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)Â 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.
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.
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.
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.