Dr Nicole Volmering

Insular Ink: Some Initial Thoughts on Integrating Ink Analysis into the Study of Insular Manuscripts

What is “insular”? The term “insular” in manuscript studies can invoke a range of particular features, from diminuendo to insular ruling, and from quinions, to “insular black”, associated with manuscript production in the isles. In my view, therefore, insularity is best understood along the lines of cultural typology: a complex network of features contributing to the cultural identity of the type. This perspective also allows us to include cultural and historical dimensions unmistakably part of its identity, such as the mobility of scribes, due to whom books, techniques, and scripts travel, and the inherent questions of nationality and ethnicity associated with the style. In a material sense, however, features specifically associated with insular manuscripts include the insular preparation of the parchment and the occurrence of a distinctively black ink (known as “insular black”). The potential of ink analysis to shed light on the ‘recipe’ and distribution of insular black is obvious, but its study within a specific manuscript may also potentially shed light on its place of origin and its composition, which in turn can be invaluable in the analysis of its textual content. In the remainder of this presentation I presented the preliminary results of UV/VIS/IR and XRF analysis carried out on Trinity College, MS B.10.5 (Pauline Epistles) in collaboration with the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und –prüfung, Berlin, (as well as a few images of UV/VIS/IR analysis carried out on TCD MS 1441, Liber Hymnorum) and highlighted some questions arising from this analysis, such as the prevalence of ink produced without vitriol, non-iron gall inks, and pigment contamination, and raised some challenges for the field going forward.

Dr Nicole Volmering, June 2019 
Friedrich-Alexaner-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

XRF analysis of Trinity College Cambridge, MS B.10.5
XRF analysis of Trinity College Cambridge, MS B.10.5, © Nicole Volmering

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