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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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The ink of the ancients was not so fluid as ours. Demosthenes reproaches AEschines with labouring in the grinding of ink, as painters do in the grinding of their colours. The substance also found in an inkstand at Herculaneum, looks like a thick oil or paint, with which the manuscripts there have been written in a relievo visible in the letters, when you hold a leaf to the light in a horizontal direction. Such vitriolic ink as has been used on the old parchment manuscripts would have corroded the delicate leaves of the papyrus, as it has done the skins of the most ancient manuscripts of Virgil and Terence, in the Vatican library; the letters are sunk into the parchment, and some have eaten quite through it, in consequence of the corrosive acid of the vitriolic ink, with which they were written. The inkhorn is also mentioned in Scripture: "And one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer's inkhorn by his side," Ezekiel 9:2 .

The eastern mode and apparatus for writing differs so materially from those with which we are conversant, that it is necessary particularly to describe them. D'Arvieux informs us that "the Arabs of the desert, when they want a favour of their emir, get his secretary to write an order agreeable to their desire, as if the favour were granted; this they carry to the prince, who, after having read it, sets his seal to it with ink, if he grants it; if not, he returns the petitioner his paper torn, and dismisses him. These papers are without date, and have only the emir's flourish or cypher at the bottom, signifying the poor, the abject Mohammed, son of Turabeye."

Pococke says, that "they make the impression of their name with their seal, generally of cornelian, which they wear on their finger, and which is blackened when they have occasion to seal with it." The custom of placing the ink-horn by the side, Olearius says, continues in the east to this day. Dr. Shaw informs us, that, among the Moors in Barbary, "the hogas, that is, the writers, or secretaries, suspend their inkhorns in their girdles; a custom as old as the Prophet Ezekiel, Ezekiel 9:2 ." And in a note he adds, "that part of these inkhorns (if an instrument of brass may be so called) which passes between the girdle and the tunic, and holds their pens, is long and flat; but the vessel for the ink which rests upon the girdle is square, with a lid to clasp over it." So Mr. Hanway: "The writers carry their ink and pens about them, in a case, which they put under their sash."

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Ink'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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