Initially made from a nineteenth century recipe, it is blended further with two secret ingredients to achieve a smooth and satisfying ink for the master penman. Brian G. Walker first made the ink in 1997 for his own use in Spencerian Script and Ornamental Penmanship. He then started to sell the ink to a small number of penmen both in the UK and abroad who found it equally pleasing to use. Only small quantities were made at a time to ensure the care of the product. Brian supplied ink to Scribblers and Penman Direct for numerous years before handing over the ink production to Simon Rous, the owner of Scribblers. The decision to pass on the production was not taken lightly and Brian took great care in passing on his knowledge to Simon to ensure that it continued to be made to perfection. He carried out numerous quality controls before giving his final seal of approval. Walker’s Copperplate Ink is currently sold to 38 countries around the world.
This is definitely ink for the connoisseur and excellent for all pointed pen work, fine italic and line drawing. As iron gall ink is chemically based rather than pigment based, its characteristics generally differ from other calligraphy inks. Walker’s Ink is fermented to achieve the deepest black before even being bottled. However, the further darkening process as the ink oxidises on the page is a natural phenomenon. This type of ink equally produces for the penman the most incredibly fine hairlines unsurpassed by virtually any other type of ink.
Iron gall ink ‘strikes’ into the surface of the substrate and so becomes indelible, a major reason why it was made and used extensively throughout history. It was the most important ink during the whole of the Middle Ages, used in medieval manuscripts and by such famous artists as Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt. Vincent Van Gogh also used it for many of his pen and ink drawings. It was the traditional ink used by master penmen during the American Golden Age of Ornamental Penmanship (circa 1830 – 1940) and was an essential medium in the copy print process invented by James Watt of steam engine fame. Iron gall ink is now enjoying something of a calligraphic revival, but recipes vary considerably.
On good quality paper (do experiment) and with the best of nibs, Walker’s Copperplate Ink should provide extremely rewarding results.
B. G. Walker Tip : The ink isn’t usually stirred, but there’s no reason to suggest it shouldn’t be except to note the point below about precipitation. To maintain the acidic pH level of the ink, the odd drop of lemon juice (or vinegar) may be occasionally added. A drop or two of water can also be added to replace evaporation. Whilst the ink goes through many smudge tests before being bottled, and every bottle is personally checked, for very large or very heavy writing, an extra drop or two of gum arabic may be helpful. The only ‘galling’ thing about iron gall ink is its tendency to produce an insoluble pigment or precipitate as the ink is regularly exposed to the air. There is nothing one can do about this as being insoluble these (larger) particles cannot be made soluble again. The best thing is to avoid leaving the top off the bottle for long periods and to occasionally scoop out with a paintbrush the ‘sludge’ that forms in the bottom of the bottle and then topping up with fresh ink. This is the usual way of dealing with the problem. A two bottle strategy therefore is quite a useful idea – one for daily use and one for topping up.
Brian G. Walker was the only scribe to be invited in September 2000 to attend the two day International Conference on Iron Gall Ink held at the University of Northumbria’s Department of Fine Art Conservation, which has an enviable reputation for its courses and work in this field. The ink conference was attended by many conservators from as far afield as France, Holland, Japan, Norway, Slovakia and The United States as well as several eminent scientists responsible for the conservation of major (including Royal) collections in the UK.
I first met Brian at a CLAS Regional day over 20 years ago. I was fascinated watching Brian demonstrate Spencerian. His control of the nib, applying and releasing pressure effortlessly was amazing.
It can be purchased online via Scribblers or Penman Direct:
If you corresponded with or were mentored by Brian Walker, or if you would like to comment on his work or post a written tribute on the site, please get in touch. The Walker Family would love to hear from you.