ISSN print edition: 0366-6352
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Study of the copper effect in iron-gall inks after artificial ageing

Giusj Valentina Fichera, Marco Malagodi, Pacifico Cofrancesco, Maduka L. Weththimuni, Clara Guglieri, Luca Olivi, Silvestro Ruffolo, and Maurizio Licchelli

University of Pavia, Cremona, Italy



Abstract: Iron-gall inks consist of a mixture of vitriols (sulphates of certain metals), gall nut extracts and arabic gum. The association of the iron(II) sulphate present in vitriols, and the gallic acids present in the gall nut extracts induces, after exposure to oxygen, the formation of dark coloured compounds of ink. In addition to iron, this kind of inks contains other metals, such as copper, zinc, and nickel. Among them, copper could be considered the most important because, owing to its catalytic ability, it can be involved in the processes concerning formation and stability of iron complexes, which are responsible for the ink dark colour. For this purpose, four different iron-gall inks containing increasing amounts of copper sulphate were prepared according to a traditional receipt and applied on paper supports. The ink-stained paper specimens were subjected to an intense analytical program to investigate their chemical and physical modifications after artificial ageing (both temperature/humidity and ultraviolet light ageing). The role of copper in the iron-gall inks was evaluated using optical microscopy, colorimetric measurements, X-ray fluorescence (XRF), X-ray diffraction analysis (XRD), scanning electron microscopy coupled with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM–EDX) and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). For the evaluation of the oxidation state of iron and copper, X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XANES) was used. All results indicate that the presence of copper in iron-gall ink causes colour variation, affects the migratory behaviour of iron in the paper, increases the formation of secondary products particularly when ageing process based on temperature/humidity variations is considered.

Keywords: Copper ; Iron ; Metal-gall ink ; XAS ; SEM–EDX 

Full paper is available at

DOI: 10.1007/s11696-018-0412-z


Chemical Papers 72 (8) 1905–1915 (2018)

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