Two new sources on the art of mixing ink

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Ibrahim Chabbouh

Article contents:
The uses of each type of ink

Despite its brevity, the book ‘Umdat al-kuttāb wa-‘uddat dhawīal-albāb,[1] written in all probability for al-Amīr al-Ṣanhājī Tamīm b. al-Mu‘izz b. Bādīs, is one of the most comprehensive sources for the codicology of Islamic manuscripts. Its unknown author gives a concise and balanced account of the selection of suitable pens and the ways in which they should be trimmed in preparation for writing particular scripts. He also describes inkwells and their accessories, the preparation of different types of black and coloured ink, the mixing of dyes, writing in gold, erasing, gilding, silvering and polishing, the manufacturing, glazing and ageing of paper, and the materials and tools of bookbinding.

Bayramoğlu ʿAlī Ağa {213}, Umm al-Ğazā fī Tadbīr al-Ḥarb va
Lavāzimihā (various mortars and shots fired during battle), TSMK Bağdad Köşkü, 368, fols. 44b-45a. published in The Ottoman Scientific Heritage (English edition), by  Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, p. 181.
Bayramoğlu ʿAlī Ağa {213}, Umm al-Ğazā fī Tadbīr al-Ḥarb va
Lavāzimihā (various mortars and shots fired during battle), TSMK Bağdad Köşkü, 368, fols. 44b-45a. published in The Ottoman Scientific Heritage (English edition), by Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, p. 181.

This unique early source has had a considerable and lengthy influence on codicological literature, as is clearly shown by the presence of copies of the work in centres of Islamic culture from Rampur in India to Fez in Morocco. A direct echo of this book was heard a century and a half later, in the work of the Yemeni king Yūsuf b. ‘Umar b. ‘AIī b. Rasūl (694/1294), al- Mukhtara ‘ fī funūn min al-ṣun‘,[2]in which he reproduces the first ten chapters of the earlier work almost exactly, although with a degree of selectivity,

Early divided the subject of codicology into four main areas: paper, ink, pens (or, sometimes, scripts) and binding. Each of these became associated with a particular guild, with the various practitioners of each differing in their scholarly credentials and social status. These guilds were usually mutually exclusive, which militated against a comprehensive and unified study of their various crafts until the appearance of the ‘Umda.

Our information about these four different areas is far from equal. This is because those who have been qualified enough to write with discernment about the experience of past generations in this art have been concerned first and foremost with penmanship and calligraphy.[3] For this reason, this field has been [4]studied in rich detail and its development, rules and famous practitioners have been fully documented.

The aesthetic principles of calligraphy are without limit, since they belong to the realm of creativity, sense and aesthetics. As for the remaining three main categories, i.e. paper, ink and binding, the extant literature does not do justice to the skills involved in transmitting the huge amount of Islamic scholarship which has come down to us. We scarcely know anything about early paper-making, save a few disjointed descriptions which help us little in our understanding of how the many different types of paper used in Islamic manuscripts were made, not to mention the differences in the ingredients of various papers and the techniques used for their immersion, glazing, colouring and the reduction of their acid content. Nor can we identify examples of the old and not so old papers referred to by specific names from the time of Ibn al-Nadīm[5] until that of al-Qalqashandī.[6] For example, the author of the ‘Umda gives a description of the manufacture of a paper which he names after the governor of Khurāsān Ṭalḥa b. Ṭāhir (207- 213/822-828), which is made of good-quality white hemp. He also describes a paper which is made of old straw, and mentions the procedure for its immersion and ageing.[7]

By contrast, we find that the art of binding has been studied in a more useful and integrated fashion, despite a certain paucity of material. This art effectively completes the effort made by the writer by containing his ideas physically between the covers of a book. It requires a knowledge of the correct useof particular materials such as leather, silk, wood, cardboard, thread and glue. The author of the ‘Umda lists the technical andpersonal qualities which should be combined in a practitioner of this art as “quick wittedness, sharpsightedness, a light touch, a lack of hastiness, attention to detail, a good sitting posture, an amiable mien and good moral character.”[8] (We refer particularly to the twelfth chapter of the ‘Umda,[9] which may be considered the oldest complete and clear text to list and describe the tools of the bookbinder. It also explains the method of binding, the selection and preparation of types of leather, and how to clean, stretch and strengthen them.)

One of most important later works devoted to the art of binding is that entitled Kitāb al-Taysīr fī ṣinā‘at al-tasfīr by the jurist Bakr b. Ibrāhīm al-Ishbīlī (d. 628/1231), which he wrote at the request of the caliph Ya‘qūb b. Manṣūr.[10] This work is the [11]most accurate, comprehensive and descriptive study of the art of binding in Almohad Morocco and Andalusia. Apart from this work, there is also the treatise by Abū al-‘Abbās Aḥmad b. Muḥammad al-Sufyānī, written in 1029/1620, on the art of bookbinding and the dissolving of gold. [12]

Early historical examples of bindings provide us with information about their salient artistic and technical features, successive studies of which have enabled us to distinguish the characteristics, styles and preferred materials of the main schools. Of these, particular mention should be made of the work of Sarre, Gratzl, Poinssot and Marçais.[13]

Matrakçı Nasuh {70}, Beyān-ı Menāzil-i Sefer-i Irakayn, Istanbul
University, Turkish Manuscripts, no. 5964, folio 8b. published in The Ottoman Scientific Heritage (English edition), by Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, p. 290.

