact wording of sayings and anecdotes.13
The differences clearly emerge, however, when looking at specific contents. If, on the one side, the Adab al-kuttāb (‘Etiquette of secretaries’) provides a long list of writing implements—to which various lexicographical remarks and poetic quotations are attached—on the other, the Kitāb al-iṣāba fī lawāzim al-kitāba exclusively focuses on inks (MS Berlin Sprenger 1918, ff. 11v–16v), listing recipes rather than anecdotes and verses. The interest in different historical manifestations of writing represents another peculiar feature of this treatise. The Kitāb al-iṣāba fī lawāzim al-kitāba stands out as a particular composition that sits at the intersection of different motives and genres related to the activity of writing: adab handbooks, technical treatises on ink making and calligraphy, and collections of traditions.
The text, as preserved in MS Berlin Sprenger 1918, is arranged in six speculations meant to cover the necessary knowledge for those wanting to practice the art of writing. A writing-related topic frequently becomes an occasion to mention anecdotes taken from history and religious traditions. The author viewed the art of writing from many different perspectives, showing a linguistic and antiquarian interest in the description of non-Arabic alphabets, either connected to sacred books, or to remarkable ancient civilizations.14
1.1 MS Berlin Sprenger 1918, ff. 1r–1v
[Ibn al-Ǧazarī’s Book on the art of penmanship]
[كتاب الاصابة في لوازم الكتابة لابن الجزري]
In the name of God, the Merciful the Compassionate.
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Praise to the One “who taught in writing to the man what he did not know.” (Qurʾān 96:4–5)
الحمد الله الذي علم بالقلم على الانسان ما لا يعلم
Blessing and Peace upon his Prophet Muhammad, and Peace upon his family and companions.
والصلاة والسلام على نبيه محمد وعلى اله وصحبه وسلم
As for what follows, this is a composition (risāla) of little extension, but of great value and science.
اما بعد فهذه رسالة صغيرة الحجم كبيرة القدر والعلم
I made it into a memorandum (taḏkira) for myself and for whomever God wants [to come] after me.
وجعلتها تذكرة لنفسي ولمن شاء الله تعالى من بعدي
I composed it about the art of penmanship, and about the miss and hit that it concerns.
وضعتها في فن الكتابة وما يعرض لها من الخطأ والاصابة
I ask God, may He be exalted, that the one who studies these [things] may profit from them, and that he carefully approaches what has been imposed on him.
وانا اسأله تعالى ان ينفع طالبها بها ويجعله لما املى عليه منتبها
God, may He be exalted, said: “Let no scribe refuse to write as Allah has taught him. So, let him write and let the one who has the obligation dictate. And let him fear Allah, his Lord.” (Qurʾān 2:282)
قال تعالى ولا يابى كاتب ان يكتب كما علمه الله فليكتب وليملى للذي عليه الحق وليتق الله ربه
Writing has three speculations of high importance.
وللكتابة ثلاثة انظار عالية المقدار
The chapter headings, often rubricated, outline a table of contents for the text.15
Kitāb al-iṣāba fī lawāzim al-kitāba li-Ibn al-Ǧazarī
(Handwritten note in English by Sprenger: History of the art of writing, and | various alphabets, recipes for ink as | by Majd uDyn Abú-lsaʾádàt al-Mobárak | Ibn al-Athyr Jazary who died the last day of 606 | ASprenger | Damascus 24 December 844).
First speculation (Al-naẓar al-awwal)
Second speculation (Al-naẓar al-ṯānī)
Third speculation, on the circumstances of the occurrence of writing (Al-naẓar al-ṯāliṯ fī kayfīya ḥudūṯ al-kitāba)
Fourth speculation, on the advantages of writing (Al-naẓar al-rābiʿ fī fawāʾid al-kitāba)
- among them, what God mentioned in His Noble Book (wa-minhā mā ḏakarahū Allāh fī Kitābihī al-ʿAzīz)
- among them, the regulation of properties (wa-minhā taqrīr al-amlāk)
- among them, the record of contracts (wa-minhā muḥāfaẓat al-ʿuhūd)
- among them, the protection of estates for their owners against fraud (wa-minhā ḥifẓ al-amwāl ʿalā aṣḥābihā ʿan ḫiyāna)
- among them, the protection of wealth (wa-minhā ḥifẓ al-arzāq)
- among them the epistolary exchanges (wa-minhā al-murāsalāt)
- among them, the signs of what it is hidden and what is open with a concealed secret (wa-minhā aʿlām al-ġāʾib wa-l-ḥāḍir bi-l-sirr al-ḫafī)
- among them, safety from forgetfulness (wa-minhā al-salāma ʿan nisyān)
- among them the safety of sciences from extinction (wa-minhā salāma al-ʿulūm ʿan al-durūs)
- among them, when something comes to your mind [to record thoughts and feelings] (wa-minhā iḏā ḫaṭara fī qalbihī šayʾ)
- among them, what some learned men mentioned about writing standing in the place of eloquence (wa-minhā mā ḏakarahū baʿḍ al-ḥukamāʾ an al-kitāba qāʾima maqām al-bayān)
Fifth speculation, on the kinds of scripts (Al-naẓar al-ḫāmis fī anwāʾ al-kitāba)
- first kind: Arabic (al-nawʿ al-awwal al-ʿarabīya)
- first section, about its inventor (al-faṣl al-awwal fī wāḍiʿihā)
- second section, on the origin of the letters (al-faṣl al-ṯānī fī aṣl al-ḥurūf)
- third section, on the number of letters of the Arabic script (al-faṣl al-ṯāliṯ fī ʿadad ḥurūf al-kitābat al-ʿarabīya)
- fourth section, on the order of letters (al-faṣl al-rābiʿ fī tartīb al-ḥurūf)
- fifth section, on what the scribes agree upon (al-faṣl al-ḫāmis fī mā ittafaqa ʿalāhī al-kuttāb)
