03 Jul 2022

'Inks and Skins' project visits the Medieval Mile Museum in Kilkenny

'Inks and Skins' project visits the Medieval Mile Museum in Kilkenny

A research team which have carried out an in depth analysis of Kilkenny's Liber Primus Book visited the Medieval Mile Museum this week. 

The Inks and Skins project is part of an interdisciplinary investigation of the materiality of the late-medieval Gaelic manuscript.  Professor Pádraig Ó Macháin, head of the Modern Irish Department at University College Cork, together with Research Assistants, Veronica Biolcati and Anna Hoffmann, carried out the analysis into the medieval book, which is on display in the Medieval Mile Museum’s Kilkenny Room.

The book contains Kilkenny’s civic records, with content dating from 1231 to 1537. It gives an important insight into everyday life in medieval Kilkenny, from the regulation of prices of bread, to social customs in the city. It contains text written by many different scribes over hundreds of years, making it a fascinating record of medieval script-writing techniques. 

The Inks and Skins project, funded by the Irish Research Council Advanced Laureate Award, centres on the investigation of the writing supports and composition of inks and pigments used by the secular scholars who created Gaelic vellum hand-written books between 1100 and 1600.

The Inks and Skins team is investigating the composition of the ink used in the Liber Primus. This will allow them to identify what ingredients were used to make the ink. For example, many medieval scribes used oak gall to make ink - created by grinding growths cut from the trunks of oak trees.

The Inks and Skins team are also examining the pages of the book, made of both sheep and cow skin. The research involves a combination of enhanced visual analysis, multi-spectral imaging, and X-Ray Fluorescence scanning. The project will shed valuable light on the construction process of medieval books and importantly, will allow comparison of medieval book making techniques across the island of Ireland.

You can read more about the project here:

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