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Investigation of the deterioration degree of parchment marked with iron gall inks

Georgia Velivasaki


The study aims at determining the damage extend of parchment in the presence of iron-gall inks under artificial ageing conditions. Samples of parchment from goat skin were marked with two different iron-gall inks prepared according to simple traditional recipes, both containing iron sulfate and Gallic acid, while one of them additionally contained gum. The samples were then subjected to artificial ageing at 80oC in the presence of humidity (RH=80%). For a reliable evaluation of results, reference samples of neighboring parchment areas (no ink, identical ageing conditions) were analyzed in parallel with SEM-EDAX, FTIR and MHT thermal analysis.

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Spectroscopic evidences of transposition of amide A (to 1660 cm-1)on an aged (32 days) sample marked with MK ink and evidence (spectral subtraction) of ink oxidation and/or interaction of ink components with parchment material (peak at 1715 cm-1) are shown.

Credits: Stamatis Boyatzis

1Micro hot table measurements showed a gradual decrease of the shrinkage temperature (Ts) in parchment samples marked with ink containing Arabic gum, as accelerated ageing proceeded. Furthermore, collagen fibers from areas with ink marks presented lower shrinkage temperature than fibers from non-marked areas.


2The experimental results can be summarized in the following points:

  • The discoloration of inks after ageing is due to the oxidation of ferrous in iron gall ink ; Fe(II) →Fe(III) , which colors the ink as it forms a coordination complex with Gallic acid.

  • Encrustations of salts on the surface of the samples can be detected at samples marked with MK ink as well as the ones marked with MN ink.

  • FTIR spectroscopy showed degradation on parchment structure separately and on parchment/ink system, as accelerated ageing proceeded.

  • Hydrothermal stability of parchment was examined by MHT. Samples after 8 days of accelerated ageing contain damaged dehydrated fibres. Additionally, samples marked with inks showed lower physical strength on the fibre structure in comparison to non-marked samples.

Future research

3Further work is under way involving increased sample numbers and statistic elaboration in order to establish a trend between the obtained results and the state of parchment preservation.

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HAINES, B.M., 1999, Parchment: The physical and chemical characteristics of parchment and the materials used in its conservation, Northampton: The Leather Conservation Centre.

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MOZIR, A., GONZALEZ, L., KRALJ CIGIC, I., WESS, T., J., RABIN, I., HAHN O., STRLIC M., 2012, ‘A study of degradation of historic parchment using small-angle X-ray scattering, synchrotron-IR and multivariate data analysis’, Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, vol.402, pp. 1559–1566. Available from:

ODLYHA, M., THEODORAKOPOYLOS, C., DE GROOT, J., BOZEC, L., HORTON, M., 2007, ‘Thermoanalytical (macro to nano-scale) techniques and non-invasive spectroscopicanalysis for damage assessment of parchment’, Improved Damage Assessement of Parchment (IDAP) : assessment, data collection and sharing of knowledge. Research Report No.18, pp.73-87.

VEST M., JACOBSEN J., LARSEN R., 2007, ‘Accelerated ageing: effect of heat and relative humidity’, Improved damage assessment of parchment (IDAP) : Assessment, data collection and sharing of knowledge, Research Report No.18, pp.67-68.

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Electronic reference

Georgia Velivasaki, “Investigation of the deterioration degree of parchment marked with iron gall inks”CeROArt [Online], HS | 2014, Online since 08 September 2014, connection on 06 December 2021. URL:; DOI:

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About the author

Georgia Velivasaki

Georgia Velivasaki is undergraduate student of the Department of Conservation of Antiquities and Works of Art at the TEI of Athens (she finished her studies in June 2014). She has already worked as a conservator at the archeological sites of Dispilio, Ancient Messene and Dikili Tash in Greece, and at the museum of National & Kapodistrian University of Athens. Lately, Georgia Velivasaki has studied the degree of degradation that iron-gall inks cause to parchment manuscripts.

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Licence Creative Commons
CeROArt – Conservation, exposition, restauration d'objets d'arts est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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