Who Invented Ink?

For years man had been carving into clay, stone, or wood to write a record of his life and experiences. But when ink and paper came, it revolutionized writing for all time. They are still in use today. Thus, it’s interesting to know who invented ink.

Egyptians or Chinese?
Many say it was the Egyptians who invented ink. They also say paper was invented by an Egyptian, because “paper” comes from the word “papyrus” which grew abundantly in the Nile region. But recorded history shows that both writing implements—paper and ink—were invented by Chinese men. The paper inventor was T’sai-Lun and the ink inventor was Tien-Lcheu.

Egyptians are often deemed the first users of ink. And that an Egyptian was who invented ink. This is because of the common notion that paper was invented by an Egyptian. True, papyrus was in wide use in Egypt for writing in early times. But they used stylus to carve figures on papyrus instead of black ink. Stylus is a pointed thin rod. Ink was first applied using a brush made of bird’s feather. With this invention, the ink inventor simplified writing and made it so convenient.

From Gelatin and Oil
He probably got tired of having his hand and fingers denting out marks on wood, stone, or papyrus. In 2607 B.C., Tien, a great thinker being a philosopher, simplified writing. He formulated a dark liquid for marking on stones and papers. He took soot from pine wood then mixed this with oil used in lamps. Tien made gelatin out of the skin of a donkey and musk. He mixed this with the soot and oil.

By 1200 B.C. this black liquid writing implement became popular and other people developed it further by mixing natural dyes. Some applied different colors they took from minerals and plants like berries. This was all made possible because of the breakthrough provided by the man who invented ink.

Later, gum, nutgalls, and iron-salts were added to the formula. This became the standard recipe for generations to come. It provided for a more stable ink type. In 105 A.D. paper of wood-fiber was invented. It was found to be the perfect partner for ink writing. The writing duo became popular overseas, first in Japan. Gradually they reached the shores of Europe and other parts of the world.

Tien, the ink inventor, probably didn’t realize what his soot, oil, and gelatin writing concoction had made possible. It had opened a new door for literacy for countless generations, even up to our modern computer age.