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Forty Centuries of Ink Part 36

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"Say what you will Sir, but I know what I know; That you beat me at the Mart, I have your hand to show; If the skin were Parchment, and the blows you gave were Ink, Your own Hand-writing would tell you what I think."

--Comedy of Errors, iii, 1.

The first book ever printed in Europe, to wit, a copy of "Tully's Offices," is carefully preserved in Holland.

White's Latin-English Dictionary, 1872, distinguishes the words Atramentum and Sutorium in their interpretations.

ATRAMENTUM.--The thing serving for making black. A black liquid of any kind. A writing ink.

Shoemaker's black. Blue vitriol.

SUTORIUM.--Belonging to a shoemaker.

Before the employment of blotting paper a pounce- box which contained either powdered gum sandarach and ground cuttle-fish bones, or powdered charcoal, sand and like materials was used by shaking it like a pepper- box on freshly written ma.n.u.scripts.

Blotting paper as first employed consisted of very thin sheets and of a dark pink color, which fashion changed to blue in later years.

Good blotting paper of the present time removes fully two thirds of fresh ink when used on HARD finished paper.

Blotting paper should not be used upon records.

Its use removes the body of the ink, leaving discoloration, but nothing for penetration. In inks intended for copying, the employment of blotting paper is especially bad.

"Thou hast most traitorously corrupted the youth of the realm in erecting a Grammar School; and whereas, before, our forefathers had no other books but the score and the tally, thou hast caused printing to be used, and contrary to the King, his crown and dignity, thou hast built a paper mill."

--2 King Henry VI, iv, 5.

Mr. Knight relates a conversation between Dr. Gale and a gentlemen from the West relative to the introduction of some material into ink to prevent moulding.

Dr. Gale had astonished his friend by stating-- "will prevent the deposition of the ova of infusoria animalcutae;" when it was suggested that he add "and the sporadic growths of thallogenic cryptograms and be fatal to the fungi."

The University of Pennsylvania claims to possess the oldest piece of writing in the world and which is on a fragment of a vase found at Nippur. It is an inscription in picture writing supposed to have been made 4,500 years before Christ.

Wafers were not introduced until the close of the sixteenth century.

The Persians in ancient times, some 800 years B. C., were in the habit of celebrating certain festivals and it is related that in the month of December one of their ceremonies was that of driving the Dives (spirits) out of their houses.

For this purpose the Magi wrote certain words with saffron on skins, papyrus or wood and then smoked it over a fire. The spell thus prepared was glued or nailed to the inside of the door, which was painted red. The priest then took sand, which he spread with a long knife, whilst he muttered certain prayers and then throwing it on the floor the enchantment was complete; and the Dives were supposed immediately to vanish; or at least to be deprived of all malignant influence.

Aristotle's work on the Const.i.tution of Athens, B. C. 340, or probably the copy made by Tyrannio, was discovered transcribed underneath farm accounts of land in the district of Hermopolis in Egypt in the reign of Vespasian, A. D. 9 to 79.

In MSS. written before the invention of printing and indeed for many years after, the t.i.tle page if any, will be found on the last page with the date.

"Let lawyers bawl and strain their throats, 'Tis I that must the lands convey, And strip their clients to their coats, Nay, give their very souls away!"

--DEAN SWIFT, "On ink."

"It is certain that in their treaties with the European Greeks of Constantinople the Arabs always stipulated for the delivery of a fixed number of ma.n.u.scripts. Their enthusiasm for Aristotle is equally notorious; but it would be unjust to imagine that, in adopting the Aristotelian method, together with the astrology and alchemy of Persia, and of the Jews of Mesopotamia and Arabia, they were wholly devoid of originality."

The "Arabic" numerals which we now employ are probably of Indian origin, having been brought by Arab traders from the East and introduced by them into Spain in the middle ages, whereas they spread over Europe coming in use in England perhaps about the eleventh century. But whether India invented them or borrowed from Greek or other traders from the West is unknown.

The ancient writing implement known as the stylus was made of every conceivable material, sometimes with the precious metals, but usually of iron, and on occasion might be turned into formidable weapons.

It was with his stylus that Caesar stabbed Casca in the arm, when attacked in the senate by his murderers; and Caligula employed some person to put to death a senator with a like instrument.

