Yale University Library Paper Conservator Marie-France Lemay recently presented two workshops in Special Collection and University Archives’ Ken Kesey Classroom on the materials of medieval and early modern books. Lemay presented samples of materials and tools that would have been used by early bookmakers and illuminators from the Traveling Scriptorium, a teaching kit created by Yale’s Beineke Library conservators. These workshops were arranged by Dr. Vera Keller in conjunction with a JSMA lecture on the history of color in the Italian Baroque period.
Lemay provided students from Dr. Vera Keller’s “Global History of Color” and Dr. Nina Amstutz’s “Art and Science” courses with the opportunity to handle raw materials used in historical manuscript production and scribal practices, such as stretched parchment and laid paper used for writing substrates and the ingredients for black iron gall ink (gall nuts from oak trees, green vitriol/iron sulfate, and gum arabic). The workshop also included a mixing demonstration of traditional pigments and inks and discussion of the chemical differences of organic versus inorganic materials and the nature of man-made pigments such as verdigris, produced by exposing copper to acetic acid (vinegar).