Trying Iron Gall Inks - Rohrer and Klingner, Scabiosa

A bit of history

Iron gall ink is a purple-black or brown-black ink made from iron salts and tannic acids from vegetable sources1

As a fountain pen enthusiast, it was pretty interesting to learn about the history and modern incarnations of this particular type of inks.

Both Leonardo’s notebooks and Isaac Newton’s notebooks seemed to have contain writing primarily with iron gall inks, such as the following image from a Leonardo’s notebooks2. It is these “vintage” colouring which initially got me interesting to try iron gall inks as well.

Leonardo writing

It was also pretty interesting to read3 about a recipe for iron gall inks in Newton’s notebooks - Chemistry of Isaac Newton. Then again, it is not all that surprising given that in those days iron gall inks were the common inks people used to write with.

Modern iron gall ink - Rohrer and Klingner Scabiosa

Due to their corrosive nature, pure iron gall inks cannot be used with fountain pens4, but there are modern incarnations of these inks which are milder to both fountain pens and paper. Rohrer and Klingner has two iron gall inks their fountain pen ink lines as of this writing - Scabiosa and Salix. Scabiosa is a dark violet colour and Salix is a blue/black colour.

Since I have plenty of blue and black colours already, I chose Scabiosa to try as the first iron gall type of ink. This is one of the two iron gall inks from the Rohrer and Klingner fountain pen inks range. Since I already have (too) many Blue inks, I thought of trying out the Scabiosa first, which is a dark violet ink.

The pen - Twisby Diamond 580

Given that Scabiosa comes with the advisory that the ink shouldn’t be left too long in the fountain pen, I decided to try the ink with my most frequently used fountain pen in rotation, TWISBI Diamond 580.

There were couple of other reasons I chose this particular pen to partner with Scabiosa.

Twisby Diamond 580 has user replaceble nibs. Thus if something goes wrong I can replace just the nib, which is considerably less expensive than buying a new pen. In fact, I already have an extra medium nib for this model, which is the origianl nib I got with the pen.

Other reason is that Twisby pens are very easy to clean and disassemble5, unlike many piston filler fountain pens from other brands, even though you do not have to remove more than the nib unit for a thorough cleaning.

Writing experience

As for the writing experience, it has been great like all other Rohrer and Klingner inks I’ve tried thus far. This ink definitely smells and writes differntly though, which shows its iron gall heritage in interesting ways.

Scabiosa is on the drier side when it comes to ink flow, but nothing much to complain about. I didn’t experience the feed drying out at all.

Freshly written notes has a noticible smell from other inks from this brand which I’m familiar with. It is not overpowering or offensive though.

This is an ink which’s colouring is quite hard to show in a picture and I’m not even going to attempt it because there are better sources for that, such as,

As noted in these reviews, it has also been my experience that the colouring changes with time pretty quickly. Fresh ink has more violet tones in my own writing, then changing to darker brownish colour as the ink gets oxidized. It is fun just to observe the colour change on freshly written notes, esp. on a fine line of ink where you get to see the lighter shades easily. I found that the inks shading is also sensitive to the paper as well.

All in all Scabiosa is quite a fun ink to try for me thus far.

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