Recipe for making ink in the time of Thérèse


Thérèse wrote to Céline in her letter 142:

“It’s your heart alone that will know how to read this letter because I myself have trouble deciphering it,

I don’t have any more ink, I was obliged to spit in the inkwell to make it…that’s something to laugh about.”

In Carmel they only bought ink for the big projects. So for the occasion Céline bought India ink but the usual procedure was to make her ink. Roughly, it was a matter of making a solution of dyes from various origins (organic, vegetal, mineral-today chemical) in a solvent. 



Recipe for making ink

Put out in the sun in a jug, or on hot embers for a month or 6 weeks taking care to stir often with a stick.

Rain or river water 4 pints.

Ferrous sulfate

Black gallnuts well peeled and crushed [??] ½ pounds

Alum rock 6 ounces

After that, meaning after 6 weeks add:

Sulfuric acid, chi… 3 ounces

Rock candy, well crushed 6 ounces

Gum arabic well ground 6 ounces

Stir and leave it yet for 8 or 10 days on heat or in the sun. The sun is better. It needs to be stirred every day.            

Another recipe for making ink  

Faster and normally used

Gallnuts crushed, the blackest and shiniest possible. ½ pound

Gum arabic 3 ounces

Sulfuric acid 4 ounces

Ordinary rock candy ½ ounce

Put all in a lead-lined jar

Add 2 liters of water to it and boil it for an hour taking care to stir it.

Then strain it through a cloth or sieve.






Gallnuts are parasites of the oak tree. 

Alum was known since Roman antiquity, used for dyeing material. 

Sulfuric acid was a corrosive chemical product having many uses in industry.

Gum arabic is the sap solidified on the trunk and at the bottom of acacias. In business, gum arabic is found in the form of powder or crytals. It is odorless and water soluble.

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