- second kind, Hebrew scripts, and this is the script in which the Torah is written (al-nawʿ al-ṯānī min aqlām al-ʿibranīya wa bi-hāḏā al-qalam kutibat al-Tūrāh)
- third kind, Syriac scripts, and this is the script in which the Gospels are written (al-nawʿ al-ṯāliṯ min aqlām al-Suryānīya wa bi-hāḏā al-qalam kutiba al-Inǧīl)
- fourth kind, Indian scripts and the importance of learning this kind [of script] (al-nawʿ al-rābiʿ min aqlām al-Hindīya wa-l-ḥāǧāt ilā taʿallum hāḏā al-nawʿ)
- fifth kind, Ḥimyarite scripts, it is maintained that it was created in the ancient time (al-nawʿ al-ḫāmis min aqlām al-Ḥimyarīya zaʿamū annahū kāna mustaʿmalan fī qadīm al-zamān)
Al-naẓar al-sādis fī asbāb al-kitāba—Sixth speculation on the causes of writing
- first section, on its causes ([al-faṣl] al-awwal fī asbābihā)
- second section, on the instruments of writing and its tools (al-faṣl al-ṯānī fī ālāt al-kitāba wa-adwātihā)
- section on the ways of preparing ink (faṣl fī aʿmāl al-ḥibr)
- section on writing with the ‘bodies’ [the metals] (faṣl fī al-kitāba bi-l-aǧsād)
- section on dissolving the seven ‘bodies’ [the seven metals] (faṣl fī ḥall al-aǧsād al-sabiʿa)
- on the ways of preparing secret messages (faṣl fī aʿmāl al-mulāṭafāt)
Traditions and anecdotes on verbosity and eloquence, praise and deprecation
Letters sent by some governors to the Abbasid caliphs
Section on epistolary exchanges (faṣl fī al-mukātabāt)16
2 Inks as Instruments of Writing
The material dimension and technical skills necessary to practice the art of penmanship are an important motif of this text. The first speculation states that the three material ‘pillars’ upon which the quality of writing rests are a smooth and brilliant ink, a clean parchment, and a sharp pen.
2.1 MS Berlin Sprenger 1918, fol. 1v
One must prepare a compound substance of a medium fluidity made with soot of olive oil, then it will have the thinnest body and the finest consistency, and it will achieve its brilliance.
ان يتخذ مركبا متوسط الجرى مصنوعا من دخان زيت الزيتون فانه ارق جسما والطف جرما وسياتي بيانه
Then one must prepare some parchment (raqq) cleaned with a mixture of gypsum and lime,17 so that his hand can smoothly proceed in writing without any obstruction.
ويتخذ رقا مجلوا بالطباشير لتمر يده في الكتابة من غير تاخير
Then one must prepare an excellent pen of medium hardness, so that its movement ensures that the writing turns out well.
ويتخذ قلما بالغا متوسط الصلابة لتجود بحركته الكتابة
These are the three [elements] of the first [speculation] upon which the result of the work depends.
فهذه الثلاثة من الاول التي عليها المعمول
The sixth and last speculation deals with the innate causes and the material tools connected to writing and is articulated in two separate sections. In the first, the act of writing is equated to all the other crafts that are transmitted from master to pupil, as is appropriate for this kind of knowledge. The author admits that this chain of transmission from the past is very fragile and can easily be broken. In such an unfortunate case, the next best solution is to follow contemporary masters. The result, however, will always be bound to a skill—or the lack thereof—that is innate in the one who performs the act of writing and which God decreed to place in the fingertips. The distribution of this skill is unequal, as is often the case with intelligence and other talents. The anecdotes included in this section stress the crucial importance of using appropriate tools for writing. There is also an interesting remark about the best ink, chosen by professionals, for ensuring smooth writing: due to its consistency, scribes seem to prefer līqa over ḥibr. If the latter usually indicates iron-gall inks, in this context līqa seems to refer to inks based on metallic components.18
2.2 MS Berlin Sprenger 1918, fols. 11v–12v
Sixth speculation on the causes of writing and its instruments, in two sections.
[11v] النظر السادس في اسباب الكتابة وآلاتها وفيه فصلان
The first [section] is about its causes.
الاول في اسبابها
Know that writing is like all other handicrafts, and relies rests upon the guidance of a master.
اعلم ان الكتابة كسائر الصناعات تتوقف على ارشاد استاذ
If you do not find [a master], then write according to the handwriting of a master of our time, whose handwriting must be correct, yet in conformity with his personal inclination.
فان لم تجد فليكتب على خط استاذ زماننا فانه يستقيم خطه لكن على قدر استعداده
In fact, God—may He be exalted—created in the fingertips a faculty, people are different concerning this quality; and so you see that some people have a fine, beautiful, and pleasant handwriting at which the eye can rejoice when looking at it, but you will not find this in the handwritings of others.
فان الله تعالى قد خلق في الانامل قوة تتفاوت الناس في تلك القوة فترى بعض الناس في خطه لطافة وحسن وحلاوة تلتذ العين بالنظر اليه ولا تجد ذلك في خط الغير
In fact, this is a gift from God—may He be exalted—Who assigned this to the fingertips and to nothing else; as He assigned a greater level of justness and smartness to only some intellects.
فانها منحة من الله تعالى خصص انامل [12r] هذا بها دون غيره كما خصص بعض الاذهان بمزيد زكاء وفطانة
As you can see from chess players, in fact, among them one plays at a high level, until he wins over [lit., throws away] the players with a strong rook, or something else, with [the adversary] being unable to do anything against this.
