manuscript lab

natural sciences


Our mission is to build a bridge over the ever-growing gap between the humanities and the natural sciences and technology. Material analysis can assist scholars in their work on codicology, paleography, textual criticism and text editing, cataloguing, and the conservation and preservation of manuscripts. To help scholars comprehend the capabilities of the modern technologies, we have prepared this digital handbook of manuscript analysis.

Queries catalogue / tasks

Typology, Classification

In the collections, the tasks involve establishing a common material property in a group of objects and/or sorting the objects according to a common feature. In codicology, determination of the ink type in the codicological description of manuscripts finds ever-growing recognition in manuscript studies.

Case studies

Provenance Studies

Manuscripts often possess characteristic material features that can be correlated with a certain geographic origin, author, scribe, or scriptorium. Here the work focuses on establishing such characteristic features in order to determine the origin of the manuscript.

Case studies

Separation of under- and overtexts (palimpsests, faded, damaged manuscripts, sketches)

The tasks comprise the visualization of invisible texts that were damaged intentionally (palimpsests) or unintentionally (environmental influence).

Case studies

Reconstruction of the history of a manuscript: chronology and “Händescheidung”

In a collaborative effort of palaeographic/codicological and material analysis of a manuscript, we establish correlation between the scribal hands and inks used by the scribes.

Case studies

Authentication, Forgery, Dating

Material analysis alone, especially its non-destructive variety, cannot prove that an object is genuine. The most material analysis can do is to verify that no components have been found that would contradict the assumption of genuineness. In many cases, dating objects reveals forgery. Unfortunately, non-destructive analysis cannot deliver an absolute age of manuscripts. The well-established method of dating by radiocarbon results in a range of absolute ages for organic surfaces such as papyrus, parchment, or textiles.

Case studies


with sampling