The Iron Gall Ink Website

Iron gall ink - Historic ink recipes

Ad Stijnman (1998)

Below you will find a selection of different iron gall ink recipes published over the preceding centuries. Tracking and collecting historical recipes provides insight into the chemical composition of inks used on documents and drawings. This knowledge helps conservators comprehend why certain inks seem to degrade at a faster pace than others. Furthermore, knowledge of historic ink composition is crucial in developing treatment methods for damaged objects. It is our intention to periodically expand this list with more recipes and literature. The first six depicted recipes are supplied by The Netherlands Institute of Cultural Heritage (ICN). Within the information unit of the ICN, copies of sources have been acquired, transcribed, studied and made accessible by means of a database (ARTES database). The database is intended for use by art historians, conservators, scientists, artists, students and other interested parties. These first six examples have been transcribed in their original language.


  • recipe from "A Booke of Secrets" (English)
  • recipes from "Die Tintenfabrikation" (German)
  • recipe from "The coocking and receipes book by D 'Erp" (French)
  • recipe from "Secreti del reverendo donno Alessio Piemontese" (Italian)
  • recipe from a manuscript of the University Library Uppsala (Latin)
  • recipe from a manuscript of the University Library Utrecht (Dutch)

"To make inke to write upon paper

Take halfe a pint of water, a pint wanting a quarter of wine, and as much vineger, which being mixed together make a quart and a quarter of a pint more, then take six ounces of gauls beaten into small pouder and sifted through a sive, put this pouder into a pot by it selfe, and poure halfe the water, wine and vineger into it, take likewise foure ounces of vietriall, and beat it into pouder, and put it also in a pot by it selfe, whereinto put a quarter of the wine, water, and vineger that remaineth, and to the other quarter, put foure ounces of gum Arabike beaten to pouder, that done, cover the three pots close, and let them stand three or foure daies together, stirring them every day three or foure times, on the first day set the pot with gaules on the fire, and when it begins to seeth, stir it about till it be throughly warme, then straine it through a cloath into another pot, and mixe it with the other two pots, stirring them well together, and being covered, then let it stand three daies, til thou meanest to use it, on the fourth day, when it is setled, poure it out, and it wil be good inke.
If there remaine any dregs behind, poure some raine water that hath stand long in a tub or vessell into it, for the older the water is, the better it is, and keepe that untill you make more inke, so it is better then clean water."


Source: A Booke of Secrets [...] written first in Italian, and now newly translated into English, by W.P., London, Edward White, 1596


A Book of Secrets

Complete transcription of A Booke of Secrets