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What color ink do I need?

Discussion in 'General Attire & Accoutrements' started by shortbow, Aug 14, 2008.

  1. shortbow

    shortbow Practically Family

    Anybody know what color(s) of ink was to be found in fountain pens of the 'teens, twenties, thirties? Would the type of writing one was doing be a factor? Ie. documents, correspondence, academe? Also, any preference by the sexes?

  2. I don't know the answer to which colour is correct by era. However, brown ink is supposed to denote intelligence (several of my schoolmasters and Oxford dons used this so perhaps there is some truth).

    Personally I think dark blue (i.e. blue black) is classy.
  3. Hemingway Jones

    Hemingway Jones I'll Lock Up Bartender

    In the 50s, my mom used a color called "Peacock Blue." It was the cool color at school that year.
  4. shortbow

    shortbow Practically Family

    Thanks Max. Actually, brown is my favorite, not because I'm smart, but because it looks like the walnut/oak gall ink of the 19th century and before.
  5. shortbow

    shortbow Practically Family

    Hemingstone, I remember peacock blue from school as well. Even back then I was using a fp when all the others had ball points. I'm not your mother's age but uncomfortably close.
  6. DeaconKC

    DeaconKC Guest

    There were a variety of colors back then too. There are a couple of makers who have been around for well over a century making ink. Black, blue and red were all business staples, and other colors were available to those wishing variety. Just make sure not to use India ink in a fountain pen as it will clog it up.
  7. Among the thousands of old family letters I have, dating back about 150 years, I'd say up till WW I black was most commonly used. After that I'd say blue was most common. If you're using a fountain pen, I'd suggest you find yourself some blotters, as well. Depending on your style of writing, you'lll want to blot every page, otherwise it can get messy.
    When you see old 19th century letters and the ink looks brown, I'm pretty sure that's black ink that has faded.
  8. Highlander

    Highlander A-List Customer

    I have used Visconti, in their Lapis color for several years. A very very bright and vibrant blue. Looks very good for signatures.
  9. DerMann

    DerMann Practically Family

    Pelikan makes a very fine Royal Blue. It shades very well and produces a very "vintage-y" line. Plus, it's probably one of the cheapest inks out there. Their Blue-Black is very nice as well, and Brilliant Black is supposed to be very good as well, but I cannot comment on it.

    Noodler's has a gigantic assortment of colours, some which are Bulletproof. Legal lapis is technically a blue-black but it looks more of a dark teal. On ivory or yellow paper, it looks perfectly vintage. It's a Pendemonium.com exclusive, though, and it's not always in stock.

    For inks, I would suggest both Swisherpens.com and Pendemonium.com. I've ordered from both, and they both have tremendous customer service. I think Swisherpens is having a sale on inks at them moment, though.
  10. MB5

    MB5 One of the Regulars

    The 1922 Emily Post does not seem to care about ink color, but does warn not to use pencil for correspondence unless the situation requires it (on a train, or flat on your back sick). The choice of paper seems to be of far greater importance, as is having matching paper and envelopes.

    The book is inscribed with a charcoal grey ink. Possibly to match grey tissue lining of an envelope. ("Colored linings to envelopes are at present in fashion. Thin white paper, with monogram or address stamped in gray to match gray tissue lining of the envelope is, for instance, in very best taste" (p. 450)). Or it may just be faded black ink.

    If you want further reading, there is an online copy here: http://www.bartleby.com/95/
  11. shortbow

    shortbow Practically Family

    Thanks all. On the old time ink, I'm pretty sure some of it was brown, because I've made my own out of walnut hulls and iron filings. Couple of interesting things about it besides the color is that it is waterproof when dry, and I can get a higher viscosity which makes steel dip pens and quills work like they should. Unfortunately it gums up a fountain pen. I also think the rust and acids would fry a pen pretty quick.

    One of the reasons I'm looking for a better and authentic fp ink is that a couple of times lately I've taken letters to the PO in the rain and the address has run on the Rotring black and Scheaffer's blue I have. I know about the Noodler's bullet proof black, but would like some really run and smudge-proof brown which my current supplier doesn't have.

    But, see'ns as how black is PC for the era, perhaps I'll go for that BP stuff.
  12. DerMann

    DerMann Practically Family

    Bulletproof inks are wonderful.

    Noodler's offers an Eternal Brown, but I don't have an affinity for brown inks, but chances are that it's pretty good.

    The inks you are referring to are iron gall inks. The only problem is that they are very acidic and will actually destroy the paper on which they are written on before they wear away. Mont Blanc, Diamine, and I think Lamy all make an iron gall blue-black ink. All of these inks are also suitable for use in fountain pens - so long as the ink isn't in contact with any non-gold, metal parts. Which means if you use them in vintage pens you probably won't run into problems.