In fact, [the gifted player] is wiser than him and cleverer, and what is this if not the peculiarity with which God—may He be exalted—endowed the faculty of thinking.
وكما ترى من اللاعب بالشطرنج فان فيهم من يلعب بالطبقة العالية حتى يطرح اللاعبون المجود الرخ وغيره لايقدر على ذلك
وان كان اعلم منه واذكي وما ذاك الا لخاصية جعلها الله تعالى في قوة المفكرة ولم يجعلها في مفكرة غيره
It is told that the famous scribe ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd came across Ibrahim ibn Ḥīla and saw that the books were badly written.
حكى ان ابراهيم بن حيلة مر به عبد الحميد الكاتب المشهور فراى الكتب خطا رديا
He said: ‘Do you want to improve your handwriting?’
I: ‘How do I achieve this?’
He replied: ‘Hold the nib of your pen (ǧalfa/ǧilfa/ǧulfa)19 and the edge of your piece [of paper] with the right hand’.
‘I did this and my handwriting became beautiful’.
فقال اتريد ان يجود خطك
فقلت من ادي ذلك
فقال اطل جلفة قلمك وحرف قطعتك وايمنها
ففعلت ذلك فحسن خطي
It is also told that a man was complaining to the scribe Ibn Abī Ṭāhir about the poor quality of his own handwriting, and Ibn Abū Ṭāhir said to him: ‘Use appropriate instruments, hold the nib (sinn)20 of your pen, leave a space between the lines and make the letters minute’. He did so and his handwriting became regular.
وحكي ايضا ان بعض الناس تنكي الى⟨ابن⟩ ابي طاهر الكاتب من ردأة خطه فقال له ابن ابي طاهر الق دواتك واطل سن قلمك وفرج بين السطور وقرمط بين الحروف. ففعل ذلك فاستوي خطه
He only said ‘Use appropriate instruments’ because people used to write with an ink (ḥibr) that is not a līqa—as the ink (ḥibr) is thin and does not flow as the scribe wants, unlike the līqa. In fact, [the līqa’s] consistency is thick, and it flows as the scribe wants, and God is the One who provides.
وانما قال الق دواتك لان القوم كانوا يكتبون بالحبر من غير ليقة والحبر رقيق لا تجرى كما يريد الكاتب بخلاف الليقة فان قوامها [12v] غليط يجري كما يريد الكاتب والله الموفق
The second section of the same speculation has an inclusive title that refers to the instruments and tools of writing, though its contents are actually limited to different kinds of ink (iron-gall, carbon and compound black inks, coloured metallic inks, dissolved gold and silver, and inks prepared with the seven metals), neglecting other writing implements. A final entry announces a section on invisible ink, referring to procedures that are not actually described in the text. This selection of recipes represents an inclusive compendium of ink typologies, with a preference for metallic ingredients and metallic-based preparations.21
- Iron-gall black ink (ḥibr)The first four recipes describe preparations of black iron-gall inks. The basic ingredients are gallnuts, gum arabic, and vitriol, only in recipe no. 4 is gum arabic substituted with wheat starch. Recipes no. 2 and no. 3 add a different ingredient, egg white and meerschaum, respectively, as thickening agent.
- Green gallnuts, water, gum Arabic, Kirmani green vitriol.
- Nuts, gum arabic, Kirmani green vitriol, egg white.
- For Qurʾans: gall nuts, water, gum arabic, vitriol, meerschaum.
- Starch ink: wheat starch, gallnuts water, Kirmani vitriol.
- Carbon-gall and compound inks (midād).The second typology of inks is represented by recipes that list soot or another burnt substance as characterizing ingredient. Recipe nos. 5 and 6 include vitriol as metallic component. This kind of ink could correspond to what al-Marrākušī defined as ‘compound’ (murakkab) inks.22
- Seed soot, gum arabic water, gallnuts water, vitriol.
- Soot, honey water, gum arabic, cow gall, Kirmani vitriol.
- Al-afqāš ink: burnt squash, cooked wine, egg yolk, gum arabic, gallnuts water.
- Egyptian ink: ground afqāš, gum arabic, gallnuts, burnt paper, egg yolk.
- Chinese ink: burnt gourd, cooked starch, gum arabic.
- Coloured metallic inks (līqa).The metallic inks mentioned in this cluster of recipes describe procedures to imitate the colour of precious substances, either metals or gems. The range of colours is limited to gold, silver, red, and green. The focus on metallic substances has an alchemical echo.23 The most striking case, however, is recipe no. 10, in which some alchemical instruments—the alembic, the gourd, and a long-necked flask—are mentioned in connection with the process of distillation recommended for obtaining an artificial golden ink. The precipitate that results from this operation must be stored in a sealed receptacle where it will change its colour several times in the course of twenty days, until it reaches the desired nuance of red gold. The mention of carp gall and black sheep gall as ingredients in such preparations (recipe nos. 11 and no. 12) can be interpreted as code names (Decknamen), used to refer to other substances. Recipe no. 13 mentions ‘killed’ mercury as sole ingredient to be diluted in fish glue in order to obtain an ink that looks like silver. The expression ‘to kill mercury’ usually refers to its fixation, a process that renders this volatile substance into a more stable state.
- Golden ink: ṭalq, honey, red vitriol (distillation).
- Another: cinnabar, vinegar, gum arabic, carp bile.
- Golden ink: orpiment, sheep black gall (polish with hematite).
- Silver ink: ‘killed’ mercury, fish glue (polish with onyx).
- Ruby ink: cinnabar, salt water, yellow gallnuts water.
- Emerald ink: verdigris, vinegar, saffron mixed with gum arabic and vinegar.
- Cinnabar ink: cinnabar, pomegranate water, vinegar.
