All posts by david

Introducing the Bressingham Roll

As part of our continuing collaboration with the Norfolk Record Office, we’ve recently been lent a parchment roll from a bundle in their archives (Call number PHI468,577X9)

The Bressingham Roll as open as possible. The section to the right of the image is stuck together.
The Bressingham Roll as open as possible. The section to the right of the image is stuck together.

The Bressingham Roll as unrolled as possible. The section to the right of the image is stuck together.

The roll is unfit for production in the archives, with the inner portion becoming stuck together.

End view of the parchment roll in rolled up-state.
End view of the parchment roll in rolled up-state.

The ink used in the writing contains both iron and copper, so should have good contrast in X-Ray imaging.

Bressingham Roll – Initial Results

Soon after the Bressingham Scroll arrived, we performed a quick test CT scan to determine the settings needed so we could image both the parchment and any ink on it.

A single slice of the scan is shown here, the ink shows up as brighter patches on the whirls of the parchment.

The end-on single slice view of Bressingham roll shows both the parchment and evidence of ink very clearly.
The end-on single slice view of Bressingham roll shows both the parchment and evidence of ink very clearly.

This was imaged at 30kV with a 200um Al filter and post-processing with in-house developed beam hardening correction software.

Making Iron Gall Ink (Ferrogallic Ink)

As part of some outreach work, one of us (David), visited the conservation department of the

Oak Galls to Ink

Westminster Archives, to assist with making some Iron Gall ink for use in the archives and to take some back to the Apocalypto Project lab for experimentation.

The history of iron gall ink manufacture includes plenty of alchemy, many recipes for ink include (some or all of)  urine, vinegar, blood, resin, wine and spirits. In the modern era we know that the active ingredients and a source of tannins and a source of iron ions.

We decided to standardize upon the following recipe.

Boil 2g of powdered oak galls in 200ml of water for one hour.
While solution is still hot, add 24g of Iron (II) Sulphate.
When all the Iron Sulphate is dissolved, add in 4g Gum Arabic.
Filter the solution and bottle.

Boiling oak galls for ink

Upon adding the Iron (II) Sulphate to the oak gall infusion, a dramatic colour change occurs; the pale orange/brown liquid turns deep blue-black, indicating that the tannins from the oak galls have formed chemical complexes with the iron ions. When all of the iron (II) sulphate dissolves the ink needs filtering to remove insoluble particles.

 

Filtering ink

The whole process took just over three hours, the majority of that time spent filtering the ink, finely powdered oak galls clog filter-papers wonderfully.

Meagen Smith has also written up the ink making adventure.

An Endorsement

This pleasing endorsement of the project arrived from Dr John Alban at the Norfolk Record Office.

Through my colleagues in the Norfolk Record Offices conservation section, I have been following your project with great interest, and we were pleased to provide you with a non-archival, non contextual off-cut on which to experiment. It has been intriguing to see the results of your processes for reading unrolled manuscripts and the way in which they have been improving. The latest example which I have seen has amazing legibility, and I am sure that this process is going to provide archivists and historians with an invaluable means of gaining access to the contents of rolled-up documents which, because of their condition, have hitherto been unreadable.

Yours sincerely,
Dr John Alban

[Posted with kind permission of Dr Alban]

Unrolling the Unreliable

Thanks to the efforts of Meagen Smith studying at Camberwell, the small scroll of parchment from the Norfolk Archives has been successfully unrolled. We can now compare the X-Ray digital unrolling with the until now hidden text.

Unrolled Norfolk Archives parchment

Digitally extracted text from the XMT scanned parchment scroll

It is clear that the extracted text is from the middle portion of the scroll and the text matches perfectly.