BPG Iron Gall Ink

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Iron gall ink is a black or brown ink that was in common use from the 5th to the 19th centuries for writing and for artwork. Some formulations of the ink are stable, while others degrade over time and can cause damage or loss to the underlying substrate. High temperature and relative humidity have a negative effect on these aging properties. Iron gall ink is also referred to as iron-gall ink.

The Iron Gall Ink Website is an essential starting point for learning about the history of iron gall ink and its preservation. This wiki page focuses on research that has been published since that website was last updated in 2011. The annotated bibliography below is a selective list of the most relevant literature and is focused on storage, handling, and treatment of paper documents affected by iron gall ink degradation. It is not intended to be comprehensive. For a more complete list of citations, see Crystal Maitland's bibliography below.

Wiki Compiler:
Wiki Contributors: Sarah Casto, Jennifer Evers, Emma Guerard, Katherine Kelly, Crystal Maitland, Valeria Orlandini, Denise Stockman, please add your name here

Copyright 2024. The AIC Wiki is a publication of the American Institute for Conservation (AIC). It is published as a convenience for the members of AIC. Publication does not endorse nor recommend any treatments, methods, or techniques described herein. Information on researching with and citing the wiki can be found on the Reference and Bibliography Protocols page.

Cite this page:

American Institute for Conservation (AIC). "BPG Iron Gall Ink." AIC Wiki. May 21, 2024. https://www.conservation-wiki.com/wiki/BPG_Iron_Gall_Ink.

General[edit | edit source]

Henniges, Ute, Rebecca Reibke, and Gerhard Banik, et al. 2008. "Iron gall ink-induced corrosion of cellulose: aging, degradation and stabilization. Part 2: application on historic sample material." Cellulose 15: 861–870. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10570-008-9238-0

Kolar, Jana., and Strlič, Matija, eds. 2006. Iron Gall Inks : On Manufacture, Characterisation, Degradation and Stabilisation. Ljubljana: National and U Library.

Maitland, Crystal. 2017. Bibliography prepared for "Iron Gall Ink: Decision making and treatment practices workshop." Canadian Conservation Institute, Ottawa, ON.

  • Extensive bibliography on all aspects of iron gall ink and its treatment.

Potthast, Antje, Ute Henniges, and Gerhard Banik. 2008. "Iron gall ink-induced corrosion of cellulose: aging, degradation and stabilization. Part 1: model paper studies." Cellulose 15: 849–859. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10570-008-9237-1

Reissland, Birgit and Frank Ligterink. 2011. The Iron Gall Ink Website. Maintained by the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands. Accessed December 12, 2022.

  • Contains detailed information, recipes, and a long list of references. Last updated in 2011.

Examination and Evaluation[edit | edit source]

See also: Media Problems § Ink

Albro, Sylvia, Julie l. Biggs, Claire Dekle, Mary Elizabeth Haude, Cyntia Karnes, and Yasmeen Khan. 2008. "Developing Guidelines for Iron-Gall Ink Treatment at the Library of Congress. The Book and Paper Group Annual 27: 129-165.

Presents guidelines for treating paper documents with iron-gall ink. The guidelines consist of:
  • Examination form designed specifically for iron-gall ink on paper to supplement the primary record of treatment
  • Glossary that standardizes the terminology used in the examination form
  • Recommendations for micro-chemical and solubility testing
  • Flow charts, or “treatment trees,” to guide the decision-making process based on results obtained through examination and testing
  • Explanatory notes on the treatment options presented.


Baker, Cathleen A. 1985. "A Comparison of Drawing Inks Using Ultraviolet and Infrared Examination Techniques." In Application of Science in Examination of Works of Art, ed. by Pamela A. England and Lambertus van Zelst, 159-163. Boston: Museum of Fine Art.

  • Iron gall ink and carbon black ink can be distinguished under IR illumination. IGI is faint; carbon-based inks are dark.

Reissland, Birgit, and Judith Hofenk de Graaff. 2001. Condition Rating for Objects with Iron Gall ink ICN-Information Number 1. Netherlands Institute for CulturalHeritage (ICN). Accessed April 4, 2024.

  • Visual rating system to categorize condition of object and aid in decision making concerning preservation.

Reissland, Birgit. 2001. "Visible progress of paper degradation caused by iron gall inks." In: The Iron Gall Ink Meeting Postprints. Newcastle, England: University of Northumbria. 67-72.

Tse, Season & Robert Waller. 2008. "Developing a risk assessment model for iron gall ink on paper." ICOM Committee for Conservation 1: 299-307.

See also: Tse et al. (2009)

Testing[edit | edit source]

Belhadj, Oulfa, Claire Phan Tan Luu, Sylvie Meslet-Struyve, Sandra Vez, and Birgit Reissland, et al. 2014. “The Dutch Fe-Migration Mending Test: Exploring Further Areas of Use.Journal of Paper Conservation 15 (1): 9-15. Accessed December 11, 2023.