- Dissolved gold and silver.The recipes of this group deal with dissolving the two noble metals—gold and silver—in order to write with them. Recipe nos. 17 and no. 18 are based on the antipathies between metallic substances, exploited to ease the filing or grinding of these metals, especially problematic in the case of gold. The antagonist of gold is lead, whereas potash causes the crumbling of silver. The precious metals do not even have to come into direct contact with their antipathetic counterpart: melted gold just has to be poured into the same water in which lead has been quenched; while silver breaks better if melted in a crucible in which potash has been smelted.
- Gold: water in which lead has been quenched fifty times to soften the gold filing, gum arabic (polish with onyx)
- Silver: silver smelt in a crucible previously used for potash, gum arabic.
- Gold: golden leaves macerated in honey, gum arabic (polish with onyx).
- Any of the seven metals filed and precipitated in water, mixed with gum arabic.
- Writing with the seven metals [lit., ‘the seven bodies’].This last group includes a single procedure, good for writing with any of the seven metals. The idea is to prepare an abrasive base by first writing with a mixture of ground lapis lazuli and fish glue. Then, a metallic probe must be rubbed and scraped against this abrasive base several times, so that the colour of the metal can adhere to it. The formulation used in the heading with reference to the seven metals (al-aǧsād al-sabʿa, ‘the seven bodies’) recalls an alchemical classification.24
- Abrasive base of ground lapis lazuli and fish glue—probe of any metal to be scraped over it.
2.3 MS Berlin Sprenger 1918, ff. 12v–17v
Second section on the instruments of writing and its tools.
الفصل الثاني في آلات الكتابة وادواتها
The one who wants a nice handwriting must then take care of refining the instruments of the writing; his tools should be a good pen, a sharp knife, a shiny black ink, and a clean sheet of paper.25
من اراد خطا حسنا فعليه بتحسين آلات الكتابة وادواتها قلم جيد وسكين حاد ومداد اسود براق وقرطاس نقي
It was once said to some scribe: ‘Which one of your pupils writes better?’
قيل لبعض الكتّاب اي تلاميذك يكتب احسن
He replied: ‘The one whose knife is sharper.’
قال من سكينه احد
As for the ink and the paper, they are the equivalent of the sharpness [of the knife] for the handwriting; and it is known that the form (ṣūra) [produced] becomes ever more beautiful as the quality of the material improves.
اما المداد والقرطاس فبمثابة الحادة للخط ومن المعلوم ان الصورة تزداد حسنا بحسن المادة
Just consider that a single craftsman, when he makes a golden seal and a silver seal with the same shape and prepares them with the same manufacture, then the golden seal will be of a better form (ṣūra) than the silver seal, despite having been made by the same craftsman and manufacture.
الا ترى ان الصانع الواحد اذا اتخذ خاتما من ذهب وخاتما من فضة على شكل واحد وصنعة واحدة فان الخاتم الذهبي يكون احسن صورة من الخاتم الفضي مع اتخاذ الصانع والصنعة
In the same way, when the scribe writes with a bad inkwell and a bad pen on bad paper, then his writing will not be like that achieved with good tools.
وكذلك اذا كتب الكاتب بدواة وقلم رديين على كاغد ردي لا تكون كتابته مثل كتابته بالادات الجيدة
The best ink is black and glossy, with the consistency of a thick liquid, and what has been written with it does not change when it is affected by moisture.
والمداد الجيد ما يكون ذا سواد وبرق وجريان منعقد لا يتغير مكتوبه عند اصابة النداوة
 Section on the making of ink (ḥibr).
فصل في اعمال الحبر
Take some green gallnuts, crush them, pour on them five times their quantity of water, put this in a copper recipient, and light under it a gentle fire until half of the water has gone.
يؤخذ عفص اخضر ويكسر ويصب عليه من الماء [13r] خمسة امثاله وتجعل في قدر نحاس ويوقد تحته نار لينة حتى يذهب نصف الماء
Then purify it using a thick cloth, pour over it five asātīr26 of gum arabic for
ثم يصفي بخرقة صفيقة ويطرح عليه من الصمغ العربي على كل رطل
every raṭl of purified gallnuts water, and half an ounce of Kirmani green vitriol.27
من ماء العفص المصفي خمسة اساتير28 ونصف اوقية من الزاج الاخضر الكرماني
Then this will be the apogee of good quality.
فانه يكون في غاية الجودة
If you add some sal ammoniac, then it will not decay.
ولو القي عليه شيئا من النوشاذر لا يتكرج اليته
And if there is some salt in it, then it will not congeal in the countries where the cold is intense, and God is the One who provides.
ولو كان شيئا من الملح فانه لا يجمد في البلاد الشديدة البرد والله الموفق
 Another one29
To make ‘pastilles’ [of ink] for travel: crush the gallnuts well until they become [a fine powder] similar to kohl, crush the gum arabic in the same way as well, and half that quantity of Kirmani green vitriol, until the solution becomes like kohl.
يتخذ بنادق لاجل السفر يسحق العفص سحقا ناعما حتى يصير كالكحل وسحق الصمغ ايضا مثله ونصف مثله زاج اخضر الكرماني حتى يصير الحل مثل الكحل
Then add egg white [made into] a paste, give it the shape of pastilles, and put it in a sealed vessel that cannot be penetrated by either air, or dust, and it will last for a long time.
ثم يجمعه ببياض البيض كالعجين ويتخذ منه بنادق وتجعلها في ظرف مسدود الرأس لا يدخلها الريح والغبار يبقي دهرا طويلا
When you want to write with it, soak it in water and use it.
فاذا اردت ان تكتب به فانقعه في ماء واستعمله
 Another one on the ink for Qurʾans (ḥibr al-maṣāḥif)30
اخر في حبر المصاحف
Place the gall nuts in a chickpea pan, pour on them ten times their quantity of water, light under it a gentle fire until it reduces to its original quantity, add the gum arabic and the vitriol in the way we mentioned, add a bit of ground meerschaum to it, and this will make it thicker and black and it is not ‘cut’ by the pen when the scribe takes it from the inkwell—then grind it and pour it into the gallnuts water, close it tight so that it will not decay.
