The Iron Gall Ink Website

Iron gall ink - Ink of kings, monks and poets

The earliest documents written in iron gall ink on papyrus date back into the first centuries after Christ. Because of it's indelibility, it was the ink of choice for documentation from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century. This chapter will give a short overview of its historical significance, main ingredients, method of manufacture, and an introduction to the chemical formation of the pigment.




Iron gall ink is primarily made from tannin (most often extracted from galls), vitriol (iron sulfate), gum, and water. It was also easily made; the ingredients were inexpensive and readily available. Good quality iron gall ink was also stable in light. It was very popular with artists as a drawing ink, used with quill, reed pen or brush. The coloring strength of iron gall ink was high and it had, depending on its manufacture, a deep blue-black, velvety tone. The range of objects that contain iron gall ink is enormous. Iron gall ink is found on manuscripts, music scores, drawings, letters, maps, and official documents such as wills, bookkeeping records, logs, real estate transactions, etc. (EE 1998)