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Jacques Herbin – Violet boréal La Société Herbin, Maître Cirier à Paris, was established in 1670. This makes J. Herbin probably the oldest name among European ink makers. Today, Herbin produces a range of beautiful fountain pen and calligraphy inks, writing instruments, gift sets and accessories. Herbin inks are made in France, and the finishing touches on the bottles are still done by hand in Paris. Like so many others, the company jumped on the premium product bandwagon, and started to release higher-end inks under the Jacques Herbin “Les encres essentielles” label. Nicer boxes, nicer packaging, much higher price (18,50 EUR versus the 7,50 EUR for the J. Herbin inks from the “La perle des encres” series). Nevertheless, I couldn’t resist and decided to test these new inks – are they really better than the standard J. Herbin inks? In this review, I take a closer look at Violet boréal, a violet purple with a spring-time feel to it. A wet and well-saturated ink, that works with all nib sizes. There is some nice shading, especially in drier pens. With a wet pen, the ink has a serious tendency to oversaturate, drowning out the shading. With Violet boréal, I recommend using a dry pen – it will definitely enhance the ink’s appearance on the page. The ink has quite satisfactory lubrication, even in drier pens like my Lamy Safari. With my wetter Pelikan pens the ink is actually too saturated for my taste, it loses its depth and becomes one-dimensional, diminishing its appeal. With stronger saturation, the colour also shifts from a light violet to a much darker purple. Violet boréal has a medium colour span that ranges from a light violet to a darker violet-purple. Contrast between light and dark parts is fairly low, which translates to subtle shading. To illustrate this, I did a swab on 52 gsm Tomoe River paper where I really saturated portions of the paper with ink. This clearly demonstrates the ink’s colour span. On the smudge test – rubbing text with a moist Q-tip cotton swab – there was lots of smearing. The text itself remains very readable though. Water resistance is fairly low. There remains some text on the page, and with lots of patience you might be able to reconstruct your writing. But if this aspect is important to you, simply choose a different ink. The ink’s chromatography suggests that some ink remains on the paper, but that’s only partly true: what remains on the page is a smudgy mess, not easily readable text. Drying times for this Jacques Herbin ink are around the 10 second mark with my Lamy Safari M-nib. The ink prefers the better-quality paper in my test set. With lower quality paper, I see a small amount of feathering, and quite some see-through with a bit of bleed-through. But overall, the ink behaved really well. Violet boréal looks good on both white and creamy paper. One thing to note is that this ink’s colour is crazy difficult to capture. Scans show it too blue-violet – while in reality it’s more a red-violet. And the photos show it darker than it appears in real life. To my eye, the photos are closest to its real-life appearance. I’ve tested the ink on a wide variety of paper – from crappy Moleskine to high-end Tomoe River. On each scrap of paper I show you: An ink swab, made with a cotton Q-tip 1-2-3 pass swab, to show increasing saturation An ink scribble made with a Lamy Safari M-nib fountain pen The name of the paper used, written with a Lamy Safari B-nib A small text sample, written with the M-nib Lamy Safari The source of the quote, written with my F-nib Yard-o-Led Viceroy Drying times of the ink on the paper (with the M-nib Safari) Since scans alone don’t tell the complete story, I’ve added some photos of the same writing samples to give you another view on the ink. Writing with different nib sizes The picture below shows the effect of nib sizes on the writing. All samples were written with a Lamy Safari, which is typically a dry pen. I also added a visiting pen – a wet-writing Yard-o-Led Viceroy with F-nib. With the wet pen, the ink leaves a very saturated violet-purple line, and loses much of the shading. I personally prefer this ink in combination with a dry pen – it simply looks nicer: a light-violet with subtle shading. The wetter the pen, the darker and more one-dimensional the ink becomes. Related inks To allow for a good comparison with related inks, I employ my nine-grid format, with the currently reviewed ink at the center. Each grid cell shows the name of the ink, a saturation sample, a 1-2-3 swab and a water resistance test – all in a very compact format. Callifolio Violet from L’Artisan Pastellier looks fairly close – I might do a shoot-out between these two in the near future. Inkxperiment – multiverse As a personal challenge, I try to create interesting drawings using only the ink I’m reviewing. With these monochromatic pieces, I get to explore all the colour-range nuances that are present in the ink. And I really enjoy creating these little pieces – pure quality time spent with my hobby! Inspiration for this painting comes from an astronomy book I’ve been reading lately, which also covered the concept of a multiverse. This somehow stuck in my head, and I used it as the concept for this drawing. For this drawing I used a textured Fellowes binding cover. I started by painting the different quadrants using a piece of cardboard and pure Violet boréal. The world circles were created with a small glass bottle: I dipped the bottom of the bottle in ink, and used it as a stamp to create the circles. I next painted in the scenes using water-diluted ink. For the stardust in the background, I splashed some ink on the paper with a toothbrush. I finally added some extra detail to the world circles using a glass dip pen. The resulting piece gives you an idea what can be achieved with Violet boréal in a more artistic setting. Conclusion Jacques Herbin Violet boréal is a good-looking violet that I find quite enjoyable. But… you really need a dry pen to make the best of this ink. With wet pens, the ink tends to over-saturate, shows a too dark violet-purple colour, and becomes really one-dimensional. I don’t like the ink in that incarnation (my opinion of course). Overall not a bad ink. But, for a so-called premium product, I had higher expectations. Technical test results on Rhodia N° 16 notepad paper, written with Lamy Safari, M-nib Backside of writing samples on different paper types