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ARTECHNE – Technique in the Arts, 1500-1950


1 - 3 May 2017
Soeterbeeck, Elleboogstraat 2, NL- 5371 LL Ravenstein

Hands-on workshop ‘Ink Making’ by Jenny Boulboullé at WTMC: STS and Art, 2 May – Soeterbeeck, Ravenstein

Science and Art have long been closely intertwined in many ways, and still scientific work and production bears many traces of active and tacit artistic involvement. Of late, STS scholarship has turned to the Arts, not only as object of study but also, and more importantly perhaps, as a domain to learn from and with.

In this three-day residential workshop we ask: do artistic modes of knowledge production and construction pose specific challenges if we study them through the lenses of science and technology studies? And conversely, if we think of STS as itself a way of knowing the world, what can it learn from distinctly artistic ways of knowing and making?

Guided by various guest lecturers, we will take multiple perspectives on art, science and technology, as well as the relationships between them. How have rifts between art and science evolved, and how were and are boundaries both policed and transgressed? Do artistic ways of knowing travel across times and cultures differently than scientific ways? How can we understand past material modes of knowing and experiencing if they are only available in textual sources? How do artistic ways of knowing offer a reflection on scientific ways of knowing? And how do artistic practices and institutions, such as curation and museums, change under the influence of new art forms, the puzzles they bring and the knowledge they require?

Confirmed guest lecturers include Henk Borgdorff, Rob Zwijnenberg, Vivian van Saaze, Michael Guggenheim, Jenny Boulboullé.


Jenny Boulboullé

Art and Science work shop Ink Making, WTMC 2 May 2017

This hands-on reconstruction of early modern writing technologies is devoted to the historical study of science in practice. It provides a connection between historical reconstruction research and STS. Following the lecture on reconstruction as a research method, we will experiment hands-on with a recipe reconstruction for writing technologies, such as ink making. Ink can in fact be considered as a core technology for knowledge making and transmission in the early modern period. Just think about the Dutch Republic of Letters and the diverse ink technologies ranging from common inks, printers’ ink to invisible and vanishing inks that underpin this “Age of secrecy”. Recipes with instruction for ink making were ubiquitous in artisanal recipe books and books of secrets of that period. What has survived came down to us in the form of manuscripts, compilations of collected notes, and print books. These long neglected vernacular how-to texts were immensely popular throughout early modern Europe where they were printed in many editions and circulated in many translations. Only recently historians of science and art have turned to these sources to study the material and embodied aspects of early modern knowledge making practices.

During this hands-on session we will address practical and more fundamental methodological questions, such as: how can we translate an early modern recipe into a feasible protocol for a reconstruction? How important is historical authenticity for a reconstruction? How can a reconstruction be validated and be used to support a historical argument or to ‘manufacture’ a historical fact? We will also address questions concerning aspects of tacit knowledge: How can we investigate embodied experiences of past material cultures or cultures that are not our own? How are human bodies involved in knowledge making and knowledge transmission practices? In what ways can performative and experiential methodologies help us to study past practices? And how can we account for historical and cultural contingencies of sensory experiences? I look forward to getting our hands dirty!


–          It would be great if participants can bring a clean glass container with lid, e.g. an empty jam pot or any other glass jarr, preferably sterilized (i.e. rinsed out with boiling water) to make ink and to take some home.
–          If you have a quill feather or pen, bring it to try out your self-made ink. To make your own quill with a goose feather, see this great quill-cutting video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36h1vt-9sss
–          In preparation for our reconstruction and discussion on Tuesday, see the food-for-thought questions below

We will use two recipes to make ink:

A recipe from 1572 which we also used for a hands-on session during the Making & Knowing Project Paleography Summer school and a recipe from 1646 that my colleague Hannah Lilley shared with me at the Scientiae 2017 conference in Padua where she gave a great presentation on household ink making manuals in early modern England and her reconstruction of a seventeenth-century ink recipe, see her blogpost on MaterialWeb: http://materialwebkent.co.uk/making-ink-part-one/


  1. A) Recipe 1571

Book Containing Divers Sorts of Hands, by John de Beau Chesne and M. John Baildon, and published in 1571 (from irongallink.org and by courtesy of the Making and Knowing Project)

Rules made by E.B. For his children to learne to write bye:

To make common yncke of Wyne take a quart, Two ounces of gomme, let that be a parte, Five ounces of galles, of copres take three, Long standing dooth make it better to be; If wyne ye do want, rayne water is best, And as much stuffe as above at the least: If yncke be to thick, put vinegar in, For water dooth make the colour more dimme. In hast for a shift when ye have a great nead, Take woll, or wollen to stand you in steede; which burnt in the fire the powder bette small With vinegre, or water make yncke with all. If yncke ye desire to keep long in store Put bay salte therein, and it will not hoare. Of that common yncke be not to your minde Some lampblack thereto with gomme water grinde.


  1. B) Recipe 1646

From Thomas Davis’ manuscript compiled over a thirty-year period, now known as the British Library’s Lansdowne 674:

The ink recipe is as follows when transcribed directly from the manuscript (by courtesy of Hannah Lilley):

The 9th of Jan: 1646 ^being Saturday^ I tooke a q[uarte]r of a pint of woorte of the first shutt letting it stand until the evening to settle & then powred out the cleere from the grounde wch cleere wort being a iust quart[e]r of a pint I put into a very cleane earthen pott and put therto half an oz of galls grosly bruised and stirred it very well thrice a day for 3 daies togather. Then upon the 12th day [of January] in the evening being Tuesday I put therto a quarter of an oz of coppas letting it sta and stirred it very well thrice a day for other 3 daies vizt [that is to say] until Friday in the evening at wch time I put into it a quart[e]r of an oz of gome arabick and stirred it very well for other 3 daies. Thrice a day. And now this pr[e]sent Tuesday being the 29th of jan: it is fytt for use.

We will work with these recipes using the following ingredients.


•   white wine

•   ‘woorte’ (wort)

•   galls (= also known as gall apples or gall nuts)

•   Copres (=also known as copperas, green vitriol or iron II sulfate)

•   gum Arabic

•   (optional) vinegar