Islamic scribes used a variety of inks in various colors, but the black inks were primarily soot and iron gall also known as tannin based. Ink recipes vary and often depend on the maker or user. In general inks were made by suspending a pigment in a binder.
One method to create black ink used soot (also known as lampblack) from the burning of oils or other materials. The oil was burned and a vessel was used to collect the smoke and provide a place for the soot to collect. Once enough soot was collected it was mixed with a binder to form ink. Unlike many Western iron gall inks which use gum arabic as a binder, Islamic inks often used glair or whipped egg white in their ink recipes.
Tannin based inks were also used in Islamic manuscripts. These were created by macerating, fermenting or cooking the gallnuts from the terebinth tree to release the tannins. The tannins were then mixed with a metallic sulfate, a binder (usually glair) and any other desired additives the recipe maker was partial to to produce an ink. When tannin based inks are used it is important to note that when initially applied it appears light in color. As the metal sulfate in the ink reacts to oxygen and darkens over time.
Colored inks were also used in addition to black. Many came from the same sources as Western colored inks. Some of them include red from cinnebar and red lead, yellow from arsenic, green from vertigris and white from lead. Colored inks were used in the manuscript decoration and were often included in rubrics and flourishes throughout manuscripts.
Wondering how they decorated Islamic manuscripts? Check out this post.
Links about inks:
- Iron Gall Ink: A Medieval Recipe
- Making Iron Gall Ink
- Common Medieval Pigments
- Making Your Own Inks and Pigments