Understanding what gives illuminated manuscripts their vibrant colours gives an insight into the technology of book manufacture. The challenge is analysing the pigments on the page without damage or even touching the manuscripts.
At the University of Durham we have developed Raman and optical reflectance spectrometers that allow the identification of pigments under conservation-safe conditions.
'Look but don't touch' – simple rules for the analysis of precious medieval manuscripts. Team-Pigment, a multidisciplinary team of chemists, historians and conservators, have developed instrumentation that allows the analysis of pigments on the page in a non-damaging way. The key techniques are optical reflectance spectroscopy and multi-spectral imaging, where a whole page can be analysed and pigment use mapped in the blink of a camera shutter. More precise complementary analysis is achieved through the use of Raman spectroscopy, a method in which a laser is shone on the page and the scattered light analysed to forensically identify the material.
Normally this type of equipment is restricted to the research laboratory, and a major hurdle is the inability to move books to laboratory facilities. To overcome this challenge Team-Pigment have built mobile instruments that can be moved in a small suitcase, that can be set up and ready to run in half-an-hour but still match the performance of the research instrument. This allows the team to visit libraries to look at a wide range of books, enabling a comprehensive study manuscripts to be made.
A buffet will be served half an hour before the commencement of the lecture.