Advances in Chemical Engineering and Science, 2012, 2, 514-518 Published Online October 2012 (
Evidence that the Vinland Map Was Drawn Using an Iron
Gall Ink: The Continuing Need for Further Research
Jacqueline S. Olin
Great Falls, USA
Received August 20, 2012; revised September 22, 2012; accepted October 3, 2012
The Vinland Map is a map of the world that shows “the island of Vinland” in the northwest Atlantic Ocean. It is housed
in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University. The Map has been purported to date from the
Council of Basle, AD 1431 -1449. The nature of the ink of the Map has not been identified . It has been suggested that it
may be an iron gall in k, a carbon ink or an ink that con tains an atase and gelatin an d perhaps oth er unknown co nstituents.
This paper will present evidence that supports the ink being an iron gall ink. It is intended that this evidence will en-
courage further research.
Keywords: Iron Gall Ink; UV Examination of Iron Gall Ink; Iron Gall Ink Corrosion
1. Introduction
The controversy surrounding the Beinecke Library’s
Vinland Map was originally based on cartographic ques-
tions regarding whether it was possible that this map was
drawn at the time proposed by the authors of the Yale
University Press publication, The Vinland Map and the
Tartar Relation [1]. At the time of publication in 1965,
the proposal that the Map had been drawn in the first half
of the 15th centur y and showed evidence of lands known
to be in the North Atlantic p rior to Columbus was indeed
a cause of controversy. Then in 1974, Walter C. Mc-
Crone Associates, Inc. published the results of their study
of the ink of the Vinland Map and declared that the ink
contains anatase titanium dioxide and that it was present
as a pigment that had not been produced until the early
20th century. This prompted Yale University to identify
the Vinland Map as a forgery.
In 1974, another publication supported the attribution
of forgery to the Vinland Map. This publication was
based on examination of the Vinland Map at the Re-
search Laboratory of the British Museum. A report of
that examination follows:
The behavior of the ink under ultra-violet light was of
particular interest. Iron compounds quench the fluores-
cence induced in the background by ultra-violet light and
for this reason, faded iron gallo-tannate ink, yellow-
ish-brown by daylight, will appear black against a bluish
or yellowish fluorescent background under this form of
lighting. The inks used in both the Tartar Relation and the
Speculum Historiale showed this phenomenon whereas
the ink used both for the outline of the map itself and for
the text on the leaf di d n ot sh ow this phenom enon [2 ,3] .
The observations made at the Research Laboratory of
the British Museum and published in 1974 are found on
the Ohio State University website [4 ]. Although the web -
site suggests that the image published by Douglas
McNaughton in his paper in Vikings: The North Atlantic
Saga shows the Map as it would appear under ultraviolet,
the McNaughton paper does not identify how the photo-
graph was made [5]. No one has published an identified
ultraviolet photograph taken of the Vinland Map that
shows the image that resulted from exposure of the
Vinland Map to ultraviolet radiation. The description of
what was observed in the Research Laboratory that is
given above is the information we have. It is not clear
whether the lack of absorption of ultrav iolet fluorescence
was over the entire surface of the Map or rather on much
of the surface. This is not explained. A currently pre-
pared image taken of the Vinland Map under ultraviolet
light would be valuable to include in the discussion.
2. Review of Research on UV Examination
of Iron Gall Inks
At this point, it is us eful to investigate th e literature on the
examination of iron gall inks using ultraviolet radiation.
In a paper by Keith R. Knox and Roger L. Easton, Jr. ti-
tled, “Recovery of Lost Writings on Historical Manu-
scripts with Ultraviolet Illumination”, there is a discussion
of examination of the colophon of a Hebrew Prayer Book
that was erased by the mechanical process of scraping the
opyright © 2012 SciRes. ACES
J. S. OLIN 515
ink from the parchment [6]. Traces of the writing on the
colophon are still visible; however, nothing legible is
visible. However, according to the account of Knox and
Easton, the scholars who viewed this p age with ultrav iolet
“reported that no characters were visible”. Knox and
Easton conclude that the ink removal may have resulted
in a surface where there was nothing to affect the ultra-
violet fluorescence of the parchment. It is very important
to consider that the reason the Baynes-Cope did not ob-
serve the black appearance of the ink on examination of
the Vinland Map that had been observed in the examina-
tion of the Tartar Relation and the Speculum Historiale
had an explanation other than that it is not an iron gall ink.
