Galls Used in Making Ink

Apr 25, 2018

Credit SC Public Radio

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. While reading about galls, I found a reference to iron gall ink being used in ancient documents. One of the four copies of the Magna Carta, the one at the Lincoln Cathedral in England, is officially described as iron gall in on parchment. Certain oak galls are high in tannin, one of the ingredients used in ink production from ancient until relatively recent times.

The best tannins were produced from Aleppo galls, galls that grow on oak trees from that region of Turkey. When mixed with iron sulfate, gum Arabic and water, skilled artisans produced a high quality ink favored by scribes, it didn’t clog the pen nibs. Organizations as diverse as the US Post Office and the Dutch East Indies Company had their own formulas and this ink was used into the twentieth century – however, it doesn’t work well in modern pens.