The wealth of artistic features in the preparation of Islamic manuscripts after the 5th/11th century is reflected in the great variety of colours with which copyists, illuminators and gilders adorned their work. The experiments of the inkmakers (ḥabbārūn) soon went beyond their limited beginnings as their expertise came to encompass the blending of various shades of colours. Nor was the blending of a coloured ink confined to a single recorded experiment; rather we find different ways of arriving at the same colour being recorded in widely separated parts of the Muslim world, each arrived at using the substances available in that particular region.

Of these inkmakers, who occupied an important position in the world of bookmaking, some were also scholars. These would record the experiments with which they had become acquainted in books and in the manuals which were written to teach prospective secretaries in government service the essential features of their art. Examples of these are the works of Abū Bakr al-Ṣūlī, Qudāma b. Ja‘far, Ibn Durustawayh, al-Nuwayrī and al-Qalqashandī. Only occasionally, as far as I know, were these arts treated comprehensively chapter by chapter, as was the case in ‘Umdat al-kuttāb.

In view of this, I wish to present here two new texts on the preparation of ink. These are of the utmost historical and technical importance, as they offer a new perspective on the early history of the- subject and help us to clarify a number ofobscure points in ourunderstanding of the technical aspects of writing in our manuscript heritage.[14]


The first text is a uniquce manuscript entitled al-Azhār fi ‘amal al-aḥbār, written by a Moroccan called Muḥammad b. Maymūn b. ‘Imrān al-Marrākushī al-Ḥimyarī. we know nothing about his life, save what can be gleaned from the work itself to the effect that he wrote the book whilst living in Baghdad in the Mustanṣiriyya madrasa in 649/1241.[15] It is an autograph [16]manuscript, written on contemporary paper in a confident hand, observing the Andalusian-Moroccan conventions of letter curvature whilst adopting the Eastern convention of marking the letters fā’ and qāf with one and two dots above each respectively, as well as marking final ’, ’, ’ and kāf with what ressembles a trefoil. However, although the author was able to record and explain his technical cxpcrimcntal work, his knowledge of Arabic is limited. In parts of the text, the I meaning is obscure, the grammar is incorrect and the vowelling erroneous and inconsistent.

In the title and introduction, the author tells us that this work follows on from Mafātīḥ al-asrār fī kashf. ‘ulūm al abrār, of which he tells us in more than one place that he is the author. He also mentions that he is concerned with philosophy (ḥikma) and alchemy and the intellectual legacy of Jābir b. Ḥayyān, a number of whose scattered works he clairns to have collected in a work entitled al-Tadābīr al-kabīr.

It is clear from the introduction to al-Azhār ‘amal al-aḥbār that a group of the author's colleagues asked him- “to compose a work on the art and knowledge of ink [making] and the exposition of what may be compounded of .the. five metallic substances (ajsād)[17] and Silver and gold dust, the way in which colours may be blended, and their use in combination to make beautiful tints for use in writing.” He also speaks more generally of the special significance of ink in giving fixed form to the lessons of human experience, especially the Qur’ān and Ḥadīth and the histories of past nations, and enabling the preservation of knowledge and genealogies.

The author acknowledges that in this work he has proceeded on the basis of accepting information transmitted from early scholars, and that time has not permitted him to repeat all their experiments in their entirety, save in a few areas in which he has come to be knowledgeable “by means of scientific surmise and cautious consideration.

The introduction to the book concludes with a detailed list of twenty-seven essays (maqālāt), each of which is subdivided into chapters (abwāb). As this is the most detailed exposition of the art of ink-making, we list the contents as they are given:

First Essay: On the preparation of liquid black ink (four chapters)

Second Essay: On the various types of solid (dry) ink, (two chapters)

Third Essay: On the preparation of inks of different colours (eleven chapters)

Fourth Essay: On the preparation of liquid compound ink (two chapters)

Fifth Essay: On the preparation of ordinary dry ink (nine chapters)

Sixth Essay: On the use of inks of different colours (ten chapters)

Seventh Essay: On Writing substances prepared from gold and Silver and the rest of the five metallic substances (four chapters)

Eighth Essay: on that which is made to resemble gold and silver and the Other five metallic substances (four chapters)

Ninth Essay: on that which is written on gold and silver vessels and on implements made of iron, copper and brass (seven chapters) Tenth Essay: on plating with alloys of the seven [sic] metallic substances, including the production of the plating alloy from its constituent elements and the removal of extraneous substances from the alloy (five chapters)

Eleventh Essay: Remarks on how to write on glass (ten chapters)