يرض العفص على قدر الحمص ويصب عليه من الماء عشرة امثاله ويوقد تحته نار لينة [13v] حتى يرجع الى مثليه ويطرح عليه من الصمغ والزاج كما ذكرنا ويلقي عليه قليل من زبد البحر مسحوقا فانه يمسكه ويسوده فلا ينقد من القلم اذا استمده الكتاب وسحقته والقيته في ماء العفص امسكه ولا يتكرج
 Another one, on starch ink (ḥibr al-našāʾ)
اخر في حبر النشاء
Take wheat starch, put it in a casserole, light a fire under it until it burns.
يؤخذ نشاء الحنطة وتجعل في طنجير ويوقد تحته حتى يحترق
Then put it close to the flame until it flares up and becomes like ash.
ثم يقرب منه شعلة حتى يلتهب ويصير كالرماد
Then grind it until it becomes like a fine dust, pour the gallnuts water onto it, and place it on the fire until its water has gone.
ثم يسحق حتى يصير كالهباء ويصب عليه ماء العفص ويعرض على النار حتى تذهب مائته
Mix with it a quantity of Kirmani vitriol that serves to make it black, and then it will be good, and God is the One who provides.
ثم تخلط به ماء الزاج الكرماني مقدار ما يسوده فانه يكون جيدا والله الموفق
 Another one, on the preparation of ink (midād)
اخر في صنعة المداد
Take ten dirhams of seed soot,31 put this in a casserole, place it on the fire until its greasy part has gone.
يؤخذ دخان البزر عشرة دراهم وتجعل في طنجير ويعرض على النار حتى تذهب منه دهنيته
Then place it in a mortar, pour gum arabic water onto it, little by little, and mix it with this.
ثم تجعل في الهاون ويصب عليه ماء الصمغ العربي قليلا قليلا وتخلط به
Then pour over it the gallnuts water and the vitriol in the way that we have already described, leave it in the sun for the time required to make its water evaporate.
ثم يصب عليه ماء العفص والزاج على [14r] النسبة التي ذكرناها ويترك في الشمس مقدار ما تذهب مائته
Then store it, and this will be a good kind [of ink], and God is the One who provides.
ثم يرفع فانه نوع حسن والله الموفق
 Another one, ink (midād) at the apogee of beauty
اخر مداد في غاية الحسن
Take ten dirham of soot, one dirham of honey water, the same quantity of gum arabic and cow gall, ten dirhams of gallnuts, and one dirham of Kirmani vitriol.
يؤخذ من الدخان عشرة دراهم ومن العسل ماية درهم ومن الصمغ مثله ومرارة بقر وعشرة دراهم عفص ودرهم زاج كرماني
Crack the gallnuts, soak them in water for one night and add vitriol to this; then mix it with gum arabic and honey, light a fire under it until its water has gone, dissolve the soot with gum arabic water, after that its greasy component has been removed, and add it to the rest of the ingredients.
يرض العفص وينقع في الماء ليلة ويجعل فيه الزاج ثم يخلطه بالصمغ والعسل ويوقد تحته حتى تذهب مائته ويحلل الدخان بماء الصمغ بعد ان اخذ دهنيته ويضمه الى بقية الادوية
Make it into compresses, let it dry, and use it when needed, and this will be the apogee of beauty.
ويتخذ منه اقراصا ويجففها ويستعملها عند الحاجة فانه في غاية الحسن
 Another one, on afqāš ink (midād al-afqāš)32
اخر في مداد الافقاش
Burn the squash called yaqṭīn, take its coal, crush it, mix it with cooked wine33 and egg yolk.
تحرق اليقطين ويؤخذ فحمه ويسحق ويخلط بالميبختج وصفرة البيض
Then, leave it in the shade until it dries; then mix it with all ten dirhams of gum arabic, moisten it with gallnut water and write with it, then it will be good, and God is the One who provides.
ثم يترك في الظل حتى يجف ثم يخلط مع كل عشرة دراهم من الصمغ العربي ويبل بماء العفص ويكتب به فانه يكون جيدا والله الموفق
 Another one, Egyptian ink (al-midād al-miṣrī)34
اخر [v14] في المداد المصري
Take the afqāš, grind it finely, pour on it ten full dirhams of gum arabic and the same quantity of gallnuts, five dirhams of burnt paper; put everything in a mortar, mix it with egg yolk, make it into compresses, and use it when needed: it will be good.
يؤخذ الافقاش ويسحق ناعما ويلقي على كل منّ منه عشرة دراهم من الصمغ العربي ومن العفص مثله ومن الكاغد المحرق خمسة دراهم ويجعل الجميع في الهاون ويجمعها بصفرة البيض ويتخذ منها اقراصا وتستعمل عند الحاجة فانه جيدا
 Another one, on Chinese ink (al-midād al-ṣīnī)
اخر في المداد الصيني
Burn the gourd, crush it with cooked starch that is smeared onto the paper, in the quantity that serves to soak it.
يحرق القرع ويسحق بالنشاء المطبوخ الذي يطلي به الكاغد مقدار ما يعجنه
Then grind it with dissolved gum arabic, let it dry until one third has gone.
ثم يسحق بماء الصمغ المحلول ويجففه حتى يذهب ثلثاه
Then grind it with milk, moisten it with gum arabic water, make it smooth, and then a nicely brilliant black ink will emerge.