Hahn, Oliver, Birgit Kanngießer, and Wolfgang Malzer. 2005. "X-ray Fluorescence Analysis of Iron Gall Inks, Pencils and Coloured Crayons." Studies in Conservation 50 (1): 23-32.

Havermans, John, Hadeel Abdul Aziz, and Hans Scholten. 2003. "Non Destructive Detection of Iron-Gall Inks by Means of Multispectral Imaging Part 2: Application on Original Objects Affected With Iron-Gall-Ink Corrosion." Restaurator 24 (2). Accessed December 11, 2023.

Neevel, Johan G. 2009. "Application issues of the bathophenanthroline test for iron(II) ions" Restaurator 30.

Neevel, Johan G., and Birgit Reissland. 2005. "Bathophenanthroline indicator paper: Development of a new test for iron ions." Papier Restaurierung 6 (1): 28–36.

Peckham, Susan, Julie Biggs, Claire Dekle, Cyntia Karnes, and Yasmeen Khan. 2017. "Necessity is the mother of invention—DIY iron (II) test paper." Poster presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Institute for Conservation.

  • Describes a method developed at the Library of Congress to produce and use larger sizes of iron (II) indicator test paper, based upon the technique first developed at the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands.

Local Repair[edit | edit source]

See also: Consolidation, Fixing, and Facing

See also: Adhesive Recipes and Tips for recipes and instructions.

See also: Belhadj et al. (2014)

Charles, Vanessa. 2008. "Cold Gelatine Adhesive." Papierrestaurierung 9(3): 11‐12.

  • This short article describes using cold 6% gelatine, sieved through a fine mesh to repair papers damaged by deteriorating IGI.


Jacobi, Eliza, Birgit Reissland, Claire Phan Tan Luu, Bas van Velzen and Frank Ligterink. 2011. "Rendering the Invisible Visible: Preventing Solvent-Induced Migration During Local Repairs on Iron Gall Ink." Journal of Paper Conservation 12: 25–34. Available through Academia.edu.

Jacobi, Eliza. 2017. "Moisture and mending: A method for doing local repairs on iron-gall ink." In Adapt & Evolve 2015: East Asian Materials and Techniques in Western Conservation. Proceedings from the International Conference of the Icon Book & Paper Group, London 8–10 April 2015. London: The Institute of Conservation. 80–90. Accessed December 23, 2022.

Martin, Aurélie, Véronique Rouchon, Thierry Aubry, Nelly Cauliez, Marthes Desroches, and Marlene Marguez. 2011. "Local Strenghtening of Mould-Damaged Manuscripts A Case Study on Logbooks of Early French Expeditions in Louisiana (1684-1722)." Journal of Paper Conservation 12(1): 21-29. Accessed December 11, 2023.

Titus, Sonja , Regina Schneller, Enke Huhsmann, Ulrike Hähner and Gerhard Banik. 2009. "Stabilising local areas of loss in iron gall ink copy documents from the Savigny estate." Restaurator 30. https://doi.org/10.1515/rest.003

  • This article discusses the treatment of letterpress copy books with iron gall ink using Berlin tissue pre-coated with gelatin, activated with limited moisture on a suction table. Gelatin was chosen over Klucel because of its stabilizing influence on iron gall ink.


van Velzen, Ban and Eliza Jacobi. 2011. "Instructables: Remoistenable Tissue." Journal of Paper Conservation 12(1). Available through Adademia.edu.

  • Instructions for preparing 3% gelatin on tissue as a remoistenable tissue.


van Velzen, Ban and Eliza Jacobi. 2011. "Instructables: Repair on Iron Gall Ink with Remoistenable Tissue." Journal of Paper Conservation 12(2). Available through Academia.edu

  • Instructions for using the tissue prepared above to mend iron gall ink.

Humidification and Flattening[edit | edit source]

See the Iron Gall Ink Website.

See also: Belhadj et al. (2014)

Curtis, Antoinette. 2016. “Zorbix as a Moisture Source for Parchment and Paper Treatments.Journal of Paper Conservation 16 (3): 115-11.

Duranton, Maroussia, and Gaëlle Hennion. 2015. “Application of Silicagel M®: A moistening treatment of a water-sensible starched textile and its decoration.” Paper presented at the 11th IADA Congress, Berlin, Germany.

Eusman, Elmer, and Kees Mensch. 2000. "Washing and Humidifying Iron Gall Ink on Paper: Effects on Iron Migration (Abstract)." The Book and Paper Group Annual 19.

