A Recipe for Iron Gall Ink

Oak Galls
Oak Galls by Roesel von Rosenhof

A Recipe for Iron Gall Ink

Welcome, brother, to my shed –
Brewing up the liquid words for countless books and scrolls,
Here is where we make the very thing that feeds our souls

First, we need the oak trees –
The abbey’s woods are growing us a thousand-fold or greater –
Pollarding is fine, and they can serve for timber later.

Next we need the gall wasps –
They lay their eggs within the buds, or else beneath the leaves –
Diff’rent wasps lay diff’rent eggs, but each invades and reaves.

Wait – but not too long –
The oak responds by swelling apples where the larvae hide –
The better galls are small and dark, with maggots still inside.

But leave the largest one-in-ten –
We need those wasps to hatch, and grow, and drill, and crawl away –
And only then, they’re homes are gathered, when they’re lighter grey.

Next there comes the vitriol –
Seeping out of iron mines, collected and evaporated,
Iron scraps are added-in until its sharp is sated.

Then there comes gum arabic –
The bled-out gold acacia-sap is dried, and sold for quite a cost –
The abbey cannot grow them, though – they do not like our frost.

Pestle each ingredient –
Steep the galls in brandywine until it’s brown and dark,
Then slowly stir in vitriol to blacken-up the bark.

Now our secret: powdered eggshell !
This is what the other monks of other abbeys never gauge,
And this is why their manuscripts have eaten through the page –

Filter out the sediment –
First with cheesecloth, then with sponge – and drain into a drum,
Then add a little charcoal dust, and thicken with the gum.

Pour to airtight bottles –
And there you have it: ink aplenty, flowing over vellum –
Anything they need to know, our ink can surely tell ’em !

This should last the year,
As the inkwells drain so slowly, dip-by-dip, in tiny rills –
But even this will only feed so many thirsty quills.

The blood of our society –
With which our brothers circulate the words from eye-to-eye,
And we must keep their ink-horns full, or else the words will dry.

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