Inks in Roman
24, Jul 2007 21:12
Most of Roman inks are grouped into 'Carbon Ink', which specifically indicates that the basic component of the ink is made by soot. Roman uses paper made by papyri. Carbon ink is not harmful to papyri paper. This kind of ink is chemically stable but not easy to preserve. It can be washed off. Therefore, the best way to preserve this kind of documents is to keep them in a dry environment.
Roman usually uses two kinds of colors on their writing, black and red. Black ink names atramentum. There are three principle kinds of atramentum, librarium (also called scriptorium), sutorium, and tectorium. Librarium is what we call writing-ink. Sutorium is used in leather dyeing for shoe making. It contains oil of vitriol, which is poisonous and can soak into the leather. Tectorium, as a sort of varnish, is used by painters. Atramentum is made of soot in various ways. Most commended way is to burn pine-wood to get the resin, and then mix the resin with the soot from the furnaces. For other writing purposes, atramentum is also made by mixture of soot and other gums, such as Arabic gum. Another interesting black matter is emitted from cuttlefish (sepia). This 'sepia' matter is also used for atramentum.
Other colors are also used in writing. Most of their coloring ingredients are made by berries, plants, and minerals. Red ink is made by minium, red ocher, or vermilion commonly used for the titles and beginning of books, and headings of laws. There is a very expensive red ink restricted to use. Only the emperor can use it to write his signature. But if the emperor is under age, his guardian uses a green ink to write his signature.
Ink with gold or silver is sometimes used for writing. One part of the poems by the emperor Nero was written in gold letters. Most gold or silver letters are on pillars and monuments to consecrate them. This kind of writing covered by gold is more practiced in religious compositions, because it is considered as worthy.
If you want to write a secret letter to friends, you can also choose 'sympathetic ink'. It is invisible until heat it. It is made by some materials without pigments. When the ink is heated, the components will be carbonized to black color for reading. Ovid also advises writing love-letters with fresh milk, which is not readable, until the letters are sprinkled with coal-dust. Some milky saps from some plants are used in the same way.