Table of Substances Used in Making Sympathetic Inks

For writing and for bringing out the writing:

Cobalt chloride, heat.

Cobalt acetate and a little saltpeter, heat.

Cobalt chloride and nickel chloride mixed, heat.

Nitric acid, heat.

Sulphuric acid, heat.

Sodium chloride, heat.

Saltpeter, heat.

Copper sulphate and ammonium chloride, heat.

Silver nitrate, sunlight.

Gold trichloride, sunlight.

Ferric sulphate, infusion of gallnuts or ferrocyanide of potassium.

Copper sulphate, ferrocyanide of potassium.

Lead vinegar, hydrogen sulphide.

Mercuric nitrate, hydrogen sulphide.

Starch water, tincture of iodine or iodine vapors.

Cobalt nitrate, oxalic acid.

Fowler's solution, copper nitrate.

Soda lye or sodium carbonate, phenolphthaleine.

A sympathetic ink is one that is invisible when written, but which can be made visible by some treatment. Common milk can be used for writing, and exposure to strong heat will scorch and render the dried milk characters visible.

The following inks are developed by exposure to the action of reagents:


Upon writing with a very clear solution of starch on paper that contains but little sizing, and submitting the dry characters to the vapor of iodine (or passing over them a weak solution of potassium iodide), the writing becomes blue, and disappears under the action of a solution of hyposulphite of soda (1 in 1,000).


Characters written with a weak solution of the soluble chloride of platinum or iridium become black when the paper is submitted to mercurial vapor. This ink may be used for marking linen, as it is indelible.


Sulphate of copper in very dilute solution will produce an invisible writing, which may be turned light blue by vapors of ammonia.


Soluble compounds of antimony will become red by hydrogen sulphide vapor.


Soluble compounds of arsenic and of peroxide of tin will become yellow by the same vapor.


An acid solution of iron chloride is diluted until the writing is invisible when dry. This writing has the property of becoming red by sulphocyanide vapors (arising from the action of sulphuric acid on potassium sulphocyanide in a long-necked flask), and it disappears

by ammonia, and may alternately be made to appear and disappear by these two vapors.


Write with a solution of paraffine in benzol. When the solvent has evaporated, the paraffine is invisible, but becomes visible on being dusted with lampblack or powdered graphite or smoking over a candle flame.


Dissolve 1 part of a lead salt, 0.1 part of uranium acetate, and the same quantity of bismuth citrate in 100 parts of water. Then add, drop by drop, a solution of sal ammoniac until the whole becomes transparent. Afterwards, mix with a few drops of gum arabic. To reveal the characters traced with this ink, expose them to the fumes of sulphuric acid, which turns them immediately to a dark brown. The characters fade away in a few minutes, but can be renewed by a slight washing with very dilute nitric acid.