Might it not have been t hat i n t he case of t he Vi nland M a p
the ink had not been scraped off in areas but rather had
flaked off? This would leave no iron in the ink in those
areas to quench the fluorescence coming from the parch-
ment thus giving an appearance unlike that normally ob-
served with an iron gall ink.
3. Evidence That Supports Flaking of
Ink from Vinland Map
It is important now to research the literature regarding
the Vinland Map to determine if there is evidence that
the ink of the Map did flake off. One bit of evidence can
be found in Walter McCrone’s report to Yale University
Library in 1974 and titled, “Chemical Analytical Study
of the Vinland M ap” [7] .
In the McCrone Report under Table 2, Summary of
Microanalytical Data there are data for Slide A, Loose
particles from map crease. These data are: size 100
microns, black, grainy (artifact?) and under the column
labeled “Anatase” is the phrase “not obs”. There are no
X-ray diffraction data published in the Report. However
in the column under X-ray Diffrn for Slide A, the
particles are identified as Fe2O3 + FeO(OH). The report
does not discuss how many loose particles were found
and, of course, particles could have been lost over time.
It is important, however, to realize that the iron in the
particles could have come from iron in the ink of the
Map. Although it is important to investigate further
whether there is other evidence of flaking iron gall ink
that has produced Fe2O3 + FeO(OH), it is useful to note
that the author has found data in the literature for the
“Formation of goethite by oxidative hydrolysis of iron (II)
sulphate” [8]. We should not ignore the presence of iron
in particles from the map crease in our consideration of
whether or not the ink of the Map is an iron gall ink.
The presence of iron in the ink of the Map is
confirmed by the analysis of the ink done by Thomas
Cahill et al. [9,10] and by Walter McCrone [11]. It is the
amount of ink that differs from other iron gall inks not
that iron is not present. McCrone’s data for iron are dis-
cussed in the next section.
The table below (Table 1), is a compilation of X-ray
diffraction data for samples of ink taken from the
Vinland Map and presented by McCrone as Table III
[10]. X-ray diffraction data for the particles from the
crease which were identified as containing goethite were
not included in McCrone’s published data and the x-ray
diffraction data for these samples were not included in
the Report to Yale [6].
Table 1. X-ray diffraction data: (a) VM ink samples and
anatase; (b) Calcite and quartz.
VM VM 9-Ca anatase
11-A-2a ASTM
d I/I0 d I/I0 d I/I0
4.23 <5
3.89 10
3.53 100 3.52 100 3.51 100
3.36 10 3.36 <5
3.05 100 3.04 75
2.49 25 2.49 <5
2.435 <1 2.435 9
2.38 5 2.379 22
2.33 <5 2.336 9
2.28 <5
2.22 50 2.24 <1
2.10 40 2.09 10
1.91 40 1.90 25 1.891 33
1.70 10 1.69 10 1.699 21
1.67 10 1.66 10 1.665 19
1.47 <5 1.48 5 1.48 13
1.26 5 1.264 10 1.264 10
calcite quartz
5-0586 5-0490
d I/I0 d I/I0
4.26 35
3.86 10
3.34 100
3.04 100
2.50 14
2.46 12
2.29 18 2.28 12
2.10 18
1.91 17
a12 - 16 h exposures with unfiltered Cu X-rays; 42 kV and 34 mA with a
28.65-mm camera.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. ACES
4. Summary of Evidence to Date on Nature
of Vinland Map Ink
The identification of carbon in the ink of the Vinland
Map using Raman spectroscopy has been reported [12].
