manuscript lab


Typology, Classification


Case Study: Inks and Pencils


The qualitative and quantitative investigation of writing materials using micro-X-ray fluorescence analysis (micro-XRF) is a suitable method for classifying different inks and other writing materials such as pencils and colored crayons. Starting from so-called composition fingerprints, it is possible to establish a chronology of the use of writing materials and to distinguish among different scribes.
Three case studies demonstrate the potential of the method: material analyses of several letters of the young Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to his sister Cornelia made it possible to distinguish Goethe’s amendments from those added by his father Johann Caspar Goethe or by his tutor. Further measurements on colored pencils in Friedrich Nietzsche’s notebooks reveal that it is possible to distinguish between notes made by Nietzsche and by his successors. Finally, the analyses of two different pencils used by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe show that it could be possible to differentiate between the sketches he completed before and after 1800 (Hahn et al. 2005).


Differentiation of red pencils with XRF (Enlarge)