India Ink Or Chinese Ink

India Ink Or Chinese Ink Cover As early as 2500 BC, writing inks were carbon inks consisting of fine grains of carbon black [from soot] suspended in a liquid. The Latin name for this was atramentum librarium and it's now called India ink or Chinese ink. On the famous Dead Sea Scrolls of Qumran (from the third century BC to AD 68), a red version of this ink is found which uses cinnabar (HgS) instead of carbon. The idea is simple: When the liquid dries out, the solid pigment (C or HgS) remains which leaves a permanent trace. Such inks are best used on semi-absorbent stuff, like paper or papyrus (not parchment). The problem was to keep the grains in suspension long enough to apply the ink. In plain water, fine grains of carbon black would aggregate under the action of Van der Waals forces and form flakes large enough to fall quickly to the bottom of the container. This flocculation process can be prevented with an hydrophilic additive which minimizes Van der Waals interactions between the grains by coating them (as was properly explained only in the 1980s). Early ink recipes may thus have called for various plant juices instead of plain water. It turns out that gum arabic acts this way to stabilize India ink into a colloidal suspension for days or weeks... This wonderful invention is at least 4500 years old. Traditional Chinese ink is not bottled. Instead, ink is produced as needed by grinding an inkstick on an inkstone after adding a little water (the inkstone also acts as an inkwell). Chinese ink-sticks consist of a pigment (usually soot from pine, oil or lacquer) and a soluble resin which holds the dry stick together and plays a critical part in the colloidal ink suspension produced by wet grinding.

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