Encyclopedia of Scientific Dating Methods

2015 Edition
| Editors: W. Jack Rink, Jeroen W. Thompson

Ancient Inks: A Forensic Art Historical Perspective

  • Howell G. M. EdwardsEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-6304-3_210


Ink: A colored, usually liquid, material used for writing which is applied with a brush, stylus or pen to a variety of surfaces such as paper, papyrus, parchment, vellum or fabrics.

Inks have been used to record events and data in documentation and for the decorative arts since 2700 BCE; a description of the different types of ink used historically for nearly 5,000 years will be followed by a survey of analytical information available based on their chemical composition which can provide a chronological assessment. In conclusion, analytical case studies are presented briefly of two important historical manuscripts, namely, the Vinland Map, which purportedly was drawn in the early fifteenth century and shows the northeastern coast of North America some 60 years before the voyage of Columbus, and the Voynich Manuscript, a mysterious historiated fifteenth-century herbal which has thus far defied translation and which has been termed the most enigmatic ancient manuscript in...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Ball, P., 2001. Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour. London: Viking/Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  2. Barabe, J. G. 2009. Materials Analysis of the Vinland Map: A Report to the Curator of Modern European Books and Manuscripts, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscripts Library, Yale University, USA, pp. 1–6.Google Scholar
  3. Barrow, W. J., 1972. Manuscripts and Documents: Their Deterioration and Restoration. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press.Google Scholar
  4. Baynes-Cope, A. D., 1974. The scientific examination of the Vinland Map in the research laboratory of the British Museum. Geographical Journal, 140, 208–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Berrie, B. H. (ed.), 2007. Artists’ Pigments: A Handbook of Their History and Characteristics. Oxford/New York/Washington: National Gallery of Art/Oxford University Press, Vol. 4.Google Scholar
  6. Birren, P., 1965. History of Colour in Painting. New York: Van Nostrand/Reinhold.Google Scholar
  7. Brown, K.L., and Clark, R.J.H., 2002. Analysis of Pigmentary Materials on the Vinland Map and Tartar Relation by Raman Microprobe Spectroscopy. Analytical Chemistry, 74, 3658–3661.Google Scholar
  8. Brunelli, R. L., and Crawford, K. R., 2003. Advances in the Forensic Analysis and Dating of Writing Ink. Springfield: C.C. Thomas.Google Scholar
  9. Bulska, E., and Wagner, B., 2004. The study of ancient manuscripts exposed to iron-gall ink corrosion, Chapter 17. In Janssens, K., and van Grieken, R. (eds.), Non-Destructive Micro-Analysis of Cultural Heritage Materials. Dordrecht: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  10. Cahill, T. A., Schwab, R. N., Kusko, B. H., Eldred, R. A., Moeller, G., Dutshke, D., and Wick, D. L., 1987. The Vinland Map re-visited: new compositional evidence on its inks and parchments. Analytical Chemistry, 59, 829–833.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cradock, P., 2009. Scientific Investigation of Copies, Fakes and Forgeries. Oxford: Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann.Google Scholar
  12. D’Imperio, M. E., 2012. The Voynich Manuscript: An Elegant Enigma. Seattle, USA:CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. Amazon.com.Google Scholar
  13. de Pas, M., and Flieder, F., 1976. History and prospects for black manuscript inks. In Broumelle, N., and Smith, P. (eds.), Conservation and Restoration of Pictorial Art. London: Butterworths.Google Scholar
  14. Delage, E., Grange, M., Kusko, B., and Menei, E., 1990. Apparition de l’encre metallogallique en Egypte a partir de la Collection de Papyrus du Louvre. Revue d’Egyptologie, 41, 213–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Donahue, D. H., Olin, J. S., and Harbottle, G., 2002. Determination of the radiocarbon age of the parchment of the Vinland Map. Radiocarbon, 44, 45–52.Google Scholar
