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ABC – Ancient Book Crafts

Project leader:
Johannes Tintner-Olifiers (INTK)

Project team (Austria):
Patrick Layton (Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, INTK),
Maria Theisen, Viviana Nicoletti, Sarah Deichstetter (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Institute for Medieval Research),
Martin Haltrich (Abbey Library, Klosterneuburg Abbey of the Augustinian Canons)

3 years

Funded by:
FWF – Austrian Science Fund | Internationale Programmes Joint Projects (I5884)

FWF | International Programmes Joint Projects Slovenia
led by Johannes Tintner-Olifiers, Institute for Natural Sciences and Technology in the Arts
Duration: 1.7.2022 – 30.6.2025

This basic heritage science project focuses on mediaeval manuscripts and incunabula at the Library of the Augustinian Canons in Klosterneuburg and the National and University Library in Ljubljana. These are the largest medieval libraries in Austria and Slovenia. In terms of materiality, bindings are often made of leather and the writing support is paper or parchment. While codicological dating methods are often applied with success, the required historical and material evidence is often unavailable. For this reason, infrared (IR) spectroscopy-based dating tools using the molecular decay (MD)-dating, as recently introduced, need to be developed for mediaeval manuscripts and incunabula.

The project will establish dating tools for leather, paper and parchment based on MD-dating. These dating tools will be evaluated, validated, and applied on objects with unknown history.

Codicological, palaeographic and historical analyses will be combined with spectroscopic methods. The first step will be the characterization and classification of writing and binding materials. Calibration sets of objects of known age (e.g. land registers or ledgers) will be compiled and IR measurements performed. Dating models will be established using multivariate data analysis. In the next step, the models will be validated on a cross-institutional level. For this purpose, the National Library of Czech Republic will offer an independent validation set of objects.

The project will, for the first time, demonstrate robustness of the IR-spectroscopy-based approach to dating of library and archival materials. Different spectroscopic/ spectral collection methods will be applied to evaluate optimal experimental conditions with respect to method accuracy and invasiveness. A reference dataset for dating will be developed and will be offered to form a part of the European Research Infrastructure for Heritage Science (E-RIHS). This will make the dating tools accessible to a number of archaeologists, historians, curators and conservators and will significantly push the boundaries of contemporary methods of archaeological dating and open the field to other future applications.