Twelfth Essay: on decorating the fingertips with colours, and writing in gold and silver on the palm of the hand (eleven chapters)

Thirteenth Essay: On the use of other colours omitted in the varieties which we have discussed so far (ten chapters)

Fourteenth Essay: On the mixing and blending of the colours mentioned so far and the compounds thus produced (four chapters) Fifteenth Essay: Oncolour variations in writing according to time and place, how to write on water, which is one of the special skills of the most accomplished scribes (nine chapters)

Sixteenth Essay: On that which disappears [?] entirely whilst the writer writes quickly With it (two chapters)

Seventeenth Essay: On the writing of secrets and the subtle ways of keeping them from the unworthy (two chapters)

Eighteenth Essay: On the means at the writerts disposal for erasing with a knife (seven chapters)

Nineteenth Essay: On making distinctions by rational means, and the distinction between the possible and the impossible concerning that which has been discussed beforehand (seven sections)

Twentieth Essay: On the method of breaking and resealing seals and how to read the books contained therein and fold them (two chapters)

Twenty-first Essay: On the moistening of paper [in the manufacturing process] and how to keep flies off it, as well as [the best methods] arrived at through experimentation for polishing and ageing it (five chapters)

Twenty-second Essay: On how to draw with pens using soot, what the līqs for them are like and the līqs for drawing and writing before paint is applied [?] (three chapters)

Twenty-third Essay: A description of the undercoat applied with a pen beneath writing and illumination, as well as the overlay applied to preserve it from the ravages of time (five chapters)

Twenty-fourth Essay: A description of the paints which can be applied to vessels, and drawing on inkwells, pens and pencases and the like (seven chapters)

Twenty-fifth Essay: A description of the correct way to work various kinds of iron (five chapters)

Twenty-sixth Essay: On the tempering of swords, craftsmen's tools and pen-knives, and how to keep them from rusting (six chapters)

Twenty-seventh Essay: On how to erase all of the Other colours and inks hitherto discussed (four chapters).

This table of contents certainly arouses the reader's interest to find out important details about how different types of ink were made, how the colours were blended, and the different ways in which texts were decorated, as well as details about the how paper was made, how pens were prepared, and how decoration was permanently fixed on them. It also promises Information on how different colours were composed, howmetals were plated, how iron in its various forms, and how it was kept from rusting, as well as how to remove traces of various colours.

However, of this great work planned by al-Marrākushī in 27 essays and their constituent chapters, only the first six essays and the title of the seventh have survived. Nor is there anything missing from the copy, as might be supposed; rather the author in a manner which I have never come across before deliberately stops at that point, indicating both indirectly and explicitly that he was undergoing — as we would say in the language of today — an emotional crisis which prevented him from completing the work. He goes on to say that he thought about completing the work, [but instead] compiled al-Tadābīr al-kabīr from the works of Jābir b. Ḥayyān, considering this to be a sufficient substitute for, and completion of, the earlier work. However, he recognises that the final work is “closer to the [level of the] scholar than the student” because of the difficulty of its symbolism - in the manner of Jābir - and that it thus needs a commentary to explain it, but he excuses himself from this task on the grounds that life is too short.

So ends the book, but the six surviving essays are rich in themselves, containing one hundred and fourteen recipes for mixing ink, which are, as far as I know, the clearest, most concise and numerous collection extant.

The most distinguishing feature of the book is that it contains recipes for ink attributed to some of the great figures of the Islamic cultural heritage, including those for the inks used by the following scholars and litterateurs: Īsā b. ‘Umar al- Naḥwī (d. 149/766), Muslim b. al-Walīd (d. 208/823), Abū ‘Uthmān ‘Amr b. Baḥr al-Jāḥiẓ (d. 255/968), Muḥammad b. Ismā‘īl al-Bukhārī (d. 256/870), Bakhtyashū‘ al-Ṭabīb (d, 256/870), Muslim b. Ḥajjāj al-Qushayrī (d. 261/8Ù5), ‘Abd Allāh b. Muslim b. Qutayba (d. 276/889), Muḥammad b. Zakariyyā) al-Rāzī (d. 313/925), Muḥammad b. ‘Alī b. Muqla (238/940), Abū al-Faraj ‘AIī b. al-Ḥusayn al-Iṣbahānī (d. 326/967), Abū Ḥayyān ‘AIī b. Muḥammad al-Tawḥīdī (d. ca.400/1010), ‘AIī b. Hilāl al-Kātib, known as Ibn al-Bawwāb (d. 423/1032), ‘AIī b. Hibat Allāh b. Mākūlā (d. 475/1082) and others. (The author even adds, having described the ink that the wazīr Ibn Muqla used, that it was an Indian recipe, according to what he was told when he was at the Mustanṣiriyya madrasa in Baghdad!) Thus for the first time we come to know about the various types of ink attributed to scholars in the Muslim world.