  • abstract summarizing the more complete publication from Eusman and Mensch 2000 below. The effect of aqueous washing was evaluated by testing the wash water with Fe(2) indicator paper. The effect of washing and humidification was evaluated with SEM/EDX. Washing was effective at removing Fe(2) ions, humidification allowed Fe(2) to migrate into the paper substrate.


Eusman, E., and K. Mensch. 2000. “Ink on the run: Measuring migration of iron in iron gall ink.” In Proceedings from the iron gall ink meeting, University of Northumbria, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, 4–5 September 2000, ed. J.E. Brown, 115–123. Newcastle upon Tyne: University of Northumbria.

  • Published version of the Eusman and Mensch 2000 abstract above.

Washing[edit | edit source]

IGI document supported with Tek-Wipe during washing (Edwards 2014)
IGI document supported with Tek-Wipe during washing (Edwards 2014)

See also: Washing § Physical or Chemical Sensitivity of Media

See also: Albro et al. (2008)

Connelly-Ryan, Cindy, et al. 2007. "Optimizing ink corrosion treatment protocols at the Library of Congress". In Edinburgh Conference Papers 2006, ed. Shulla Jaques. London: Institute of Conservation, 195-202.


Dekle, Claire and Mary Elizabeth Haude. 2008. "Iron-gall Ink Treatment at the Library of Congress: Old Manuscripts—New Tools."The Book and Paper Group Annual 27: 15-26.


Edwards, Gwenanne. 2014. "Tek-Wipe in Conservation." BPG Annual Meeting Tips Session. AIC Annual Meeting 2014.

  • Describes the use of Tek-Wipe to support fragile documents during washing.


Eusman, Elmer. 2002. "Effects of aqueous treatment on iron-gall ink - monitoring iron migration with the iron (II) indicator test." In The Broad Spectrum, ed. Harriet K. Stratis & Britt Salvesen. London: Archetype Publications. 122-127.

Hofmann, Christa, Dubravka Jembrih-Simbürger, Manfred Schreiner, Rudolf Eichinger, Leopold Puchinger, Oliver Hahn, Ute Henniges, Antje Potthast, and Erna Pilch-Karrer. 2007. "To Treat or Not to Treat—That is the Question: Options for the Conservation of Iron-Gall Ink on Paper."The Book and Paper Group Annual 26: 31-44.

Rouchon, Véronique, Marthe Desroches, Valéria Duplat, Marine Letouzey, and Julie Stordiau-Pallot. 2012. "Methods of Aqueous Treatments: The Last Resort for Badly Damaged Iron Gall Ink Manuscripts." Journal of Paper Conservation 13 (3): 7-13. Accessed December 11, 2023.

Tse, Season, Doug Goltz, Sherry Guild, Valeria Orlandini, Maria Trojan-Bedynski, and Mary Richardson. 2009. "Effect of Aqueous Treatments on Nineteenth-Century Iron-Gall-Ink Documents: Assessment Using Hyperspectral Imaging .The Book and Paper Group Annual 28: 75-82.

Phytate Treatment[edit | edit source]

Ethanol-modified calcium phytate treatment of iron gall ink manuscript.

See also: Chelating Agents

Introduction

Neevel, Johan G. 1995. "Phytate: a Potential Conservation Agent for the Treatment of Ink Corrosion Caused by Irongall Inks." Restaurator 16(3): 143-160.

  • Proposes phytate treatment to inhibit catalysis of oxidation of paper substrates by iron (II) ions present in some iron gall ink by forming iron (II) phytate complexes.


Evaluation of Phytate Treatment

Henniges, Ute, and Antje Potthast. 2008. “Phytate Treatment of metallo-gallate inks: Investigation of its effectiveness on model and historic paper samples.” Restaurator 29 (4): 219-234.

  • Evaluates efficacy of phytate treatment in regards to chemical stability of the paper substrate. Samples treated with calcium phytate and resized with gelatin were shown to exhibit less oxidation and chain scission of their cellulose content than untreated samples.


Hahn, Oliver, Max Wilke, and Timo Wolff. 2008. “Influence of aqueous calcium phytate/calcium hydrogen carbonate treatment on the chemical composition of iron gall inks.” Restaurator 29 (4): 235-250.

  • Evaluates efficacy of phytate treatment in regards to effects on the iron gall ink media. Treatment has notable effects on the media through removal of trace elements, distribution of calcium and phosphorus, and changing of iron oxidation states.


Kolar, Jana, Martin Sala, Matija Strlic, and Vid Simon Selih. 2005. "Stabilisation of Paper Containing Iron-Gall Ink with Current Aqueous Processes." Restaurator 26(3): 181-189.

  • Aqueous treatment of iron gall ink documents with a chelating agent may additionally help stabilize the document by removing some metallic ions. The effect was obseved to be dependent on the pH of the solution.


