The fact that historical archives, libraries, museums, writing workshops and monasteries preserve today medieval manuscripts It is not a question that there have been people who cared to keep them, passing from generation to generation, or to hide them to avoid their destruction.
The material used to write and draw on paper was essential for the writings that have survived to be read, translated and interpreted today.
Getting to know the chemical reaction of the components that made it possible to write on paper and that this writing lasted hundreds of years has been the objective that for months has focused the work of the Medieval History research group ‘Meridies’ from the University of Córdoba, in collaboration with chemists from the Nova University of Lisbon.
This team, led by the UCO professor of Medieval History, Ricardo Cordoba, has carried out the reproduction of five medieval inks using each and every one of the ingredients and methods used in the 15th and 16th centuries to make them.
How did they do it? Analyzing handwritten recipes on ink production after an arduous search work in different parts of the world such as the Episcopal Chancellery of Braga in Portugal, where a recipe from 1464 is kept, the Library of the Faculty of Medicine of Montpellier, with another dated between 1469 and 1480, or the Provincial Historical Archive of Córdoba, dated 1474. Five unpublished documents that have allowed the reproduction of five inks.
Pomegranate fruit peels, galls with which plants defend themselves from the parasites that invade them, caparrosa, water, gum arabic made with animal skin recipes, are some of the ingredients that made up these inks and that the researchers have mixed in quantities, proportions, temperatures and methods exact to those indicated in medieval recipes, and with which it has been possible to reproduce exact inks to those used six centuries ago.
The results of this collaboration between historians and chemists, recently published in the journal Heritage Science, has been a translation of the texts and procedures expressed in the medieval recipes, a manual manufacture following step by step the instructions contained therein, and the analysis of the chemical reaction of these combinations of materials, with the aim of finding the keys for the conservation of written heritage.
By exact reproduction and analysis of inks used in the Middle Ages, researchers can determine which are the best treatments that historical documents should undergo to recover and improve their current state and, above all, to achieve their durability over time.
Hidalgo, RJD; Cordoba, R; Nabais, P; Silva, V; Melo, MJ; Pina, F; Teixeira, N; Freitas, "V New insights into iron-gall inks through the use of historically accurate reconstructions”. Heritage Science (2018).
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