Ink made to last and fonts that minimize its consumption

Over the past few weeks, I’ve come across a number of interesting inkles about ink.

  1. A team of U.S.-British researchers announced earlier this month that they deciphered previously-illegible scrawling by African explorer David Livingstone, which he made 140 years ago under desperate circumstances using the juice of local berries.  See the image enhancement in this article by New Scientist Tech.  Given the depressing content of Livingstone’s laments, it may be just as well he used ephemeral ink.
  2. The Dead Sea Scrolls, now on exhibit at the Minnesota Science Museum (see this picture, for example), were written with extremely durable black ink (well over 2000 years old!) comprised of lamp black (soot), gum Arabic and flaxseed oil.  According to this Numerica entry on the chemistry of ink a red version was made by substituting cinnabar (mercury sulfide ? – HgS).  That must have been used by the editor overseeing publication of the Scrolls. ; )
  3. suggests that we all save ink by favoring certain fonts over others.  For example Century Gothic* uses 30 percent less ink than Arial.  As a general rule the serif fonts do better than the sans serif ones.  An article by Dinesh Ramde of Associated Press on 4/7/10 reported that a school of 6,500 students, such as the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, can save up to $10,000 per year by switching to an ink-stingy font.  To really make a statement about their support for Earth, UW-GB ought to go with the “holey” ecofont.  However, rather than going to something so ugly, perhaps the best thing for all concerned about going green would be to be prohibited from printing anything and just hand-write what’s absolutely essential to put on paper (or papyrus).
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