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Materials and Expertise in Early Modern EuropeBetween Market and Laboratory$
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Ursula Klein Klein and E. C. Spary

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780226439686

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226439709.001.0001

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(p.101) 5 Ink
Materials and Expertise in Early Modern Europe

Adrian Johns

University of Chicago Press

This article deals with ink and its many varieties, focusing on how they are produced from the medieval period until the beginning of industrialization. In particular, it presents examples of preparing printers' ink. It shows that the makers of different varieties of ink, in trying to ensure the quality of their products, developed clear criteria for judging their quality, discerning good ink from poor ink, and for avoiding adulteration. The story of the establishment of industrial ink making shows that industrialization began in this field, before moving to the far more familiar fields of papermaking and printing itself. The article also discusses the practical use of ink as a material and its associations with natural magic and alchemy in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It concludes that the history of ink is a history of an entire system that includes not only the material substance, paper, instruments, techniques, and places but also people, skills, and attitudes.

Keywords:   ink, printing, industrialization, adulteration, natural magic, alchemy, paper, skills, material substance, medieval period

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