Flaking Ink and Pigment

Until the invention of the printing press in 1450, most books were handwritten on parchment pages. Parchment is made of stretched animal skin (typically calf, goat or sheep) treated with an alkaline solution. It is not as porous a surface as paper, and is highly reactive to changes in humidity. Inks and pigments sitting atop this constantly flexing surface may crack and flake off. Conservators can help halt this process, if it's not too late, by consolidating the media using an adhesive to reattach the loose fragments.

Flaking Pigment on a 12th century Manuscript

Tetragram Gospels : Manuscript.
Special Collections Codex Manuscripts: alc MS828.

Photo by Melina Avery

Flaking Ink in a 15th Century Manuscript

Historia Ecclesiastica : Manuscript.
Special Collections Codex Manuscripts: alc MS18.

Photo by Melina Avery