We may observe that the inks of these scholars have a number of ingredients in common. These are: gallnut,[18] vitriol,[19] gum arabic[20] and fresh water. Some recipes leave out gum arabic, relying on the natural brilliance and permanence of the resultant black compound which needs no additive to make it adhere to paper or parchmento This is the type of ink that was used by Muslim b. al-Walīd, al-Jāḥẓ and al-Bukhārī.

Despite these inks having these four ingredients in common, there are important differences between them in how they are prepared, the proportions of their ingredients, how they are fire- treated or sun-dried, and how they are pressed and macerated, all of which are quite clearly recorded.

As gallnuts are one of the more or less fixed ingredients on the manufacture of ink, al-Marrākushī gives possible alternatives if they are not available, mentioning decoctions of fresh myrtle, walnut (jauz), pomegranate rind, carob and tamarisk, adding that “they are more effective when added to one another, and even more so if all are used in combination, with the overall strength of the mixture depending on the proportions of the various ingredients. ”

The author mentions the usefulness of soot in the manufacture of compound inks and describes a device for Producing it, whilst pointing out that the best soot is derived from sesame oil, walnut (jawz), hazelnut, seeds or naphtha. In this way, he clarifies what Aḥmad b. Yūsuf al-Kātib[21] relates about the production of the [22]powdered ink which he used to supply during the time of Khumārawayh b. Aḥmad b. Ṭūlūn,[23] and confirms the view of the wazīr Ibn Muqla that the best ink was made from naphtha soot.[24]

It is worth pointing out here that in the first six essays the term used changes from ḥibr (first, second and third) to midād (fourth, fifth and sixth), although a close reading of the text reveals no difference between the use of the two terms. Al- Marrākushī lists the ingredients of ink (ḥibr) as follows: gallnut, vitriol, gum arabic and water, with the possible addition of saffron, musk, Socotra aloes and rosewater (first essay, chapter one). He also describes the contents of white ink as being made up of ceruse, decoction of white gallnut and gum arabic, whilst listing litharge, saffron and gum arabic for red ink. He then describes a compound of midād and ḥibr (sic) as being made up of gallnut, gum arabic, vitriol and water, With the addition of seed soot and a decoction of pomegranate blossom.

This wavering between the two terms begs the question as to whether there is a difference between them. Aḥmad al- Maghribī, a scholar of the 11th/17th century, wrote a work entitled Qaṭf al-azhār fī khaṣā‘iṣ al-ma‘âdin wa-l-aḥjār,[25] in which he differentiates between the ingredients of the two. According to this work, ḥibr is what derives its colour from vegetable substances whilst midād is what is made from mineral substances.[26] However, the editor of al-Maghribī's text has arrived at this through a deduction which I cannot support, for vitriol, which is a mineral, is contained in all types of ḥibr whilst gallnut, gum arabic and saffron, which are vegetable substances, are included in most types of midād. It appears, then, that this is no more than a lexical confusion between words which had a subtle difference of meaning for the early scholars. For them, the word ḥibr derived from the idea Of colour. If it was Said of someone, for example, that he was nāṣi‘al-ḥibr, it meant that he was of a pure colour. Another meaning of ḥibr is a mark left on leather; likewise the verb ḥabbara can mean “to beautify”

As for the term midād, it comes from the idea of it “extending” (yamuddu), in the sense of “helping” (yu‘ïnu), the pen, and anything by which something else is extended or helped can be termed midād. For example, oil can be termed thus because the lamp is extended or helped by it. Similarly, any writing substance moistening the inkwell pad (līqa) can be called midād.[27]In the light of this, then, al-Marrākushī has used the two terms interchangeably, with ḥibr signifying “ink” in a generic sense and midād meaning the same thing by reference to one of the qualities it has.

Al-Marrākushīs work is notable for its coverage of the characteristics of substances used in the rnanufacture of ink, given the author's practical experience of chemistry. For example, he says of deep black ink with a high vitriol content: “It burns paper because of its high vitriol content, and eats away at the areas which have been written on, cutting right through the paper.” Elsewhere he says about gum arabic: “The only benefit of gum arabic in ink is that it protects the script, should it fall into water, from blurring and smudging”; and that “Gum arabic repels vitriol.”

As mentioned above, the first six essays deal With ink in all its various aspects. Had the author gone on to discuss the issues which he listed as forthcoming in the remaining essays, such as the plating of metals, the tempering of iron and swords and the removal of stains from clothing, one wonders whether the book Would have retained the title of al-Azhār fī ‘amal al-aḥbār!


The second text is rare, and of unusual arrangement, clarity and Content. Its author is Muḥammad b. Muḥammad b. Idrīs al- Quḍā‘ī al-Qalalūsī,[28] from Estepona in Andalusia. He was born in [29]607/1210 and died in 707/1307. This author had a particular advantage over his contemporaries in that he entered the field of history by unusual means. He was originally a teacher of Arabic, and was famous for his detailed knowledge of Sībawayhi's manual of grammar, and was also an authority on poetry and prosody. He put this knowledge to use in his composition of didactic poems, in the Andalusian manner, on inheritance (farā‘iḍ) and prosody, as well as a commentary in the same form on the Malāḥin of Ibn Durayd, and another on the book of al-Faṣīḥ.

