One of the first things that gets drummed into you when you’re authorised to conduct legal marriages is that you must ensure that the Marriage Schedule is signed in ‘permanent black liquid ink’.
Fair enough you might think, but what does that actually mean? Does it mean ‘indelible’ ink? Indelible means a mark that cannot be removed, something that is permanent and unfading. One thing it must surely mean is that you have to use black ink, but it seems not.
There are quite a lot of ‘permanent black liquid inks out there’ so it’s a bit confusing. The intriguing answer is best illustrated by the birth certificate of a certain George Alexander Louis of Cambridge… but it looks blue, doesn’t it?
That’s because it’s a real ink, made from oak galls, the kind of ink used by the monks who illustrated all those beautiful mediaeval manuscripts, and artists like Leonardo da Vinci.
It’s dark blue when it goes on, but the colour changes over time to a very dark grey.
If you’re getting married, then the person conducting your legal wedding will bring their own fountain pen, filled with ‘permanent black liquid ink’, so you probably don’t need to worry about it, but it’s worth asking them what kind of pen and ink they are using.
If you’re conducting legal weddings, then you need the one called – perhaps unsurprisingly – Registrars Ink. The only place I have managed to find it is here, at The Writing Desk.
It’s made by a company in Liverpool called Diamine, and they’ve been going since the late 19th century when I suspect the market for ink was a bit bigger than it is today.
I will always bring a pen with the right kind of ink, so you don’t need to worry about that. But if you do like the idea of putting pen to paper, as we all did in the pre-digital era, you know where to go to find the ink with which to fill it!