Sunday 25 August 2019

Exotic but toxic secrets of medieval manuscripts

University College Cork
University College Cork

Ralph Riegel

A new study of medieval Irish manuscripts has revealed the exotic but often highly toxic secrets used by monks and scholars to produce them.

New research by Professor Pádraig Ó Macháin, of University College Cork (UCC), aims to unravel the production mysteries of a host of Irish manuscripts and scrolls.

While the 'Book of Kells' has been subjected to multiple studies over the past 30 years, other later manuscripts have largely been ignored.

Now Prof Ó Macháin has begun a study that aims to determine the materials and chemical compounds used to create these sumptuous masterpieces. Manuscripts from the National Library of Ireland and the Royal Irish Academy are being examined.

Already, the study has found the presence of lead, mercury and arsenic. While these materials delivered exotic colours and were useful in preservation, they were also potentially toxic for the user.

The initial findings of the study will be outlined at a UCC seminar on Thursday.

Irish Independent

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