Inks & Skins

Inks and Skins is an interdisciplinary project dedicated to the investigation of the materiality of the late-medieval Gaelic manuscript. It is led by Prof. Pádraig Ó Macháin, Professor of Modern Irish in University College Cork. In 2019 Prof. Ó Macháin was the recipient of an Irish Research Council Advanced Laureate Award, which funds this project.

The research involves a combination of enhanced visual analysis, multi-spectral imaging, and X-Ray Fluorescence scanning, together with a growing range of ancillary methodologies. The object is to understand the writing supports and the composition of inks and pigments used by the secular scholars who created Gaelic vellum hand-written books in the period 1100-1600. The anchor manuscript is the Book of Uí Mhaine, a large vellum manuscript of poetry and Irish tradition assembled c. 1390 for the Ó Ceallaigh (O’Kelly) family of Uí Mhaine in Co. Galway. It is today preserved in the collection of the Royal Irish Academy, where it bears the shelf-number D ii 1. Manuscripts before and after the medieval period are studied for comparative and contextual purposes, as are other manuscripts of the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Inks and Skins is a collaboration between the humanities and the sciences. The principal collaborating scientist is Dr Daniela Iacopino of the Tyndall National Institute. In addition to our two Irish Research Council Laureate Project Scholars, Anna Hoffmann and Veronica Biolcati, a coterie of conservators, archivists, calligraphers, ink-makers and parchmenters make up the broader research and advisory family of the project. Formal research partnerships have been established with the Royal Irish Academy Library, Dublin, and with the Library of Congress, Washington, where the team is led by Dr Fenella France.