Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Another Nod to Sepia Ink

Possible that I may finally have found a sepia ink that I can use comfortably on more than just rare occasions. Sepia is a difficult shade of ink, and there are limitations to how far true sepia can be stretched. Different makers have various ideas about what it should look like. Compare Montblanc and Hakase to see different notions of the color. I wrote something about these two sepia inks in a blog post last January 7 called, “Legacy of the Cuttlefish.” At that time I wrote of finding little satisfaction in either the Montblanc or the Hakase sepia, the first too red, the second too pale. Though we associate the color sepia with brown, perhaps an antique brown, the basis of the color is the black we see in the ink of the cuttlefish. It was from this that the first sepia ink was made.

This morning someone gave me a bottle of Athena Sepia ink made by the Japanese stationer, Maruzen. The whole package is antique, to the extent that even the writing on the bottle is read in the old fashioned Japanese style, from right to left. The bottle’s shape is evocative of the 1920s, and the light green box is printed in a way that gives it the appearance of an old patent medicine from grandmother’s day. Receiving the gift, I was immediately impressed by the box and bottle, seeing a connection between presentation and the antiquity of sepia ink. I hurried home eager to give the Athena Sepia a trial.

Removing the cap and looking down into the bottle you get the feeling that it is a rich shade. Somehow it doesn’t have the watery look of other sepia inks. My first experiment was with a Q-tip, and that verified the richness. I then chose a Sailor 1911 Large fountain pen with a 21k ‘M’ nib, and after washing it well, filled it with the Athena Sepia. From the first words on the page I was pleased with the color, and wondered right off if the Iroshizuku blenders at Pilot had meditated upon this Athena sepia in the formulation of their Yama-guri brown. Because that’s what the Athena Sepia is close to, and it is the older ink. They are remarkably close.

In the Sailor 1911, the flow of ink is smooth, and looking closely at the samples, perhaps you will notice the nice shading it produces. Saturation is excellent. I tried it on two different kinds of paper and had good results on both. First I put a Q-tip smear and some lines on a sheet of 100% cotton based Crane stationery; satisfaction all around. No feathering, no bleed through, and not long in drying time. Next I tried a page of thick quality Japanese paper from an old journal. In this case, too I was pleased with the ink’s performance. No feathering, but a very slight bleed through, maybe not enough to count.

No question that from here on out, when the sepia mood strikes me, it’s Athena Sepia ink from Maruzen that will color my pen’s nib.

1 comment:

  1. Found some when in Japan earlier this year and I like it very much too :) The ink was initially made to accompany the limited edition Maruzen pen "Soseki", made by Sailor, named after the famous Japanese writer and modelled on an old Onoto. Thankfully Maruzen commissioned more of the stuff. I've been looking for a substitute that flows less well, for my 1950s MB 146. Will consider Yama-guri. Thanks for the hint!


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America