6. Analysis of the Illuminations Using Raman Microscopy

In a joint project with the Christopher Ingold Laboratories, Department of Chemistry, University College London, the pigments used for decorating the King's copy of the Gutenberg Bible have been examined using a technology called Raman Spectroscopy.

A blue azurite crystal (taken using x50 magnification)
A blue azurite crystal (taken using x50 magnification)

A preliminary result shows that the palette is comprised of vermilion, lead tin yellow (type 1), carbon black, azurite, malachite, verdigris, chalk, gypsum and lead white. This seems to be in agreement with pigments indicated in contemporary descriptions of methods of illumination. One pigment could not be identified, specifically the organic dark red/purple colour used for the foliage. The palette of the King's copy of the Gutenberg Bible has been compared with those observed in the copies held at Lambeth Palace, Eton College, Bibliothèque Mazarine, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Universitäts- und Staatsbibliothek in Göttingen, and Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin.

There are great similarities in the use of pigments. Though the style of the illuminations observed in the Lambeth Palace copy is very luxurious and uses more gold, the range of other colours is more restricted than the copies decorated in Germany.

We are extremely grateful to the libraries that have cooperated on this project.

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