ثم يسحق باللبن الحليب ويبلل بماء الصمغ ويرقق به فانه يخرج مدادا براقا اسودا جيدا
 Another one: on a golden coloured ink (ḥibr ḏahabī al-lawn)35
اخر في حبر ذهبي اللون
يأخذ من الطلق المحلول جزؤا ومن العسل جزؤين ومن القلقنت جزؤا وهو زاج احمر واجعل الكل في ظرف واضربه باليد
Then put it into a ‘gourd’ or an alembic, and let it precipitate.38
ثم اجعله في قرع وانبيق وقطره
Then put its precipitate into a long-necked flask,39 seal it for twenty days; then it will take on different colours, but be patient until it steadily takes on the colour of red gold, write with it and it will be beautiful.
ثم اجعل قطارته في قارورة وختمه عشرين يوما فانه يتلون [15r] بالوان فاصبر حتى يثبت على لون الذهب الاحمر واكتب به فانه جيدا
 Another one
Put the cinnabar in wine vinegar for seven days, after this mix with it dissolved gum arabic, add carp (šabbūṭ) bile, write with it, and then it will remain the colour of gold.
يؤخذ الزنجفر في خل خمر سبعة ايام واخلط به بعد ذلك الصمغ العربي المحلول واطرح عليه مرارة شبوط واكتب به فانه يبقي بلون الذهب
 Another one on the preparations of inks (liyaq): if you want an ink with the colour of gold
اخر في اعمال الليق ان اردت ليقة بلون الذهب
Take some yellow arsenic (orpiment),40 crush it with sheep black gall, and write with it.
يؤخذ من الزرنيخ الاصفر ويسحق بمرارة الشاة السوداء ويكتب به
Then polish it with hematite stone, and then it will come out the colour of gold.
ثم يصقل بحجر الشاذنج فانه يخرج على لون الذهب
 Another one: silver ink (līqa fiḍḍīya)
اخر ليقة فضية
Take ‘killed’ mercury, put it in fish glue, write with it, and leave until it dries.
يأخذ الزيبق المقتول ويجعله في غراء السمك ويكتب به ويترك حتى يجف
Then polish it with onyx, and it will come out the colour of silver.
ثم يصقل بالجزع فانه يخرج على لون الفضة
 Another one: ruby ink (līqa yāqūtīya)41
اخر ليقة ياقوتية
Take some ground cinnabar, wash it with salt water, leave it until it dries, dissolve it with yellow gallnuts water, make it into an ink, write with it, and then a ruby red ink will emerge.
يأخذ زنجفرا مسحوقا ويغسله بماء الملح ويتركه حتى يجف وتحله بماء العفص الاصفر ويتخذ منه ليقة ويكتب به فانه يخرج ياقوتي اللون
 Another one: an ink with the colour of emerald (līqa zumurrudīya)42
اخر ليقة زمردية اللون
Take some verdigris, crush it well in old vinegar, and let it dry.
يأخذ شيئا من الزنجار ويسحقه في الخل العتيق سحقا جيدا ويجففه
Then pour ten dirhams of saffron dissolved in gum arabic with vinegar on it, mix it, make it into an ink, and then it will come out the colour of an emerald.
ثم يلقي على عشرة دراهم درهما من الزعفران ويحل بالصمغ العربي بالخل [v15] ويخلطه ويتخذ منه ليقة فانه يخرج على لون الزمرد
 Another one, cinnabar ink (līqat al-zunǧufr)
اخر ليقة الزنجفر
Take the cinnabar, crush it finely on a slab, then wash it with pomegranate water and vinegar several times and the way of washing it is by mixing it either with the vinegar or with the pomegranate water, stir it well until it has mixed properly [with both].
يؤخذ الزنجفر ويسحق على الصلابة ناعما ثم يغسل بماء الرمان والخل مرارا وصفة غسله ان يخلطه بالخل او بماء الرمان ويحرك فيه حتى يمتزج به شديدا
Then leave it, let it precipitate, and pour out the liquid.
ثم يترك حتى يرسب ويريق المائع عنه
Then moisten it once again with vinegar or fresh pomegranate water until you have done it three times.
ثم يصب عليه مرة اخرى خلا او ماء رمان جديدا حتى يفعل ذلك ثلاثا
Then let it dry, take its grounds separately, protect this from the dust, strengthen it with gum arabic, then, when you make an ink from it, it will remain of the utmost beauty.
ثم يجفف ويعيد سحقه ويحفظه من الغبار ويقويه بالصمغ فانه اذا اتخذ منه ليقة يبقي احسن ما يكون
 Section on writing with the metals [lit., al-aǧsād, ‘the bodies’]
فصل في الكتابة بالاجساد
If you want to write with gold, take fifty dirhams of lead (ānuk), smelt it, pour it into a bowl of water for fifty times, until this water has taken on the smell of lead (usrub).43
اذا اردت ان تكتب بالذهب فخذ من الآنك خمسين درهما واذبه وافرغه في قدح ماء خمسين مرة حتى يكتسب ذلك الماء رايحة الاسرب
Then take as much pure gold as you want, smelt it, pour it into this water for five times, and this will become soft inasmuch as its filing can be.
ثم خذ ما شئت من الذهب الخالص واذبه وافرغه في ذلك الماء خمسة مرات فانها تلين بحيث يمكن سحقها
فاسحق في هاون زجاج او اسفيذرويه سحقا ناعما واخلط بها الصمغ العربي واكتب بها [16r] بعد ما مرستها بالصمغ شديدا
When you write with this, leave it until it dries; then burnish it with onyx, and then it will emerge as the apogee of beauty.
ثم يتركها اذا كتب بها حتى تجف ثم تصقلها بالجزع فانه يخرج في غاية الحسن
 Another one, on dissolving silver (ḥall al-fiḍḍa)
اخر في حل الفضة
If you want to write with silver, take a crucible, smelt in it some potash46 a few times.