The work which we shall present here is entitled Tuḥaf al- khawāṣṣ fi ṭuraf al-khawāṣṣ,[30] which is mentioned by Ibn al- Khaṭīb as follows:[31] “The wazīr Ibn al-Ḥakīm[32] was presented [33]with a curious book about the properties [of substances], the manufacture of ink and the [removal of] stains from clothes (ṭab ‘ al-thiyâb). ”[34]

The manuscript, of which we have a photographed copy,[35] is written in a mediocre maghribī hand, in the Granadan style, with its letter curvature, elongation and contraction. It contains many orthographic errors and interpolations, and the copyist has missed out a few lines. The first half of the work has been affected by damp, rendering some of the manuscript illegible, while parts have been eaten by worms. It was copied in Jumādā 1 936 (January 1530). The manuscript is enriched by useful marginal notes and formulae, some of which have been obliterated or are illegible due to the poor quality of the handwriting. They appear to have been added in from other, similar works.

In a short introduction, the author says that he has compiled in this work “an exposition of everything that the writer needs to know, and a corpus of material, ignorance of which would damage the reputation of any student.” He also mentions, as stated by Ibn al-Khaṭīb, that he has dedicated the work to the illustrious wazīr Abū ‘Abdallāh b. Abī al-Ḥakīm, and that he has divided the work into three chapters, as follows:

Chapter One: On the prerequisites of scribes, not [normally] appreciated by students

Chapter Two: On matters which are of great benefit but are not easily[36] acquired in full

Chapter Three: Miscellaneous pmms of interest

This terse division gives little or no impression of the wealth of material contained in the work, for the text itself contains discussions of principles, experiments and prescriptions and gives details of the properties of various types of ink, highlighting the best of them. It also examines materials such as gallnut, gum arabic and vitriol, blotting dust, clay teaching- slates, and inks prepared without gallnut.

In order to clarify the contents of the work further, we shall give a preliminary sketch of the contents to show the author's balanced approach in dealing with inks, colours, dyes, and the removal of Stains from clothing. (As close examination reveals, all of these are logically connected, although they may not appear so at first.)

Chapter One: On the manufacture of inks, the first of which is black (akḥal) [p.2]

Section: On materials used in writing, such as ink which cannot be seen [on the page] until treated [p. 10]

Section: On the containers used for carrying ink, inkpads, ammonia and the clay for teaching-slates [p. 12]

Section: On inks containing no gallnut [p. 14]

Section: On how to write with gold, silver, tin, brass, copper, iron and talc [p. 23]

Section: On the types of ink used for writing on gold, silver, brass and lead [p. 27]

Chapter Two: On erasing ink from ledgers and books and removing dye from clothes [p. 28]

Section: On drinks and wines [p. 35]

Section: On the whitening of yarn [p. 38]

Section: On the production of dye for linen garments [P. 40]

Section: On the production of dye for Silk garments [p. 41]

Third Essay,[37] containing useful discussions

Section: On the effect and use of verdigris [p. 46]

Section: On the use of whitewash (bayāḍ al-wajh ) [p. 46]

On the use of red lead (zarqūn) [p. 47] On the use of cinnabar IP. 491

Section: On the production of dyes for wood, bone and brass [P.50]

Section: On dyes and colours [p. 53]

Section: On substitutes [p. 54]

Section: On those of these dyes which are used in painting and

drawing [p. 54]

A mention of those substances which may be used as a base formixing, and those combinations which go together [P. 54]

A mention of the procedure for grinding dyes [P. 55]

A section on the limitations of dyes after their being ground [P.56]

A mention of gilding fluid [p. 56]

The material contained in the first chapter all pertains to inks, which are carefully named. The second chapter contains a great deal of information about the ways in which traces of ink can be removed from ledgers, books and clothes. The third chapter, or essay, as the copyist calls it, describes the ingredients of dyes, the ways in which they should be prepared' those which can or cannot be blended, those which are suitable for paper and parchment, and those which are to be used only on wood and on walls.

This interlinking of subject-matter is a rich source of clarification for many aspects of Islamic culture, whether it be codicology or any u art such as painting, patterning, colouring and gilding. Indeed, al-Qalalūsī's work is of unique importance in that scarcely any of its contents have been reproduced from the work of his predecessors or contemporaries who wrote in the field, such as the author of ‘Umdat al-kuttāb, or Ibn Maymūn al-Marrākushī, or Ibn Rasūl.

