manuscript lab

Provenance Studies

Case Study: Erfurt Inks

In the course of ink studies of Hebrew and Latin manuscripts from medieval Germany, we have discovered that the inks produced in Erfurt in the 13th and 14th centuries possessed a characteristic fingerprint that might be used to localize and date these manuscripts: their iron gall inks contain an unusually high amount of zinc. Further tests have shown that the characteristic ink appeared as the main ink in many manuscripts copied in Erfurt or as paratexts in those manuscripts that were imported there during the aforementioned time.

X-ray fluorescence spectrum of the main ink: zinc intensity exceeds that of iron by far. (Enlarge)