In the reign of Claudius women and boys were searched to ascertain whether there were any styluses in their pen cases. Stabbing with the pen, therefore, is not merely a metaphorical expression.

Sir William Gore Ouseley, a famous diplomat and savant, who was living at the beginning of the nineteenth century, during his long residence in India spent a fortune in the collection of ancient Persic and Arabic MSS. In 1807 he permitted them to be examined by Beloe, whose description of a few will bear repeating:

"No. 1. A Koran, in the Cufi or Cufic character, said to be written by Ali, the son-in-law of Mahammed, the Arabian prophet. The substance upon which this curious ma.n.u.script is written appears to be a fine kind of a.s.ses' skin or vellum, and the ink of a red, brownish colour. The ends of verses are marked by large stars of gold. If written by Ali, it must be nearly twelve hundred years old, but at all events may be considered as very ancient, many hundred years having elapsed since the use of the Cufi character has given way to the Neskh, Suls, etc., etc. This ma.n.u.script is still in excellent preservation."

"No. 4. Beharistan, 'The Garden of Spring.'

A book on ethics and education, ill.u.s.trated by interesting anecdotes and narratives, written both in verse and prose, in imitation of the Gulistan, or 'Rose garden' of Saadi, and like it divided into eight chapters, composed by Nuruddin, Abdurrahman Jami, ben Ahmed of the village of Jam, near Herat. He was born A. H. 817 and died at the age of 81 years (about A. D. 1492). As a grammarian, theologist and poet he was unequalled, and his compositious are as voluminous as they are excellent. The enormous expense which people have incurred to possess accurate copies of and to adorn and embellish his works, is no small proof of the great estimation in which they were held by the literati of the East."

"This volume is a small folio, consisting of 134 pages, written in the most beautiful Nastilik character, by the famous scribe Mohammed Hussein, who, in consequence of his inimitable penmanship, obtained the t.i.tle of Zerin Kalm, or 'Pen of Gold.' The leaves are of the softest Cashmirian paper, and of such modest shades of green, blue, brown, dove, and fawn colors, as never to offend the eye by their glare, although richly powdered with gold. The margins, which are broad, display a great variety of chaste and beautiful delineations in liquid gold, no two pages being alike. Some are divided into compartments, others are in running patterns, in all of which the illuminations show the most correct, and at the same time fanciful taste. Many are delineations of field sports, which, though simple outlines of gold, are calculated to afford the highest gratifications to the lover of natural history, as well as the artist, from the uncommon accuracy with which the forms of the elephant, rhinoceros, buffalo, lion, tiger, leopard, panther, lynx, and other Asiatic animals are portrayed.

It appears, by the names which are inserted at the bottom of the pages, that several artists were employed in the composition and combination of these ornaments, one for the landscape, another for the animals, and a third for the human figures, all of whom have given proofs of superior merit. It would take almost a month to inspect all the excellencies of this rare ma.n.u.script; for, although so richly ornamented in gold, the chaste colors of the ground prevent any glaring obtrusion on the eye, and oblige the examiner to place it in a particular point of light to see the exquisite and minute beauties of the delineations.

The paintings, which are meant to ill.u.s.trate the subject of the book, are done in colors, and in the center of the leaves.

"On the back of the first page are the autographs of the Emperors of Hindustan, Jehangir and his son Shajehan."

"No. 5. 'A Diwan i Shahi.' A Diwan or Collection Odes by Shahi,' transcribed by the famous penman Mir Ali, in Bokar

"The author of these poems, Mamlic Arnir Shahi, the son of Malic Jemaluddin Firozkohi, a n.o.bleman of high rank and fortune as well as great literary attainments, was born in Sebzwar, A. H.

786. He pa.s.sed a part of his life at the courts of Baisankar (the son of Shahrukh Mirza, and grandson of Tamerlane) and of his son Abul Kasim Baber, during which time he held appointments of the highest trust and emolument, and was universally caressed. But, taking offense at an expression of Sultan Baber's, which he conceived reflected on his father, he quitted the court in disgust, and pa.s.sed the remainder of his life in the cultivation of the sister arts, poetry, painting, and music in all of which he eminently excelled. He was also unequalled in penmanship. At the age of seventy years be died in Asterabad, during the reign of Baber, A. H. 856, and was buried in the suburbs of his native city, Sebzwar, in a mausoleum erected by his ancestors.

