Having made black and red inks, I thought I would try something a bit more unusual. You can see blue, red and black ink used in this 15th century MS, the Livre de Sydrac in the British Library: http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=harley_ms_4486_f001r
The difficulty was in finding recipes.
So, on with the experiments.
This recipe is to make azure, i.e. blue.
But uses cinnabar!
However it looks quite interesting, and odd, because it basically takes a typical sort of 14th century distillation recipe for making a mixed acid of nitric, sulphuric and some hydrochloride, and dissolving verdigris in it, when you want to make azure coloured ink.
Now I see no point in trying this with cinnabar, because it probably doesn’t have much effect and I’m saving my mercury exposure for other experiments, but as it happens, I have several acids lying around from earlier alchemical experiments.
So if I take one of them, and add some copper carbonate, I get this:
THe flask on the left has the correctly coloured liquid. It is rather blue, which is hopeful. Not all the carbonate has dissolved, and the final problem is how to make it thick and yet watery like ink.
They don’t say what gives the colour; certainly running a hand held XRF over the ink would be an interesting exercise, although I’m not sure it would be sensitive enough to detect everything. It would surely pick up red lead or lots of copper or iron or mercury.
So, I tried the watery stuff, unsurprisingly it didn’t work as ink, rather as drops of water. So I heated it up with some gum arabic, and it thickened up. However not enough and you can see the result in the last photo of this post.
A recipe for green ink, according to page 27 of “Introduction to Manuscript Studies” by Clemens and Graham, in a 15th century recipe, is:
“To make verdigris green. Take one pound of copper filings or scraps and wash it a little through a linen bag. Take ground egg yolks, quicklime, tartar sediment, common salt, strong vinegar, and boys’ urine, and mix everything in the vinegar and urine and put half of it in a copper vessel and stir four times a day, then put it over heat or in the sun to dry.”
Simple huh. Except not really. How do you prepare the dry ink? What have you done with the other half of the mixture?
Fortunately I have some copper powder, and all the other ingredients.
Leaving out the egg yolk, I put some vinegar, urine, quicklime, tartaric acid, salt into a beaker, stirred about, and added copper carbonate, which made it go green, which is a good start, and it is in the vessel on the right in the first photo.
After adding the egg yolk, it turned this colour:
Again, the one on the right. A bit more blue. As it was, this stuff was the wrong colour and too watery to use as ink, not to mention a bit lumpy. I heated it, and it turned back a bit more green, but was still rather lumpy and too watery to be useful.
I tried them both, acid on the left, egg etc on the right:
Neither flowed well at all, and both had rather a blue colour.
So, the end result is failure on both recipes. Okay, not grinding the egg yolk probably didn’t help, but I have to wonder about the practicality of the recipe.
I’m saving my money to buy gold to experiment with, so haven’t purchased some lapis lazuli.