This paper explores recipes for ink making preserved in three Syriac alchemical manuscripts. First, I shall provide an analytical description of the scanty material transmitted in two codices kept at the British Library (Egerton 709 and Oriental 1593); then, particular attention will be devoted to a treatise that opens the collection of alchemical writings in the Cambridge MS Mm. 6.29 (15th century AD). This treatise includes several recipes on the making of inks that reveal evident similarities both with the instructions preserved in the Graeco-Egyptian tradition (especially in the so-called Leiden Papyrus) and with early medieval technical handbooks. A selection of Syriac recipes is edited here for the first time and translated and commented on in order to better understand the mechanisms that regulated the transmission of this technical material in Christian Near-Eastern communities.
The aim of this contribution is to present some case studies that highlight the key role played by the replication of recipes in both the Humanities and the Natural Sciences. In particular, I will present instances of how this approach can assist textual criticism, for example in the understanding of variants and errors, and in clarifying the meaning of some terms. By evaluating the feasibility of the recipes, their outcome and their order in the treatises, it is also possible to determine the technical skills of authors and compilers. Finally, the inks produced can be used as a reference for scientific analysis: not only by comparing these data with those obtained from the investigation of manuscripts, but also to assess the limits of the equipment, techniques and protocols used to undertake this investigation.
This paper provides a brief survey of the latest research concerning the types and chemical characteristics of the ink used in the Graeco-Latin papyri from Herculaneum. According to the communis opinio, the Herculaneum inks are no exception to the widespread use of carbon black ink in antiquity. This position has been recently revised on the basis of studies that use X-Ray Phase Contrast Tomography (XPCT) to show a significant presence of lead in the ink of some fragments. This important discovery allows for the possibility of using lead as a contrast agent in order to distinguish the writing from the support in still rolled volumina through exposure to synchrotron light.
In Arabic literary tradition, single ink recipes are scattered in works of different genres, from the alchemical and medical, to those related to calligraphy and penmanship and dedicated to the class of the kuttāb. A handful of treatises stand out for their collection of a significant number of recipes, organized in categories and juxtaposed with other textual sections on different technical crafts. Ranging from the 9th to the 17th centuries and from al-Andalus to Yemen, they show a great fluidity in their transmission, fostered by their fragmented structure in short textual units. This contribution presents a series of case studies highlighting the modalities of formation of these compilations and the literary elements that emerge alongside their technical content. This can only be retrieved and properly interpreted by taking into account their literary dimension, which reflects the cultural context in which these treatises have been generated.
This chapter offers observations and considerations concerning black writing inks encountered in writing supports transmitting documentary and literary texts of the late Antiquity and early Middle Ages. It discusses different types of inks, the methods of their detection and their use in different times and geographical areas.
The Kitāb ʿuyūn al-ḥaqāʾiq wa-īḍāḥ al-ṭarāʾiq (‘The best of true facts and the explanation of their ways’) was composed in the 13th century by Abū al-Qāsim al-ʿIrāqī, best known for his alchemical works. This peculiar handbook counts 30 chapters and includes many different streams of tradition: pseudo-Platonic magic, medicine, pharmacology, sleight of hand, and crafts. This chapter focuses on the recipes for coloured metallic inks and invisible ones (chapters 18 and 23) and provides an edition and a commented English translation of these sections. The kind of edition proposed here — a ‘laboratory-edition’ — is devised as a specific tool for interdisciplinary research on premodern science and technology and as preparatory work for the replication of these recipes.
By dispensing with the need for ink, while simultaneously providing a writing surface that retains plasticity over time, for four millennia wax boards represented the precursors of modern “smart tablets,” and are therefore one of the most relevant media in human history. They consist of one or more ‘leaves’ provided with a recessed frame that holds a beeswax-based mixture on which marks can be scratched or impressed. Today, wax boards are no longer used in everyday life; nevertheless, they provide new and unexpected opportunities for extracurricular learning. This chapter discusses the earliest history of wax boards, as attested in the cuneiform cultures of the Ancient Near East. It compares the boards from this period with those from Classical antiquity and the Middle Ages and subsequently focuses on a cross-disciplinary pedagogical concept for sixth grade classes. It integrates history and chemistry learning by involving the schoolchildren in the “making of science.”
In the procedures described within Greek magical papyri, it is common to find indications about the use of specific inks, usually characterized by the presence of peculiar substances. One such substance is blood, whose use is often interpreted in connection to the symbolic dimension of magic. A perusal of the relevant passages, however, reveals that some instances of “blood” have a different meaning. This paper analyses these formulas in the light of other sources in order to disclose the complicated network of Decknamen (code names) and to unveil the misunderstandings and erroneous inferences that have occurred in the course of their textual transmission.