produce a long lasting indelible ink used for over a thousand years , for writing manuscripts and important documents. Gall ink was the primary source of ink from the 5th century until the 19th when industrial inks were produced. Artists such as De Vinci, Rembrandt, and Van Gough all used gall ink.
It is not difficult to visualise the brethren in the monastery at Ashridge in Medieval times making their own ink for their manuscripts. Gathering the galls from the oak trees on the Estate, crushing them in a pestle and mortar, adding water , iron sulphate and gum arabic to produce a cheap and long lasting ink. The humble gall has shaped the history of western civilisation.
Oak galls are evident on the trees once the leaves have fallen at this time of year. The life cycle of the gall starts in the Spring when the gall wasp lays an egg in the oak catkin which causes a profound change in the way the tree grows – it hijacks the tree’s growth for it’s own ends. It induces a kind of tumour to grow in place of the acorn. Inside the gall a grub develops feeding on the nutritious tissues within, while being given shelter from enemies. This bizarre structure is the perfect nursery for the emerging wasp to complete it’s life cycle.