اذا اردت ان تكتب بالفضة خذ بوتقه وتذوب فيها القلعي مرارا
Then clean it, smelt in it the silver a number of times—as we said about gold—and then it will dry and crumble because lead (raṣāṣ) is an enemy of silver, as lead (ānuq)47 is for gold; then do what we said and write with it.
ثم تنظفها وتذوب فيها الفضة مرارا كما قلنا في الذهب فانها يتيبس وتتفتت لان الرصاص عدو الفضة كما ان الآنك عدو الذهب وتفعل بها ما قلنا في حل الذهب وتكتب بها
 Another one, on dissolving gold (ḥall al-ḏahab)48
اخر في حل الذهب
If you want to write with gold, take some of the leaves that the illuminators (muza-
اذا اردت ان تكتب بالذهب خذ من الاوراق التي تستعملها المزوقون وتخلطها بالعسل الصافي وتمرسها
wwiqūn) use, mix it with pure honey and let it macerate for a long time in a Chinese bowl [of porcelain] or glass until it melts in such a manner that you cannot see the particles of gold in it.
كثيرا في قدح صيني او زجاج حتى ينحل بحيث لا ترى فيها اجزاء الذهب
Then pour some water onto it, whip it with your hand until it sinks to the bottom; then pour out the water and mix the rest with dissolved gum arabic using a quantity that allows [the substances] to mix.
ثم صب عليها الماء واضربها باليد ويترك حتى يرسب ثم يصب الماء عنها ويخلط بالصمغ المحلول مقدار ما يجمعها
Then, whether one wants to write with its liquid part, or whether one wants to make an ink from it in order to write with it, it must be left until it dries, and burnished with onyx, and then it will remain like the sun that shines, beautiful and bright.
ثم ان شاء يكتب بمائها وان شاء اتخذ منه ليقة ويكتب بها ويترك حتى يجف ويصقل بالجزع فانه يبقي كالشمس يتلالاء [16v] حسنا وضياء
 Section on dissolving the seven metals (ḥall al-aǧsād al-sabʿa)49
فصل في حل الاجساد السبعة
If you want to write with one of the seven metals, take a piece of any metal you want to write with, scrape it on a whetstone with water until the water in a bowl takes on the colour of this metal.
اذا اردت ان تكتب بشىء من الاجسام السبعة خذ قطعة من اي جسد اردت ان تكتب به وحكه على مسن بالماء الى ان يصير الماء بلون ذلك الجسد في جام
When it reaches the desired quantity, leave it to precipitate in the water, and pour out the water until it dries.
فاذا حصل المقدار الذي تريده فاتركه ليرسب في الماء وصب عنه الماء واتركه حتى يجف
Once the dissolved gum arabic has been mixed with this, write with it and it will be good.
فاذا اخلط به الصمغ العربي المحلول فاكتب به فانه جيدا
 Another one about writing with the seven metals50
اخر في الكتابة بالاجساد السبعة
If you want to write with any of the seven metals, take the lapis lazuli stone, grind it, mix it with water of fish glue, write with it whatever you want, and leave it until it dries.
اذا اردت ان تكتب بشىء من الاجساد فاعمد الى حجر اللازورد واسحقه وامزجه بماء غراء السمك واكتب به ما شئت واترك حتى يجف
Than take a probe made of any metal you want to write with and write over the previous writing with it several times, and then the colour of this metal will appear on top of it in the most beautiful way.
ثم خذ ميلا من اي جسد اردت ان تكتب به واكتب فوق تلك الكتابة بالميل مرارا فانه يظهر عليها لون ذلك الجسد احسن ما يكون
 Section on secret messages
فصل في اعمال الملاطفات
If you do not want people to know what you have written, apart from the one for whom it was written, then write in some of the ways we have mentioned.
اذا اردت ان لا يعلم احد ما كتبته من الناس غير المكتوب اليه فاكتب بشىء من الطرق التي نذكرها
3 Artificial Golden Ink: An Experience of Replication
Recipe no. 10 and its mention of distillation is a case deserving special attention. Ink recipes have been circulating together with alchemical ones since the late antique Graeco-Egyptian papyri,51 and it is known that some Arabic authors (like al-Marrākušī) interested in the technical aspects of ink making were also well-trained alchemists. It is rare to find a recipe that mentions the application of a specifically alchemical technique, like distillation, involved in the preparation of an ink.52 For this reason, recipe no. 10 was selected for replication within the frame of the ERC Project AlchemEast.53
The aim of replicating a recipe in the laboratory is to reproduce the chemical reality that would have been observed by those who performed that procedure, in order to better understand the relation between this and the way in which it is recorded in the written sources.54 The first step of replication is a philological assessment of the text with its problematic or even obscure aspects, taking into account all the cultural components that might have influenced its transmission and present form. The information derived from the text can then be used to discuss with the chemists the different technical questions raised by the procedure, in order to design an experiment that may shed light on what remains opaque in a purely textual dimension. For the chemists and historians of science, this approach may reveal much about material culture and technical knowledge. The philologist may use the results of a replication to, for instance, refine a translation, or to decide between variants that are on an equal footing from a purely textual point of view (especially in the context of a fluid tradition) and, in general, to understand more about the text, its formation, and the vicissitudes of its transmission.
The analysis of the recipe is the first step in its replication.
10. Another one: on a golden coloured ink (ḥibr ḏahabī al-lawn)
Take one part of dissolved talc, two parts of honey, one part of qalqant—and this is red vitriol—put everything in a vessel and whip it with the hand.
Then put it into a ‘gourd’ or an alembic, and let it precipitate.
Then put its precipitate into a long-necked flask, seal it for twenty days; then it will take on different colours, but be patient until it steadily takes on the colour of red gold, write with it and it will be beautiful.