  16. Eastaugh, N., Walsh, V., Chaplin, T., and Siddall, R., 2004. Pigment Compendium: A Dictionary of Historical Pigments. Oxford: Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann.Google Scholar
  17. Edwards, H. G. M., Nik Hassan, N. F., and Middleton, P. S., 2006. Anatase: A pigment in ancient artwork or a modern Usurper? Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, 384, 1356–1365.Google Scholar
  18. Feller, R. L. (ed.), 1996. Artists’ Pigments: A Handbook of Their History and Characteristics. Oxford/New York/Washington: National Gallery of Art/Oxford University Press, Vol. 1.Google Scholar
  19. Fitzhugh, E. W. (ed.), 1997. Artists’ Pigments: A Handbook of Their History and Characteristics. Oxford/New York/Washington: National Gallery of Art/Oxford University Press, Vol. 3.Google Scholar
  20. Gettens, R. L., and Stout, G. L., 1942. Painting Materials: A Short Encyclopaedia. New York: D. Van Nostrand.Google Scholar
  21. Harley, R. L., 1982. Artists’ Pigments, 1600–1835. London: Butterworths Scientific.Google Scholar
  22. Kennedy, G., and Churchill, R., 2004. The Voynich Manuscript: The Unsolved Riddle of an Extraordinary Book which has Defied Interpretation for Centuries. London: Orion Books.Google Scholar
  23. La Porte, G. M., and Stephens, J. C., 2012. Analytical techniques used for the forensic examination of writing and printing inks. In Kobilinskiy, L. (ed.), Forensic Chemistry Handbook. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, pp. 225–248.Google Scholar
  24. Lee, D., 2007. Nature’s Palette: The Science of Plant Color. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. McCrone, W. C., 1988. The Vinland Map 1988. Analytical Chemistry, 60, 1009–1018.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. McCrone, W. C., 1999. The Vinland Map 1999. Microscope, 47, 71–74.Google Scholar
  27. McCrone, W. C., and McCrone, L. B., 1974. The Vinland Map ink. Geographical Journal, 140, 212–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Proost, K., Janssens, K., Wagner, B., Bulska, E., and Schreiner, M., 2004. Determination of localised Fe2+/Fe3+ ratios in inks of historic documents by means of micro-XANES. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research B, 213, 723–728.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Reissland, B., 2002. Iron gall ink corrosion – progress in visible degradation. In Mesh, J. A., and Tennent, N. H. (eds.), Contributions to Conservation. London: James & James, pp. 113–118.Google Scholar
  30. Reissland, B., and de Groot, S., 1999. Ink corrosion: comparison of currently used aqueous treatments for paper objects. In Preprint from the 9th Ink Congress of IADA, ed. M.S. Koch, Royal Academy of Fine Arts School of Conservation, Copenhagen, Denmark, Nilsen Bogtryk, Copenhagen. pp. 121–129.Google Scholar
  31. Rouchon-Quillet, V., Bernard, J., Wattiaux, A., and Fournes, L., 2004. The impact of gallic acid on iron gall ink corrosion. Applied Physics, 79, 389–392.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Roy, A. (ed.), 1993. Artists’ Pigments: A Handbook of Their History and Characteristics. Oxford/New York/Washington: National Gallery of Art/Oxford University Press, Vol. 2.Google Scholar
  33. Seaver, K. A., 1998. The Frozen Echo: Greenland and the Exploration of North America, ca. AD1000 – 1500. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Seaver, K. A., 2004. Maps, Myths and Men. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Senvaitiene, J., Beganskiene, A., Tautkus, S., Padarauskas, A., and Kareiv, A., 2005. Characterization of historical writing inks by different analytical techniques. Chemiya, 16, 34–38.Google Scholar
  36. Skelton, R. A., Manston, T., and Painter, G. D., 1965. The Vinland Map and the Tartar Relation. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Thompson, D. V., 1956. Materials and Techniques of Mediaeval Painting. New York: Dover Publications.Google Scholar
  38. Thompson, J. C., 1996. Manuscript Inks: A Personal Exploration of Materials and Modes. Portland, OR: Caber Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Chemical and Forensic Sciences, School of Life SciencesUniversity of BradfordBradfordUK