"Mir Ali, who transcribed this book, was the most excellent penman of his time. He was born in the reign of Sultan Hussein Mirza Bahudur, the son of Mansur, and great grandson of Omar Sheikh, the second son of Tamerlane. He was a learned man and good poet, and took the Takhulas (poetical t.i.tle) most appropriate to his greatest accomplishments, of Al Cateb, or 'the Scribe.' He was the pupil of Sultan Ali, but far exceeded his master in calligraphy. An entire book written by him is justly esteemed a great treasure in the East.

"On the back of the first page of this most beautiful ma.n.u.script are the autographs of the Emperors of Hindustan, Jehangir (the son of the great Acber) and his son Shah Jehan; there is also the seal of Aurangzeb, the son of Shah Jehun.

Jehangir dates the acquiring possession of this treasure A. H. 1025, and Shah Jehun, A. H. 1037.

"A collection of mythological drawings (brought from a fort in Bhutan, where they were taken as plunder) exceedingly well coloured, and richly illumined. Some of the deities resemble those of the Tartars, delineated by the traveller Pallas; others again are pure Hindu and many Chinese; but the most frequent are the representations of Baudh, exactly as depicted in the paintings and temples at Ceylon. The religion of Bhutan and Neipal seems to be like the local situation of those countries, the link of connection between that of the Hindus, with its different schisms, and that of the Chinese with the Tartar superstructure.

"With this book of drawings are several rolls of Bhutan Scripture, very well stamped by stereotype blocks of wood. Some of the blocks accompanied the drawings; they are sharply and neatly cut in a kind of Sanscrit character, and are objects of great curiosity, as, by the accounts of the natives, this mode of printing has been in use for time immemorial."

"There are besides in Sir Gore Ouseley's collection 1,100 most beautiful books of Persian and Indian paintings, portraits of the Emperors of Hindustan from Sultan Baber down to Bahudur Shah, finely colored drawings of natural history, and curious designs of fancy, with specimens of fine penmanship in the different kinds of Arabic and Persian characters. Several Sanscrit ma.n.u.scripts, highly ornamented and richly illumined, some of them written in letters of gold and silver on a black ground. Many of them ill.u.s.trated with the neatest miniature paintings of the Hindu G.o.ds and saints. Two Korans, the letters entirely of gold, with the vowel points in black. The two versions of Pilpais or Bedpai's fables, by Hussein Vaiz and Abulfazl, ill.u.s.trated with upwards of 700 highly finished miniatures; the best historical works in the Persian language, finely written, and in high preservation."

The high regard with which the writers of MSS. in ancient Persia were viewed may be learned among other things from the following anecdote:

One of the most eminent among them was in his walks solicited by a beggar for alms. "Money," he replied, "I have none," but taking his pen and ink from his girdle, which are the insignia of the profession (without which they never went abroad), he took a piece of paper, and wrote some word or other upon it. The poor man received it with grat.i.tude, and sold it to the first wealthy person he met for a golden mohur, in value about $2.50.

"Is not this a lamentable thing, that of the skin of an innocent lamb should be made Parchment?

that Parchment being scribbled o'er should undo a man?"

--2 King Henry VI, iv, 2.

The Boston News Letter, 1769, announces:

"The belleart will go through Boston before the end of next month, to collect rags for the paper mill at Milton, when all people that will encourage the paper manufactory may dispose of them."

"Rags are as beauties, which concealed lie, But when in paper how it charms the eye; Pray save your rags, new beauties it discover, For paper truly every one's a lover:

By the pen and press such knowledge is displayed, As wouldn't exist, if paper was not made.

Wisdom of things, mysterious, divine, Ill.u.s.triously doth on paper shine."

Gen. Walter Martin, proprietor of the township of Martinsburg, Lewis county, N. Y., erected a paper-mill, which was run by John Clark & Co. This was in 1807. They gave notice that rags would be received at the princ.i.p.al stores in Upper Canada and the Black river country, which (like many of the advertis.e.m.e.nts of the early papermakers, both in England and America), was accompanied by a poetic address to the ladies, one stanza of which ran thus:

Sweet ladies pray be not offended, Nor mind the jests of sneering wags; No harm, believe us, is intended, When humbly we request your rags."

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Forty Centuries of Ink Part 36 summary

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