Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Writing of the Illiterate Lombards

  Right, I promised some more paleography, so here it is. As I have been discussing paleographical nomenclature recently, particularly with regard to the ill-named National Hands, I thought I would fill in a small hole by adding a script sample for a predecessor of, or an early form of, Beneventan minuscule of southern Italy. Some paleographers in the past have called this script Lombardic, even though the Lombards mainly hung out in the north of Italy and were probably illiterate. Others have called it snappy names like scriptura latina minuscula antiquior. It is mainly interesting for its horrendous ligatures. There is probably not a single example of it in captivity that has not already been transcribed by some erudite scholar, so don't panic. Just enjoy.

   On the ongoing ink discussion H. Doug Matsuoka has come up with something intriguing from the web as usual. Trouble is, I don't think that reference he has given us could be classified as a medieval ink recipe; more of a modern kitchens ink recipe. The vinegar in that is for dissolving steel wool into iron acetate salts and the tannic acid is derived from tea, not oak galls. Same underlying notion, but different methodology. However, his reference led me to Monastic Ink: linking chemistry and history which is a description of a high school science project to make iron gall ink, complete with some details of the underlying chemistry. I love the linkage here. Our high school science projects always seemed so abstract and tied to the laboratory rather than the outside world. Come to think of, so did my entire chemistry degree. In that article it is claimed that in the 16th century they started getting their iron salts by putting nails in sulphuric acid, so that is a bit closer to the steel wool method.


medievalpaint said...

Hi Diane,

per my comment on the other inky thread, Jean Le Begue recorded an ink recipe using vinegar in the late 14th/early 15th century.


H. Doug Matsuoka said...

Aloha Dianne,

I'm thinking your web searches have brought you to this site, but I mention it just in case. It's the Iron Gall Ink website, although the URL reveals a somewhat less friendly title:


Dianne said...

Yes Doug, that website replaces one that used to be called the Iron Gall Ink Corrosion Website, but unfortunately it doesn't seem to be complete, and doesn't have all the historic recipes for ink. The scarey title came from the fact that it was originally concerned with issues of conservation, as the ink chomping up the parchment is a serious issue for conservators. It isn't only oldfashioned laser disks that go phut! I have bookmarked an Internet Archive version of the original for those who like a bit of historical re-enacting in the "Inks and Colourings" section of my website, along with some other recipes. (