What's up at Ravens March.

Vintage pens-Handmade books-Silly statements


Posted by Dirck on 19 March, 2013

I’ve lately been seeing a lot of threads about the durability of ink.  People seeking blues to impress generations yet unborn, greens to outlive the oceans, blacks to remain legible at the moment of the universe’s heat-death.  Apart from pondering whether this is some reverb from the failed and entirely made-up Mayan Apocalypse last December, I enjoy a tiny laugh at this desperate and likely hubris-laden pursuit.

That is not to say that I deride the notion of archival materials.  There are some things, usually in the line of art, which one wants to see last.  Certain documents are also in that category, but not many in the current age.  I’d be somewhat concerned if the various mortgage-related documents I’ve put my hand to became illegible, and all the moreso since the provincial government started looking at privatizing the Land Titles Office.

I also accept that some inks are a dead loss for the purpose.  Quink and Waterman blue-blacks, if indeed they are still different fluids, jump instantly to mind as bad bets for future perusal, and many makers’ blues go a little feeble after sitting on the paper a while.  But those to aside, I think there’s a lot more concern about the fading of ink than is quite in keeping with the threat.  While I used the phrase “Stupid modern inks” in connection with the phenomenon when considering documents from just before the start of the Second World War, I am with reflection, and caveats about the afore-named inks, moderating my stance.  Inks last well enough.

They last, if you pay attention to the storage of the paper.  If the paper’s happy, the ink’s apt to last.  The example up that last link has crept through the decades being kept in indifferently ventilated basements.  My wife has her grandfather’s army paybook, with entries in some very whimsical colours (who’d have thought an army doctor would use bright green?), and it was neither made of great paper nor treated like a treasure.  Even when using notionally archival materials, storage can make a lot of difference between a document remaining clear for 700 years, or getting a rather obscure after a mere 250.

In my own archives, to which I repaired when the notion for this entry struck me, I found some entries in my earliest surviving journal (a habit which only became truly habitual about ten years ago, but which I strove to adopt since childhood– it was Captain Kirk’s fault) dated 1995.  Perfectly legible, and I know exactly what ink I was using then.

Quink black.  Cheap.  Not the darkest black known to humankind.  But apparently good enough to last.

Flipping through, getting into what we might nearly call contemporary entries, the same thing.  Even common blues, so long as they’re not “washable” remain and the Quink blue-black may have bottomed out.  So, if it’s just a matter of being able to re-read what you wrote a few years, or even many years ago, don’t panic.  Chose a decent ink and some halfway good paper, and all will be well.

Oh… but don’t use a ballpoint.  That first surviving journal, which encompasses nearly a decade of infrequent entries, includes my shameful dalliance with ballpoints.  Bic black, it was, and now it’s Bic indistinct purple-brown, sinking into the paper to make the other side hard to read.  Sometimes, what we’re recording is the reason behind out prejudices.

Today’s long-lasting pen: Sheaffer Statesman Snorkel
Today’s ink, which I harbour some doubts over: Skrip Turquoise

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