INK – The word brings to mind the smell of fresh print on paper, or for those of us who go back further, it’s a reminder of fountain pens and ink bottles. Paper without ink would have little value. And history without ink would be an object of memory.
Ink has helped create humanity’s multiple narratives—the words that should never have been heard were scripted and retained, and the words that have preserved our humanness were transcribed and shared.
The binary reality is in ink’s application and in ink’s production. Colourant or pigment and vehicle are the two components that make ink. Today colourants are mostly inorganic pigments, chemically composed, and vehicles are synthetic, petroleum-based resins, which in 2500. B.C., when the Egyptians and the Chinese developed ink, were lampblack, tree sap, and gum.
Cuttlefish gave us one of the earliest inks, a brown-black dye, from the smokescreen created to confuse its enemies. Saffron, turmeric, and weld gave us a yellow dye. Scarlet came from an Arabian insect called Kermes, and the dye cochineal, which gave us crimson, was extracted from a beetle.
We cloaked ourselves in colours of purity, royalty, fecundity, prosperity, obtained from nature’s offspring and humanity’s benefactors.
Ink and Dye from Kermes, an arabian insect.
Printing methods evolved from woodblock and movable types, and substrates other than cloth—paper, vinyl, plastic films—came into existence. The synthetic era had arrived and it has sustained.
Printers Ink, which was first introduced in 1864, is now a mix of petroleum-based chemicals and solvents.
I tried my best to find an eco alternative in India. I wanted to use ink that was free of hydrocarbons and volatile organic compounds to make biodegradability an organic, natural reality. I got far, but didn’t succeed.
The book is biodegradable, because the paper is – it’s made from recycled cotton fibre. My paper and print partner (Punarbhavaa) has used ink with a soybean base, but they can’t vouch for the ink’s chemical composition. Ink manufacturers do not reveal the facts, and the Environmental Protection Agency and the American Soybean Association grant inks with a 20 percent soybean oil base the status of soy inks.
That’s fine, because I have learned that EnNatura, a startup in New Delhi India, has made biodegradable inks using non-edible vegetable oils. I am hopeful there will be a second book, printed on Punarbhavaa paper using EnNatura’s inks.
For this book, I suggest you recycle it, or send it back to us to recycle, helping us complete the process—from Paper to Print and back to Paper.
I will share our mailing address in one of the following posts.