The gall nuts and lapis trail

Primary History article

By Alf Wilkinson, published 22nd June 2017

What can you tell about Anglo- Saxon trade from ink?

We are used to images of monks copying out texts in a very ornate manner. Books such as the Lindisfarne Gospels still absolutely amaze us with their colour, style and appearance. It must have taken hours and hours to copy out a text like that.

But how was it done? And how did the monks make the inks they used? The short answer is that they didn’t – they had lowly apprentices or boys whose job it was to mix up the inks ready for the monks to copy. So where did the inks come from? There was no friendly stationer’s shop just down the road to pop out to and buy a bottle of ink – they all had to be made up from scratch – and each monastery seems to have had its own secret recipe...

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