Uncovering the Oppenheimer Siddur: using scientific analysis to reveal the production process of a medieval illuminated Hebrew manuscript

Wijsman, S., Neate, S., Kogou, S. and Liang, H. ORCID: 0000-0001-9496-406X, 2018. Uncovering the Oppenheimer Siddur: using scientific analysis to reveal the production process of a medieval illuminated Hebrew manuscript. Heritage Science, 6: 15. ISSN 2050-7445

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Abstract

The aim of this research was to use non-invasive scientifc analysis to uncover evidence of the planning process and relationship between pigments used in text copying and artwork production in the Oppenheimer Siddur (Oxford Bodleian Library MS Opp. 776), an illuminated 15th-century Hebrew prayer book. In many medieval Hebrew illuminated manuscripts, the authorship of the artwork is unknown. This manuscript’s colophon states that it was copied by its scribe-owner for personal family use but does not confrm who was responsible for the artwork. Prior deductive analysis suggested that the scribe-owner may also have been the manuscript’s artist, based on common motifs and an apparent shared colour palette appearing in both texts and artwork. Visual examination using high resolution digital images also identifed points of contact between pigments used in the manuscript’s texts and artwork, raising questions about the pigment application sequence, and concurrent versus sequential text copying and artwork production. An in-house developed remote spectral imaging system (PRISMS) with 10 flters spanning the spectral range from 400 to 880 nm was modifed for close-range application to image two of the folios to examine the sequence of production, identify the pigments and compare the materials used for the illumination and the text. Optical microscopy and Fourier Transform Infrared spectroscopy in the attenuated total refection mode (FTIR-ATR) were used directly on the folios to complement the spectral imaging data in binding media and pigment identifcation. The results revealed close matches in refectance spectra for the colorants and inks used in both text copying and illuminations, suggesting that the same mixture of colorants and inks have been used. The spectral imaging in the near infrared bands revealed a hidden underdrawing, indicating a design change during production of the manuscript, and the outlining of letters prior to coloured pigment being applied. The pigment use, the variation in the binder for diferent pigments and some elements of its production were found to be consistent with those described in historical sources. The evidence from this study supports the hypothesis that the scribe applied pigments for the manuscript’s artwork at the same time he did some of the scribal work which has implications for understandings of Jewish medieval visual cultures.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Heritage Science
Creators: Wijsman, S., Neate, S., Kogou, S. and Liang, H.
Publisher: BioMed Central
Date: 16 March 2018
Volume: 6
ISSN: 2050-7445
Identifiers:
NumberType
10.1186/s40494-018-0179-0DOI
Rights: © The Author(s) 2018. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Divisions: Schools > School of Science and Technology
Depositing User: Jill Tomkinson
Date Added: 28 Mar 2018 16:52
Last Modified: 28 Mar 2018 16:52
URI: http://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/33146

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