In order to give a clearer idea of the form of al-Qalalūsī's book, we shall quote here a few sample passages from the Royal Library (Morocco) manuscript:

(i) p. 7 :

(from Chapter One: On the manufacture of inks ... )

This is the procedure for making ink using gallnut, vitriol and gum arabic as described in this blessed table which sets out the contents of each variety of ink and the proportions of their ingredients, as well as the way in which each one is made, God willing:

Heat-treated Gallnut: one part Vitriol: one quarter part Gum arabic: one part Water: three parts   Macerated Gallnut: two parts Gum arabic: half part Vitriol: one quarter part Water: three partsPressed Gallnut: two parts parts Gum arabic: one part Vitriol: one tenth part Water: two parts   Powdered Gallnut: one part Gum arabic: one part Vitriol: half part Water: one part and a half

These are the combinations for the preparation of each one.

We shall now mention their various potencies and effects. The first thing to know is that if the gallnut content exceeds the stated Proportions it will quickly hole the paper in writing, If the gum arabic content exceeds the stated proportions [the pages will stick together and] the book will tear. If the vitriol content is too high it will burn right through and ruin the book.

The most important ingredient of ink is gallnut, after which comes gum arabic and then vitriol. The gum is for binding [? - word unclear in original] [the ink] with its strength, and the vitriol is to allow it to maintain its strength until it reaches the place where it is needed. The following is a list of the effects of these ingredients and their strengths:

The uses of each type of ink

Heat-treated ink is fit for use only With paper

Pressed ink is fit for use with paper and parchment

Macerated ink is particularly suited to parchment

Powdered ink ... is for immediate use on slates

These then are the main features [of the use] of inks.

(ii) p. 53:

Section: On dyes and colours

There are twelve substances which can be used for dyeing: cinnabar, red lead, mughra (russet), white-wash (bayāḍ al-wajh), indigo, lapis lazulae (lāzaward), lac, verdigris, rust/earth (‘akār ), arsenic, charcoal, and ṭaranshūl [?].

These are all the substances which can be used for dyeing. Each colour may be broken down into two, making (a total ofl twenty- four.[38]

[For example], if cinnabar is ground with whitewash, a pink colour results. The same holds for red lead and mughra.

If whitewash is ground with indigo, the result is sky-blue.

If arsenic is ground with indigo, the result is pistachio.

If lac is ground with whitewash, the result is violet.

If saffron is ground with whitewash, the result is lawbānī [?].

If ‘akār is ground with whitewash, the result is ...

If arsenic is ground with saffron, the result is the colour of old gold.

If indigo, arsenic and cinnabar are ground together, the result is the colour of wild thyme.

These then are the basic substances and what can be derived from them.

(iii) p. 54:

Section: On those of these dyes which are used jn painting and drawing

Cinnabar, red lead. mughra. Lac, ‘akār, whitewash, charcoal. Lapis lazulae, and no others. These can be mixed with oil.

(iv) [pp. 54-5]:

A mention of those substances uluch may be used a base for mixing. and those combinations which go together There are four substances which can be used as a base for mixing. If one is not available, another may be used. They are: whitewash, glue. flax water, and acacia pod, which is gum arabic.

Whitewash is used [as a base] when decorating walls and wood.

Glue is used when decorating painted surfaces or wood.

Flax water is a mixing base when decorating paper or painted surfaces.

I have mastered these mixing bases. When glue is put into cinnabar, lac, ‘akār or sapan wood it holds [it] together, as it does with other things.

When gum arabic is put into red lead it always clogs it up and ruins it. It goes with all [other] dyes, and is used to good effect, in quantity, in the colouring of paper.

As for whitewash, when it is put into ... lac, verdigris, sapanwood or ‘akār it completely ruins them, but it does go with other things.

(v) pp. 53-4:

Section on substitutes

If indigo is not available, use charcoal instead, using it for all [cases in which] you would need indigo

Whitewash may be used as a substitute for dyeing paper and decorating walls. If it is not available, use finely ground gypsum instead. When it comes to painting, however, there is no substitute for it.

Pomegranate blossom may be used as a substitute for red lead for papaer and parchment. It is of no use, however, in giving colour to paint.

There is no substitute for yellow arsenic

Red arsenic may be replaced by powdered earth and a little [yellow] arsenic: this can be used instead of it in books and painting,

Mughra may be replaced by ink mixed with cinnabar.

Cinnabar may be replaced by a mixture of red lead and mughra.

Lapis lazulae may be replaced by a mixture of antimony (kuḥl al- ithmid) and dye slag.

‘Akār may be used instead of lac, if some alum is put into it and it is then left in the sun until it coagulates; it is [particularly] suitable for paper, parchment and painting. Sapanwood may also be used as a substitute for it if it is heated in water until soft    if it protrudes [from the water] immerse it     with the addition of a little alum and gum arabic. This mixture may be used for writing on paper, parchment and also for painting, but if it is used for painting, it is best added to cinnabar.

This is what I wish to present. I believe that all the texts pertaining to codicology should be compiled and arranged chronologically. The technical terms used should be clearly defined, and some of the procedures described should be tested in the laboratory. All of this will then facilitate the writing of the history of Islamic manuscripts, help us to understand the basic materials from which they are constituted, and enable us to proceed with their preservation in the most appropriate manner.

