'Drawing with sepia from the ink sac of the contemporary cuttlefish, sepia officinalis, was already common in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, while the novelty of fossil sepia meant that it was particularly used in drawing fossils. In both cases the ink sacs were dried and ground to a fine powder before being mixed with water and shellac.'
The drawing above was made by Elizabeth Philpot, and shows one of the plesiosaurs discovered by Mary Anning. Her use of fossil sepia ink is recorded in a letter she wrote in 1833 (transcribed below), which includes some interesting details about Mary Anning.
Where Elizabeth Philpot used fossil sepia to draw fossils, Annabel Ralphs has used particular materials to trace the decaying wooden pilings surrounding West Bay:
- Blue Lias, collected from Charmouth; the blue-grey colour is caused by its iron content.
- Silver Point, suggested by drawing with a ring found on a cliff walk at Tyneham.
- Oak Gall Ink which, similar to silver point, darkens over time through oxidization.
[Many thanks to Annabel for providing the text and pictures, and allowing us to use them.]