Persian recipes: from dyeing paper to black inks

Mandana Barkeshli, Marinita Stiglitz and Sadra Zekrgoo

The investigation of paper dyes and writing inks used in medieval and early modern Persian manuscripts provides an insight into how these exquisite manuscripts were made. Understanding the composition, manufacture and use of these delicate materials, often with a tendency to fade and degrade, is essential to their preservation.

Recipes describing paper dyeing techniques and preparation of inks, like the prized Peacock ink, are recorded in Persian historical sources. They are mostly written in the form of poetry, to aid memorisation of ingredients and processes. They often emphasise the aesthetic connection between the colour of the paper and the ink, as well as the importance of dyeing paper to avoid the harmful effect of white paper to the eyesight.

Recreating the perfect black ink and beautifully dyed paper requires us to lavish hours of work in the attempt to get closer to the techniques of past craftsmen.


A set of 16 plastic tubs containing different shades of dye

Prepared dye baths

Eight sheets of paper dyed in shades of yellow, orange, pink and grey

Dyed paper samples


  • Barkeshli, M. 2016. 'Historical Persian recipes for paper dyes'. Restaurator 37(1): 49-89.
  • Barkeshli, M. 2015. 'Material Technology and Science in Manuscripts of Persian Mystical Literature', Journal of the Manuscript Cultures, Center for the Study of Material Culture, volume 8, pp. 187–215, Hamburg, Germany, ISSN no. 1867–9617.
  • Barkeshli, M. 2008. 'Historical Analysis of Materials Used in Iranian Paper Dyeing Process with Special Reference to the Effect of Henna Dye on Paper based on Scientific Analysis', ICOM Committee for Conservation (ICOM-CC) Preprints, 15th Triennial Meeting, Delhi, India, pp. 255–263, ISBN: 9788184243444.
  • Barkeshli, M. 2003. 'Historical and Scientific Analysis on Sizing Material Used in Iranian Manuscripts and Miniature Paintings', American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC), The Book and Paper Group Annual, vol. 22, 2003, USA, pp. 9–16.
  • Zekrgoo, S. 2014. 'Methods of creating, testing and identifying traditional black Persian inks'. Restaurator 35(2): 133-158.
  • Zekrgoo, S., P. Nel and R. Sloggett. 2017. 'Peacock ink: Investigation into the constituents of the most prised ink of Persia'. Restaurator 38(2): 205-233

Persian recipes


Dyeing paper

Coating paper

Black inks