This recipe contains a number of ambiguous points, and the research questions concern different technical aspects of the procedure.
- The first question concerns the identification of the ingredients. The Arabic ṭalq may refer to a wide range of substances that look like a white powder. Reflecting on the material reality behind the lexicographical complexity, one may isolate two main groups of substances to which the term could refer. On the one hand, it can be interpreted as an inert mineral material, on the other as slaked lime, which has an alkaline property.
- The identification of qalqant is also problematic. The recipe itself has a specification about it—‘that is red vitriol’—which appears to be an addition to the recipe in the course of its transmission to explain an ambiguous or even obscure term. Qalqant is very likely to be a vitriol, but the semantic field of vitriols is quite chaotic, and their classification by colour is far from having an unambiguous identification. Even though a specific author may provide some coherence, the different traditions of technical texts and recipe handbooks reveal a great fluidity and variety of ideas about these substances. Red vitriol has been interpreted here as the result of the calcination of green and blue vitriol, i.e. copper and iron sulphate [Fig. 3], in which the oxidation of this second component produces the red colour that emerges once the product of calcination is ground [Fig. 4]. Since the component proportions are not given, for the sake of this experiment the red vitriol is conventionally prepared with equal parts of green and blue vitriol.
- Another research question concerns the distillation and the role it plays in the production of the ink. Having checked whether the process is possible at all,55 there are other aspects to consider. Chrysography using real gold is an expensive procedure and the availability of the primary ingredient is not to be taken for granted. Metallic inks based on gold are a suspension of golden particles in gum arabic.56 Gold is very malleable, reducing it to particles is difficult and, in fact, it is not uncommon to find supplementary indications to achieve this result.57 As minute as these particles can be, they influence the consistency of the ink. If we move to the procedure for obtaining artificial golden inks—with the advantage of employing less precious and usually more readily available ingredients—these can be based on vegetal or mineral components. Artificial golden inks prepared with vegetal ingredients are usually based on substances that produce an intense yellow dye, like curcuma, saffron and safflower. The metallic substances used to produce artificial golden inks are various, with orpiment and vitriols among the most common. In theory, if the distillation prescribed by recipe no. 10 were successful, it would produce a liquid substance with no sensible particulate (being a distillation of the separation of the moist component of a fluid by condensation) without using any extravagant ingredient: quite a technical step in artificial chrysography.
The replication of this recipe consisted of the distillation of two different sets of ingredients [Fig. 4]: in one, honey and red vitriol were mixed with silica (silicon dioxide, SiO2) to represent an inert mineral substance [Fig. 5]; in the other, honey and red vitriol were mixed with slaked lime (calcium hydroxide, Ca(OH)2) [Fig. 6]. It was possible to obtain a distillate from both mixtures, both of which had the same colour, i.e. a pale yellow [Fig. 7 and 8]. During the prescribed twenty days of ageing, both distillates progressively turned into a more intense shade of yellow-orange, settling at an almost brownish-orange after twenty days, more intensely in the case of the mixture containing the silica. No further colour change could be observed after this period [Fig. 9 and 10].
A writing test was the last stage of the replication. Although it is not explicitly stated in the recipe, the preparation of the ink required adding gum arabic to the distillate as an adhesive component.58 Powdered gum arabic was directly mixed with the distillates, since it was observed that dissolving it first with water produced an excessively watery and rather transparent compound, not suitable for writing. The difference in colour between the two distillates remained unaltered when mixed with gum arabic [Fig. 11]. The ink prepared with the mixture containing slaked lime resulted in a brownish-yellow colour, still rather light, with a very faint metallic glance [Fig. 13]. By contrast, the ink prepared from the other mixture containing silica resulted in an intense orange with a shiny metallic glance that, once dried, looked indeed like gold and its resemblance to writings actually containing the precious metal was striking [Fig. 12].59
4 Concluding Remarks
The Book on the Art of Penmanship attributed to Ibn al-Ǧazarī is an erudite compilation of technical reflections and historical anecdotes about writing. The section on ink recipes covers all the main typologies of black inks (iron-gall, carbon, and compound inks), coloured metallic inks, preparations for chrysography, and argyrography. In general, the author appears to revel an inclination for metallic preparations. The range of coloured inks, if compared to the great number of nuances mentioned in technical treatises on ink making, is quite limited, and only includes black, red, and green, along with gold and silver. The text seems to be addressed to scholars, rather than to technical experts such as decorators, illuminators, or professional copyists.
As for the contents of the section on inks, on the one hand, it is possible to point out some parallel attestations for a number of recipes; on the other, it remains impossible to state direct relations with the sources. Some of the recipes have an alchemical flavour, and it is not far-fetched to propose that some alchemical technical notions emerge here because they were part of a widely shared intellectual and technical background. This shows, moreover, that alchemy scored some major technological successes and that its practices entered and influenced other crafts.
Replication—meant as the interaction between the philological study of the primary sources and the experimental attempt to reconstruct the chemical reality behind them—opens a new perspective on the study of premodern technology and a deeper understanding of its textual transmission. In the case of recipe no. 10, the experience of replication helped the interpretation of the text, in particular relating to the identification of the ingredients. Moreover, replication has the potential to enhance the understanding of many different technical details in the procedure that might, at first sight, seem irrelevant from a purely textual point of view.
In 2016, I published a number of Arabic sources on ink recipes. This research was the occasion to start collecting other materials on ink making. I would like to thank Claudia Colini, who brought this manuscript to my attention. Special thanks go to Prof. Lawrence M. Principe, who discussed the replication of one of the recipes and brilliantly executed it in his laboratory, during a research stay at the Johns Hopkins University in September 2018. I also wish to acknowledge the support of Prof. Lucia Maini, who patiently assisted me in refining different aspects of the replication in her laboratory in Bologna.