Iron Gall Ink: Conservation challenges and research

Iron Gall Ink

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Find out how conservators are treating manuscripts at risk of being destroyed by their own writing

Iron gall ink, the chemistry of which can attack the underlying paper or parchment, is found in many historic documents, from illuminated manuscripts to personal correspondence; formal maps to impromptu sketches. However, this ink is a potential ‘enemy within’ as its chemistry means that over time it may attack the underlying paper or parchment, weakening the material and causing areas of text to be damaged or lost.

The work of conservators is vital in identifying vulnerable items and intervening when necessary. Using visual examples, Zoe Miller and Paul Garside will examine the historic use of this ink, including the influence of different recipes and writing implements on its properties, and explore how the alchemy of its ingredients can cause it to corrode and irreversibly damage the paper or parchment on which it is written. They will illustrate the range of treatments that are currently used in the Conservation department to address this problem - some traditional and some very modern - as well as the ongoing research to develop new approaches. This talk will demonstrate one of the many ways in which conservators help to safeguard the British Library collection and ensure its survival for future generations.

Please bring your packed lunch. Tea, coffee and cake will be provided.


Name: Iron Gall Ink: Conservation challenges and research
Where: Knowledge Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
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When: -
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546