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ON THE PREPARATION
Printing Ink of a rich and durable tone, and of a superior quality, is so essential to the appearance of an elegant book, that it is impossible for any Printer to produce a splendid work, even with all the skill and improved knowledge of the present times, except he be provided with such an article.
The want of this superior article has been severely felt by numerous Printers who aspired to rank with the few who had obtained preeminence in this art; but they invariably failed in their endeavours, although in their profession possessed of skill, the best materials, and an anxious desire to rival the beautiful productions which issued from the presses of Bensley and of Bulmer, of Davison, Whittingham, &c.
The real grievance was, that there was not any good Printing Ink to be purchased; and after procuring the best that could be obtained, and bestowing the utmost care and skill upon their work, and making it look of a very superior character when first printed, they had the mortification to find, after a few months had elapsed, that the Ink turned brown, the edges of the letters and the back of the page were stained yellow, owing to the oil in the Ink having separated from the colouring matter, and that it thus disfigured the paper, and destroyed the beauty of their work and of the book; while the productions of those few who had raised themselves to eminence in the art remained unchanged, preserving all their pristine beauty.
The principal cause of this eminence was the superior quality of the Ink they used, which they prepared themselves, and kept the method of so doing a profound secret, which they guarded with the utmost care and strictness, and thus preserved the monopoly of fine printing in their own hands.
At the time that I am speaking of, the production of Macklin's Bible, Bowyer's History of England, and Boy dell's Shakspeare — which were exertions to rival and excel the famed typographical works of Bodoni at Parma, and Didot at Paris—so greatly surpassed any thing that had previously proceeded from the English press, as to have induced a great spirit of emulation to improve printing generally in England, which then consisted of two kinds only — the commonest and the finest that could be produced. Other causes also combined to strengthen this spirit; namely, the increased diffusion of knowledge by the institution of Sunday Schools, and the introduction of Bell's and of Lancaster's systems of education, which increased the number of readers, increased the demand for books, increased the number of printers to meet that demand, and consequently increased that emulation to enable them to enter into competition with those who had obtained a great name in the art. Another cause also operated to produce an improvement in printing—the Act of the thirty-ninth of George the Third, Chapter seventy-nine, for the Suppression of Seditious Societies, obliged every printer to affix his name and address to what he printed; thus those who exerted themselves to produce neat work came conspicuously before the public, while it stimulated the slovenly and careless to exert themselves in order to preserve their business, and equal their active competitors.
But, as I have previously observed, tlj£ want of good Printing Ink was a serious drawback on these exertions towards a general improvement of the art of printing; for although the few Ink makers by profession endeavoured to improve the article, yet either from a want of knowledge of the qualities that were required, or of the properties of the ingredients or the process of compounding them, or of all these qualifications together, it is an undoubted fact that their improvements did not equal nor even keep pace with the skill of the printer in his manipulations. I have been continually for many years in^he habit of looking at printing at the press side, which has appeared of a superior quality; but when I have examined the same sheets after a lapse of one or two years, the beauty of the printing had disappeared; the Ink had acquired a brown colour, and the paper, to the size of the printed page, by reason of the oil being imperfectly prepared, was stained of a dirty yellowish brown colour, and thus all the skill, expence, and care, bestowed on the workmanship were rendered of no avail.
Yet it would be unfair to the manufacturers of Printing Ink to assert that no improvement in the article has taken place; for as their number increased, it caused competition and excited a spirit of emulation among them, that has certainly been the means of improving the Ink of commerce; but still, as I have just observed, it has not kept pace with the general improvement in the art of printing.
Even the limited knowledge that is possessed by the very few manufacturers of this article of the properties required in its composition, is carefully guarded as a profound secret; so that the printer who may be desirous of having Ink of a very superior quality is not able to form it de novo, for want of information on the subject, but is obliged to take the Ink of commerce as a foundation to work upon, and improve that which he thus tacitly .acknowledges is of an inferior quality, and to attempt to change that which is bad inherently to excellence :—the thing is impracticable.
It is my intention, in the following pages, to endeavour to supply this desideratum in the art of printing, for, except in my work on Decorative Printing, there are no directions published by which Ink can be made which the workmen of the present day could use, on account of the despatch that is required. The Ink made by any of these directions would invariably clog up the type in a few impressions, and the form would have to be brushed over with lie repeatedly, and washed and dried,