[1]Umdat al-kuttāb wa-‘uddat dhawī al-albāb, ed. ‘Abd al-Sattār al-Ḥalwajī and ‘Alī ‘Abd al-Muḥsin Zakī, Majallat Ma‘had al-Makhṭūṭāt al-‘Arabiyya [Cairo], XVII (1391/1971), 45-172. See also C. Brockelmann, Geschichte der arabischen Litteratur (GAL), 1st ed, I (Weimar, 1898), 268, 525, and Supplement, I (Leiden, 1937), 473,963; ‘Uthmān al-Ka“āk, “Ṣinā‘at al-kutub fī al-Qayrawān”, Majallat al-Mabāḥith [Tunis], XXV (1946), 13 (introducing an old copy discovered in Qayrawān). The Bibliothèque Nationale in Tunis has a good recent copy (no. 3634; see Ibrahim Chabbouh, al-Makhṭūṭ [Tunis, 1989], 48). The ‘Umda has also been translated by Martin Levey in his Medieval Arabic Bookmaking and Its Relation to Early Chemistry andPharmacology, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Series, LII/4 (Philadelphia, 1962); see also M. Zerdoun Bat-Yehouda, Les encres noires au moyen âge jusqu'à 1600 (Paris, 1983), 123ff.

[2] I have used a photographed copy of the Ambrosiana MS and also examined a good published edition of the work by Muhammad ‘Ῑ sā Ṣāliḥiyya (Kuwait, 1989). There is another copy, not used for this edition in the Asafiya Library, India (MS no. 221), considered by ‘Awwād to be of anonymous authorship (see K. Awwād, “al-Khaṭṭ al-‘arabī fī āthār al-dāricīn gadīman wa ḥadīthan”, al-Mawrid [Baghdad], XV [November 1986], 393).

[3] This is also the way in which the subject is treated in ‘Umdat al-kuttāb. See also al-Qalqashandī, Ṣubḥ al-aʻshā (Cairo, 1331-8/1913-18), II, 463, where, instead of the category of binding, the author refers to “competence in the writers' craft.” “Ink”, he says, “is one of the four foundations of writing, for, as they say:

A quarter of writing is in the blackness of the ink,
and a quarter is competence in the writers' craft
A quarter is in the fine trimming of the pen,
and on [the quality of] the paper rests the fourth of these.”

[4] Ibn al-Nadīm, al-Fihrist, ed. G. Flügel (Leipzig, 1871-2), 21.

[5] Al-Qalqashandī ranks the paper available in his time by quality: the best was Baghdādī, followed by Ḥamawī, Shāmī, Miṣrī (available in two sizes, Manṣūrī and “ordinary”) and, lastly, the paper of “the people of the West and the Europeans (firanja)” (Ṣubḥ al-a‘shā, II, 476-7). This text, despite its brevity, is of great importance.

[6] ‘Umdat al-kuttāb, 147-9.

[7] ibid, 157.

[8] ibid, 153ff.

[9] Bakr b. Ibrāhim al-Ishbīlī, Kitāb al-Taysīr fī ṣinā‘at al-tasfīr, ed. Abdallāh Kannūn, Revista del Instituto de Estudios Islamicos en Madrid, VII-VIII (1959-60), 1-42(Arabic text),197-9 (summary in Spanish); see
=  also Muḥammad al-Manūnī, Tārīkh al-wirāqa al-maghribiyya (Rabat, 1991),   29.

[10] This was published by Prosper Ricard under the title Ṣinā‘at tasfir al-kutub wa-ḥall al-dhahab (Paris, 1919), republished by the same publisher in 1925, and translated by Levey as a supplement to his translation of ‘Umdat al-kuttāb (see n.1 above). See also al-Manūnī, Tārīkh al-wirāqa, 86.

[11] For titles by these authors, see K. Creswell, A Bibliography of the Architecture, Arts and Crafts of Islam (Oxford, 1961), index.

[12] See Zerdoun Bat-Yehouda, Les encres noires, 124ff, where she states that the first mention of ink in the Muslim world dates from the 3rd/9th century.

[13] This madrasa was founded by the Abbasid caliph al-Mustanṣir bi-llāh, on the eastern side of Baghdad beside the Tigris. Building work began in 625/1227 and was completed in 631/1234. Valuable collections of books
= were deposited there (see Ibn al-Fūṭī, al-Ḥawādith al-jāmi‘a [Baghdad, 1932], 53), catering for all the madhāhib. The building was completely restored in the present century, starting in 1945.

[14] The author lists the “five metallic substances” when he mentions the sub-sections of Chapter Seven as: gold, silver, brass, black lead (usrub) and white lead (raṣāṣ, i.e. pewter and/or tin). For these terms, see also the translation and comments of H. Renaud and G. Colin in their edition of Tuḥfat al-aḥbāb fī māhiyyat al-nabāt wa-l-aʻshāb (Paris, 1934), 20, no. 39.

[15] See Tuḥfat al-albāb, 137, no. 309.

[16] ibid, 65, no. 144.

[17] ibid, 132, no. 296.

