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July 27, 2008 3:52 PM   Subscribe

In period dramas, I have seen characters, once finished writing a letter in longhand, blow a powder across the surface to make the ink dry faster. What was this substance?

If it's an ordinary powder like flour or talc, I want to start using it. I'm having a problem with smearing ink lately at work.
posted by Countess Elena to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Sand, possibly? I seem to recall reading that somewhere.
posted by orrnyereg at 3:56 PM on July 27, 2008

Best answer: Blotting sand.
posted by katemonster at 3:57 PM on July 27, 2008

It could have been many things, but many printers today use very kind of cornstarch - not necessarily to prevent smearing ink as much as to dry printed paper enough to allow it to stack without casting ink off on surrounding pieces of paper. My father was a publisher and had several printing presses. The downside is that it creates a very big mess; I don't know that you'd end up being happy with it.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 3:59 PM on July 27, 2008

I meant, "very finely-ground kind of cornstarch."
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 3:59 PM on July 27, 2008

Best answer: pounce
posted by Zetetics at 4:04 PM on July 27, 2008

posted by thinkingwoman at 4:19 PM on July 27, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks! Googling "letter ink powder" only got me results about powdered ink.

Looks like I won't get any pounce or blotting sand unless I find a very well-stocked calligraphy shop. I don't want to create a cornstarchy mess at my desk. It's bad enough in the kitchen!
posted by Countess Elena at 4:54 PM on July 27, 2008

John Neal Books is an awesome delivery source. They sell gum sandarac (linked directly above), and a bunch of other things that often threaten to eat my art allowance.
posted by catlet at 5:01 PM on July 27, 2008

When I took an architectural drafting class I used a "pounce bag". They are pretty cheap and less messy. You just lightly tap the bag against the page, and a small amount of pounce sifts through the loose weave of the bag.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:10 PM on July 27, 2008

There is a story about Jonathan Swift. He was in a coffeeshop and someone asked him if he had any sand to blot a letter.

"Pray, sir, have you any sand about you?"

"No, sir, but I have the gravel [that is, kidney stones], and if you will give the letter to me, I'll piss upon it."
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:32 PM on July 27, 2008 [9 favorites]

Making a pounce bag.
posted by adamvasco at 6:28 AM on July 28, 2008

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