    Pendemonium and SwisherPens both carry the inks I mentioned.
  13. Noodlers has a bulletproof brown called Eternal Brown.....so you can go that route easily...

    and they have an almost bulletproof called Kiowa pecan...that I like -better- as a color...

    If you like brown...go with brown....unless you are writing a letter for a reenactment.....don't worry about PC for the 'era'.....worry about what you like to -see-.
  14. shortbow

    shortbow Practically Family

    Thanks friends. I asked my guy about the Eternal Brown and he said it isn't water proof. Perhaps he just meant as compared to Bulletproof. Think what I'll do is just get both and see for myself.

    On the acidic nature of the iron gall inks of days of yore, I have also read that it has a tendency to eat paper, but if that is the case, I wonder at the high number of surviving documents going back centuries as well as more recent stuff? I wonder if the old time alchemists had a way of neutralizing the acid?
  15. I've collected ink for some years, and agree that black was the most popular color until at least the 20s. Before that decade, you don't really see many examples of ink bottles which had contained different colors (except red, which was used for book-keeping). By the 30s, you definitely see a trend toward other colors, including blue, blue-black and brown. Carters was famous for its variety of colors, and so was Waterman's (albeit to a lesser extent). Red was somewhat popular in the 50s, and at least Parker, if not others, aimed it at the female market.
  16. DerMann

    DerMann Practically Family

    Eternal inks are, for the most part, water proof and will withstand fading and most chemicals. Eternal colours are not referred to as "Bulletproof" kind of as a legal thing. There is a contest in progress to see if anyone can remove Bulletproof black from standard cheque paper without destroying the paper. The prize began at $1000 and I believe another $1000 is added every year it goes unaccomplished (believe it's either at or past $5000 now).

    My bottles of Legal Lapis do not have the word "Bulletproof" or even Eternal on them, but the ink does not wash away or fade. My bottle of Heart of Darkness is labeled as "Eternal," though, as is my bottle of Empire Red.

    Here is the second page of a review I did on the FPN for Empire Red:


    As you will note, it is completely water resistant whereas Waterman's Ink and other Noodler's ink (La Coeleur Royale) have essentially faded away completely from tap water alone.

    Here is a link to the review on Eternal Brown:


    Here is a link to a page on all the ink reviews on FPN (most should have pictures):


    As for iron gall ink's effects, good ol' wiki can back me up:

  17. I'm loving the light-blue / turquoise colour that came as a sample cartridge with my Waterman Phileas.... I'll definitely look into some more of that. Otherwise, I normally stick with a Royal Blue. I understand both to have been available by the 30s... I've never used brown, but I might give it a go.

    For what it's worth, if you're looking at writing notes to be read by other people, if you have scrupulously neat handwriting, black looks really sharp, but if like me you have less than perfect copperplate, a 'softer' colour like blue looks much better on the page.
  18. shortbow

    shortbow Practically Family

    Thanks lots, Gents. DerMann your exhaustive reply and listing of lings is most kind. I shall peruse them with attention.

    As to the acidity question.

    It is worthy of note that your citation says that iron gall ink was effective on vellum. Perhaps that is the key to the survival of all the Illuminated Manuscripts et al that go waaay back. Still, I wonder at how longevity is being defined, as I have held a few and seen many more photos of documents written on paper in say the last couple hundred years. There are some old Civil War letters and journals out there that have been carried for years, rained, bled, sweated, coffee spilled and died on that are still quite legible and which were quite clearly written on cheap paper.

    I know this is off topic really and of no great moment, but these little details of history fascinate me.
  19. shortbow

    shortbow Practically Family

    Wow, DM those links are great!

    One thing, what pen/nib did you use for the Empire Red test? The only way I can get a line like that is from my dip pens.
  20. DerMann

    DerMann Practically Family

    Fountain pens are one of my many fascinations in life.

    You are partially right on iron gall ink. I imagine if you manage to keep the ink from rusting, you can preserve the paper its written on. Many people today still prefer iron gall ink for artistic purposes as it does give a thinner line and deeper, richer blacks. And really, if you're going to be using it in a dip pen, you won't have any problems.

    As for the type of paper used, many people on the fountain pen network agree that "back then" the paper, even cheap paper, was generally more suited to fountain/dip pens, as you never see any feathering on original documents. Ballpoint pens can write on basically any paper as they hardly have any water in their inks. So a cheap paper from 1850 may be significantly better for writing with a dip pen (in original condition, of course, not after 150 years) than modern cheap-o filler paper.

    I used my Waterman 52V with a lovely flexible nib. It was my first real fountain pen, but now I just mainly relegate it to signatures and calligraphy. The iridium tipping on the nib makes it boundlessly smoother than the off set nib hold that I have for my dip pen (specifically for Spencerian or Copperplate).

    It's not entire off topic, I mean, we are still talking about ink :D

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