[18] Known as Abū Ja‘far b. al-Dāya al-Baghdādī al-Miṣri, he exercised a ministerial function in the Ṭūlūnid state. He died ca. 340/950 (see al-Ziriklī, al-A‘lām [n. pl., n. d.], I, 258; also al-Qalqashandī, Ṣubḥ al-aʻshā, II, 464). It is worth noting that efforts to refine ink were concentrated on maximising the smoothness of the ink on the pen in order to make it run more easily. One worthy attempt in this regard, now lost, was made by the fourth Fāṭimid caliph al-Mu‘izz li-Dīni-llāh, who devised a fountain pen that could be turned in any direction without leaking, and would write in the best manner when put to use and then retain the ink when lifted from the book (see al-Qāḍī al-Nu‘mān b. Ḥayyūn, al-Majālis wa-l-musāyarāt, ed. I. Chabbouh et al. [Tunis 1978], 319).

[19] Khumārawayh b. Aḥmad b. Tūlūn assumed rule of Egypt after his father in 270/883 and died in 282/896 (see al-Kindī, The Governors and Judges of Egypt (Kitab el-Wulāt wa-Kitāb al-Quḍāt), ed. R. Guest [Leiden and London, 1912], 233).

[20] See al-Qalqashandī, Ṣubḥ al-a‘shā, II, 465.

[21] See ‘Imād ‘Abd al-Salām Ma‘rūf, “Mulāḥaẓāt ḥawl makhṭūṭat Qaṭf al-azhār li-l-Maghribī”, al-Majalla al-Tārīkhiyya al-Maghribiyya [Tunis], 8thyear, XXII-XXIII (1981).

[22] See Barwīn Badrī Tawfiq, “Ṣināʻat al-aḥbār wa-l-liyaq wa-l-aṣbāgh: fuṣūl min makhṭūṭat Qaṭf al-azhār li-l-Maghribī”, al-Mawrid [Baghdad), XII (1983), 252.

[23] See al-Qalqashandī, Ṣubḥ al-a‘shā, II, 460-1.

[24] This is how his name is given at the beginning of the manuscript, with two vocalised lāms. In his biographical notice on al-Qalalūsī, Ibn al-Khaṭib also spells the name with two lams, but does not vocalise them (see Ibn al-Khaṭīb, al-Iḥāṭa fī akhbār Gharnāṭa [Cairo, 1393-7/1973-7], III, 75ff), whereas Brockelmann (GAL, 2nd ed [Leiden, 1943-9], II, 336) has “al-Qallūsī”, i.e. one lām with a shadda.

[25] It is clear that the author is fond of assonance in the titles of his works, such as Zahrat al-ẓurf  wa-zuhrat al-ẓarf. In the title under consideration here, the first khawāṣṣ in the title is the opposite of "the  common people” (‘awāmm), whilst the second denotes a physical and chemical characteristic.

[26] Ibn al-Khaṭīb, al-Iḥāṭa, III, 76.

[27] His full name is Abū ‘Abdallāh Muḥammad b. ‘Abd al-Raḥmān b. al-Ḥakīm al-Lakhmī. He was born in Seville and grew up in Ronda, and was descended from the Banū Ḥajjāj and Banū ‘Abbād. He was the secretary of the Sultan of Granada Muḥammad b. Muḥammad b. Naṣr, to whom he had his son Abū ‘Abdallāh al-Makhlū‘ appointed as minister. When his son died, he was granted this post and became known as “the minister twice over” (dhū al-wizāratayn). He had good handwriting, held knowledge and scholars in high regard, and was keen on collecting books. He was killed in Granada in 708/1309. For biographical notices, see: Ibn al-Khaṭib, al-Iḥāṭa, II, 444ff; Ibn Ḥajar, al-Durar al-kāmina (Hyderabad, 1347-50 (1928-31]), III, 495f; al-Maqqarī, Azhār al-Riyāḍ (Cairo, 1358-61/1939-42), II, 340ff.

[28] The editor of the lḥāṭa reads this as wa-l-taṭabbu‘ al-shābb!

[29] The manuscript is from the Royal Library in Morocco. I am grateful to Muḥammad al-Manūnī for drawing my attention to it and to Mohamed Bencherifa for providing me with a copy.

[30] The text is not clear. I have read this word as i‘tāṣa, as a synonym for ishtadda, imtana‘a and iltātha, althoght it could also be iḥtāṣa, meaning “to take firmly in hand”

[31] The author calls them chapters in his introduction. This change Could have been introduced by the copyist.

[32] This is the number given in the text, although the actual number of combinations list dis only eight. The remainder may have been omitted by the copyist.

Source note :

This article was published in the following book:

The Codicology of Islamic Manuscripts: Proceedings of the second conference of Al_Furqān Islamic Heritage Foundation, 4_5 December 1993_ Arabic version, 1997, Al-Furqān Islamic Heritage Foundation, London, UK, pp. 59-76.

Please note that some of the images used in this online version of this article might not be part of the published version of this article within the respective book.
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