Rouchon, V., E. Pellizzi, M. Duranton. 2013. "Study of Phytate Chelating Treatments Used on Iron Gall Ink Damaged Manuscripts." In ICOM-CC Graphic Documents Working Group Interim Meeting Vienna 17 – 19 April 2013: 46-49.

  • Demonstrates that deacidification of iron gall ink documents with calcium carbonate following phytate treatment is necessary for long term stability.


Tse, Season, Sherry Guild, Maria Trojan-Bedynski, and Valeria Orlandini. 2006. "Effect of aqueous treatments on 19th century iron gall ink documents part 2: Artificial aging by heat, humidity and light." In Pre-conference proceedings of the second iron gall ink meeting, University of Northumbria. Newcastle upon Tyne. 40–42.

  • Evaluates effects of aqueous treatments on artificially aged samples.


See also: Tse et al. (2009)


Protocols & Factors to Consider

Kolar, Jana, Alenka Mozir, Matija Strlic, Gerrit de Bruin, Boris Pihlar, and Ted Steemers. 2007. "Stabilisation of Iron Gall Ink: Aqueous Treatment with Magnesium Phytate." e-PRESERVATIONScience 4: 19-24.

  • Demonstrates that magnesium phytate is comparable to calcium phytate in efficacy of treatment of iron gall ink documents. Magnesium phytate is also advantageous in that the pH of the solution can be adjusted with magnesium oxide or magnesium carbonate rather than ammonia, as is necessary with calcium phytate.


Orlandini, Valeria. 2009. "Effect of Aqueous Treatments on Nineteenth-Century Iron-Gall-Ink Documents: Calcium Phytate Treatment--Optimization of Existing Protocols."The Book and Paper Group Annual 28: 137-146.

  • Provides a detailed evaluation of different aspects of treatment protocol including duration, temperature, use of ethanol, and use of calcium bicarbonate.


Tse, Season, Sherry Guild, and Amanda Gould. 2012. "A Comparison of Aqueous Versus Ethanol Modified Calcium Phytate Solutions for the Treatment of Iron Gall Ink Inscribed Paper." Journal of the Canadian Association for Conservation 37: 3-16.

  • Ethanol modified phytate can be less effective than aqueous phytate treatment, but this is because less acidic paper degradation are removed from the substrate when ethanol is employed.


See also: Albro et al. (2008)

Case Study

Evers, Jennifer, and Gwenanne Edwards. 2021. "Adaptations of iron gall ink protocols: The conservation treatment of an American Revolutionary War diary." Care and conservation of manuscripts 17 : proceedings of the seventeenth international seminar held at the University of Copenhagen. Museum Tusculanum Press: University of Copenhagen.

  • Describes using the Library of Congress treatment trees to batch treat many pages of various iron gall inks.

Disaster Response[edit | edit source]

Orlandini, Valeria, Han Neevel, G. de Bruin, Laurent Cortella, Sofia Borrego, L.S. Villalba Corredor, and A. Aguirre Vilchis. 2023. "Salvaging Iron Gall Ink Based Collections from Ink Corrosion, Fungal Attack and Climate Change: Considering the Past and the Future." ICOM-CC Graphic Documents Working Group Newsletter, 4: 12-18.

Storage, Housing, and Exhibition[edit | edit source]

Hansen, Birgit Vinther. 2005. “Improving Ageing Properties of Paper with Iron-Gall Ink by Interleaving with Papers Impregnated with Alkaline Buffer and Antioxidant.” Restaurator 26 (3): 190-202.

Rouchon, Véronique, Maroussia Duranton, Oulfa Belhadj, Marthe Bastier-Deroches, Valéria Duplat, Charlotte Walbert and Birgit Vinther Hansen. 2013. "The use of halide charged interleaves for treatment of iron gall ink damaged papers." Polymer Degradation and Stability 98: 339 - 1347. Accessed December 11, 2023.

Historical Treatment[edit | edit source]

Reissland, Birgit. 1997. "Conservation - Early methods 1890-1960." Iron Gall Ink Website.

Morenus, Linda Stiber. 2003. "In Search of a Remedy: History of Treating Iron-Gall Ink at the Library of Congress." Book and Paper Group Annual 22: 119–125.

  • A history of iron gall ink treatment methods used at the Library of Congress, including lining, silking, lamination, deacidification, and phytate treatment.

External Links[edit | edit source]

History of This Page[edit | edit source]

This page was created in June 2017 by Denise Stockman. On June 8, 2023, the BPG Wiki coordinators hosted a virtual discussion session about this page as a post session of the 51st AIC Annual Meeting. In 2023-2024, Jennifer Evers, Emma Guerard, and Katherine Kelly reorganized this page, added new citations, and incorporated suggestions from the 2023 discussion session.

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