The Medieval Minx Looks at Medieval Inks

…and Manuscripts…and Pigments…and Illuminations…and so on and so forth

Interview for Durham MEMSA

Our next seminar will be taken by Louise Garner on 20th November 2017. As usual tea and biscuits will be served at 17:40 with the seminar starting at 18:00. Below we talked to Louise about living abroad, medieval manuscripts, and working between Chemistry and History. Tell us a bit about yourself, where are you from? […]

via Interview with Louise Garner — Medieval and Early Modern Student Association

Parchment: Scraped, Stroked and Bound

Azurite as you write – Making a model manuscript part one

Azurite rock, with malachite and other impurities

So today I have spent a rare old time levigating azurite.

My ultimate mission, which I have already chosen to accept, is to create a model manuscript on parchment, complete with iron gall ink lettering and pigment and dye based illustrations,  possibly with gold illumination. Each pigment or dye used will be as close as possible to that used in medieval scriptoria.  When complete, we’ll be able to use the manuscript to further test our non-invasive pigment identification equipment.

No model manuscript would be complete without

Continue reading “Azurite as you write – Making a model manuscript part one”

Parliamentary parchment

Over the last two years, parchment has proven to be a contentious issue in the UK Parliament. This blog post reconstructs a debate about parchment in the UK House of Commons in April 2016.

via Parchment and Parliament: Vellum making headlines — Dutch Anglo-Saxonist

Dying with Indigo in Harris

Last month I took a ferry to the Western Isles. There is much to say about the wild, bleak beauty of the islands, and their resilient inhabitants, but this is about Harris Tweed and natural dyes. A well-timed tweet from @HTAarchive advised me not to miss a display at the old Drinishader schoolhouse, on Harris. […]

via A Harris Way of Life — Isabella Whitworth

Dyes from nature and how to identify them in manuscripts

Where did the medieval painters find materials for their beautiful artworks? From nature, of course! In contrast to modern artists, who have available thousands of different preparations derived from petroleum, medieval artists had at their disposal only resources from Mother Nature. They therefore needed to rely on their deep knowledge of how to transform this […]

via Colours from nature: the identification of organic dyes in miniature paintings — The Book

Dust Down That Dissertation! (Closer to the apothecary than to God…)

My MA dissertation has been sitting unread since the day it was handed in.  My PhD is in a completely different area, so it hasn’t been revisited. It’s certainly not my magnum opus, or the best dissertation ever written, but it took me a lot of work so I felt that I should do SoMeThInG with it.


The dissertation is roughly 15,000 words written about conception, miscarriage and abortion Continue reading “Dust Down That Dissertation! (Closer to the apothecary than to God…)”

Breastfeeding, arsenic and my PhD

I started my PhD when my daughter was 4 months old. This isn’t the ideal time to start a PhD (which is full time, campus based) but for various reasons which I will blog about another time, that was how it was to be. It’s a Leverhulme funded PhD so I am asked to, and do, treat it like a full time job as far as I can.

Me at my Masters graduation feeding my daughter who was then 4 weeks

One commitment I made to myself and my daughter was that  despite work she would continue Continue reading “Breastfeeding, arsenic and my PhD”

Bone Black and Madder Root

Online shopping! Exciting? Well yes, I do like a good online shop but this morning’s online shop was more interesting than usual, and more tricky, and took a few hours longer than I thought.

As I’m investigating pigments on parchment I needed to order some extra pigments that we don’t have already.  We have lots of Lapis Lazuli (3 types! Plus ultramarine ash which is the residue left after the colour is extracted from the lapis rock.  So 4 types!).  We have plenty Egyptian Blue, Azurite, lots of malachite and other blues and greens.  Some greens are organic – spirulina (blue/green algae) makes a great paint to work with. Lots of orpiment (arsenic based) and other yellows and reds.

However, this morning I ordered bone black (the black char made from roasted bones Continue reading “Bone Black and Madder Root”

Blog at

Up ↑