05 January, 2011

The Invention of Ink

Ink is something used so much in our world that you may not think much about it, until your ink cartridge runs out.  Ink is needed to help create art and to sign millionaire contracts. Where would we be without ink? And who do we have to thank for this?

There are many debates amongst historians (Really, what else do they have to do?) about who first invented ink. Ink was the natural evolution after humans invented drawing and writing. We could not continue carving on cave walls forever. Can you imagine relaxing on a tropical beach with an umbrella drink and reading a nice cave carving?

Some historians credit the invention of ink and paper to the Egyptians. This claim is because paper has its origin in the word papyrus. The papyrus plant is a wetland sage that was once abundant in the Nile Delta. Recorded history disputes those claims and lays all the credit to the Chinese.

Ink was originally created for marking the surfaces of hieroglyphics that were carved into stone. The first ink was a combination of soot and either animal glue or honey. This ink was invented by Tien-Lcheu, a noted Chinese philosopher of 2697 B.C. It became common throughout China by the year 1200 B.C. Other cultures soon adapted this invention and started adding colors derived from berries, plants, and other minerals. The colors of inks soon had ritualistic meanings attached to them.

As you see, ink has moved a long way from its humble origins. Ink has evolved from the printing press of the industrial revolution to today’s remanufactured printer ink cartridges. In a way you could say that ink has come almost full circle, with the newest biodegradable inks just a modern variation of what Tien-Lcheu first created!

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