Paper, Leather and Parchment Lab
Many exceptional gems pass through this lab: beautifully illustrated manuscripts, ink drawings, and historical documents. Our researchers work carefully to identify the materials and techniques used.
We study the substrate (paper, leather or parchment) and the paints and inks used. When applied to manuscripts on parchment, these inks give us an insight into how and where a manuscript was created, how the artists worked and sometimes even who they were! To avoid damaging the unique and fragile manuscripts, we only use non-invasive analysis techniques.
What we can do for you:
- analysis and characterisation of different types of wallpaper, such as lincrusta, anaglypta and kinkarakawakami (Japanese leather paper). Here we can also rely on the knowledge of the Decoration of Monuments Unit
- identification of the fibre composition of paper pulp and the fillers in paper
- study of the pictorial layers and their composition in (gold) leather (mineral pigments, organic dyes, metallic foils, organic binders and varnishes, etc.)
- qualitative and quantitative analysis of extractable fats in leather
- identification of leather and parchment through calibrated amino acid analysis.
A selection of our projects
- We are conducting a material-technical analysis in close collaboration with Professor Lieve Watteeuw of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven) (Book Heritage Lab & Illuminare) of the Codex Eyckensis, a gospel book from the 8th century AD and the oldest book in the Low Countries. Amongst other things, we are identifying the techniques and dyes used by the miniaturist. Discover the project here.
- The Benedictine Abbey of Maredsous possesses a beautiful manuscript in four volumes: the Breviary of Geraardsbergen. It dates from the middle of the 15th century and counts more than 800 pages. The numerous illustrations are the work of various artists identified through art historical study. Our analysis of the paint and pigment confirms this attribution. A project in collaboration with the KU Leuven and Dominique Vanwijnsberghe. View the breviary in BALaT:
- For the Royal Library of Belgium (KBR) we examined the oldest illustrated manuscript in the Dutch language: the Rijmbijbel of Jacob van Maerlant (c. 1291-1300). The pictorial layers and inks were examined in cooperation with Illuminare (KU Leuven) and the manuscript department of the KBR. It provides valuable information for further conservation treatment. Read more.
- Analysis of manuscripts from the 10th-15th centuries AD, including:
- Analysis of several pen drawings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder within the framework of the BRAIN-be Fingerprint-project
- Analysis of inks and pigments on a selection of manuscripts as part of the BRAIN-be pioneering project ‘Disentangling the Masters of Guillebert de Mets: an interdisciplinary approach’
- Study of two 13th-century mitres (one with parchment decorations, one textile) within the CROMIOSS-project
- Participation in the ArtGarden-project.