Biddle Authors Study on Nigerian Islamic Manuscripts

Michaelle Biddle, collections conservator and head of Preservation Services in Olin Library, is the author of “Inks in the Islamic Manuscripts of Northern Nigeria – Old Recipes, Modern Analysis and Medicine,” published in the Journal of Islamic Manuscripts 2 in July 2011. The study is online here.

This study is concerned with what specific materials were used in fabricating the inks used in the surviving, largely undated Northern Nigerian manuscripts written in Arabic script. These manuscripts belong to the West African tradition of Islamic culture and scholarship, of which Timbuktu, Mali, was a key center. Technical materials analysis, recipes from ethno-cultural studies, and replicative experiments revealed a reliance on local plants and materials for ink fabrication. Botanical research uncovered a possible linkage between inks and medical treatments through the creation of charms in which ink was washed from the paper and drunk.