A short review of a couple of modern iron-gall inks

01-jun-2017 updated may 2018
UPDATE a year later: So, having continued to use the same bottles of both the SamR pure oak-gall ink and the R&K Salix, there is in the net, very little to report: both bottles are now about 3/4 used up, have been exposed to copious amounts of air, and still write without noticeable degradation. No sign of mold or any other contamination. There is sedimentation in the bottles, but this does not seem to have degraded the inks any further. Both inks are fast even just a few minutes after writing, i.e. as soon as the ink is visibly dry on the paper, and even then putting the paper into a bowl of water, the R&K will bleed some of the blue pigment a bit (expected) but otherwise remains clear , and the SamR is unaffected. This is intended to be a very short review of the longevity and performance of two iron-gall inks which can be easily had today. The first is a traditional pure iron-gall ink made in Switzerland by the folks at the Scriptorium am Rheinsprung. They sell it in small bottles, both plastic and glass, and in larger bottles up to a whole liter. This is not a modern formulation suitable for fountain pens, it is a two and a half century old recipe, made under proper modern conditions with proper control of the quality of the ingredients, but it still remains an ink which will probably do a number on your fountain pens. Dip pens only. However, it is a very nice ink. While typical of pure iron-gall inks, it is a faint grey the moment one writes it out, it produces a rich, almost velvety deep black color- after a minute or two it has darkened considerably, but really one doesn't appreciate the full blackness until a day or two later. There have been sone concerns about the shelf-life of such an ink. It does not have any preservatives, and both oxidation and mold would be a concern. Here there has been a small 50 ml bottle which was bought in the spring of 2015, has been used to about half over two years, dip pen right out of the bottle (which implies that it has had a fair exposure to air), in a medium-humidity environment. No extreme temperatures. The ink has developed a fair bit of sediment at the bottom of the bottle, which is a consequence of the acidity weakening over time through oxygenation and some of the iron coming out of solution. This however has not impaired the darkness of the ink once it goes on the page more than a tiny bit. It does seem to be a tad bit weaker, in that fair hairlines drawn with very little ink don't look as dark as those written when the bottle was fresh- not to say they're not clearly legible- they are- but that the ink has suffered a very small amount of dolution through this process. Thus far the ink has remained free of mold and any other obnoxious presence, and it seems a safe claim to make that it will last at least two years in a small bottle recieving frequent exposure to air. And, this was a platic bottle. A glass bottle would probably do a wee bit better for protection. If one were to use an inkwell and minimize the time the bottle is open, it seems it should last even longer, though with some diminishing over time as some of the iron precipitates out. Using a heavier nib flowing more ink would mitigate the slight dilution after two years, with no noticeable difference. The second ink to mention is the Rohrer & Klingner Salix. This is a more modern formulation, not a pure iron-gall ink, but with an iron-gall base and a dark blue pigment added. The blue is a lovely dark dusty blue capable of a great depth and variety of shades, altogether delightful. However the iron-gall component is only a portion of the ink, which has been shown in some extreme light-exposure tests done by various folks around the world, indicating that over time the blue pigment loses color under prolonged strong light, and the iron-gall component leaves only a medium- strength marking on the page. Legible but not fully dark. This has not been expereinced by our writer today, but it is admitted that any writing with this ink over the past two years has not been exposed unduly to sunlight. There is no visible dimming of the ink over that time in anything written and only exposed to normal amounts of light in the course of reading etc. This ink has likewise been obtained in a small 50ml bottle (glass), and used with steel dip pens right out of the bottle. Over a period of two years there has been no observable change in the quality of the ink, only minimal sedimentation, and no molding or other damage. A freshly opened bottle purchased two years back is likewise just as it was new.. so the R&K seems to hold up well for long term storage if not opened as well. Unfortunately there was not a second bottle of the Scriptorium am Rheinsprung pure iron-gall with which to perform a like experiment to leave it sealed for 2 years. Maybe in two years' time we can review that case as well. Both inks are superb in writing, have excellent qualities for absorption, drying, minimal bleeding even on cheap and questionable paper, and overall are very nice for everyday use. For an aficionado or purist, the SamR 'echte eisengallus-tinte' is the real deal, for someone who prefers a more modern ink with a very appealing deep blue shade, the R&K is an excellent choice, and even the R&K keeps close to a simple iron-gall formulation.
This file copyright 2017