This point has been used as evidence that the Vinland
Map ink is not an iron ink and the composition of the
Map ink has been compared to that of the Tartar Rela-
tion in that regard. It is important to note that in Walter
McCrone’s 1988 paper his table of Comparative Ion
Probe (IMA) A nalyses of VM, TR, and SH Ink Samples,
shows iron as 1% - 5% in the ink of the TR and SH and
greater than 5% in the ink of the Vinland Map. In 2003,
this author explained in her paper in Analytical Chemis-
try that carbon was often added to iron gall ink and its
presence in the ink of the Vinland Map is not proof that
the Map ink is not an iron gall ink [13]. Carbon was
added to iron gall ink as a colorant in the medieval period.
This was done to enable the user to see the location of
the inked line before the color of the iron tannate had
developed. Carbon has also been reported in the ink of
the Tartar Relation which is acknowledged to be an iron
gall ink. There is no conclusive evidence that the ink of
the Vinland Map is a carbon ink based on the identifica-
tion of carbon in the ink.
Soon after Walter McCrone published the results of
his analysis of the Vinland Map ink and his statement
that the Vinland Map is a forgery based on the presence
of anatase in the ink, this author corresponded with him
with regard to the medium that was used to suspend the
anatase and to prepare an ink. In an early reply, Dr.
McCrone stated that he had identified an alkyd resin in
the ink but later he retracted that. In 1991, he visited the
Beinecke to again sample the ink for analysis using in-
fra-red spectroscopy. He reported the presence of gelatin
in the sample he had taken [14]. As this author has re-
ported, gelatin could be present as a product that resulted
from the hydrolysis of the parchment of the Map [13].
The use of gelatin as a medium for suspension of anatase
for the preparation of an ink has not been investigated
and raises the question of how much of the discussion of
anatase as evidence of a forgery is based on a full under-
standing of the nature of an ink that could actually be
used to write.
As the title of this paper identifies, there is further re-
search needed to confirm whether or not the ink of the
Vinland Map is an iron ink, a carbon ink, or an ink made
using anatase and gelatin. One other analysis of the ink
that could be investigated would be to determine whether
or not the organic component of an iron gall ink is pre-
sent. In the 1971 Newbury Library publication of the
Proceedings of the Smithsonian Vinland Map Confer-
ence that was held in 1966, there is a reference to this
author’s publication regarding “The Vinland Map-A
Case Study.” This paper reviewed was what known at the
time of the physical condition of the Vinland Map and
discussed potential methods in use at the time for the
analysis of iron ga ll inks [15]. These include chromatog-
raphy and other analytical methods none of which have
been used with regard to the ink of the Vinland Map.
The suggestion of forgery brought about by the Mc-
Crone identification of anatase in the ink of the Map
captured the attention of most scholars until Thomas Ca-
hill et al. published the results of their PIXE analysis of
the Vinland Map ink in a paper in Analytical Chemistry
in 1987. These authors presented data that were inter-
preted as showing that the concentration of titanium in
the ink was such that the anatase that is present could
only be present in trace amounts. This would suggest that
the anatase was not purposely added to the ink. In
McCrone’s 1988 paper, his reference 6 is to a communi-
cation this author shared with McCrone. This personal
communication from this author to McCrone suggested
that as anatase is formed from ilmenite by treatement
with sulfuric acid, the anatase present in the Vinland
Map ink could have been formed from ilmenite in the ink.
The presence of titanium in other medieval inks sugg ests
that the presence of ilmenite in medieval inks is a realis-
tic possibility. Further investigations of medieval inks to
determine the nature of a titanium containing compound
or compounds is required in order to correctly resolve
this matter [16].
The question of whether the ink of the Vinland Map is
an iron gall ink has been put forward as relevant to
whether ilmenite could have been the source of the ana-
tase in the Map ink. I would suggest that a new in terpret-
tation of the ultraviolet fluorescence results obtained in
the British Museum Research Laboratory and the pres-
ence of goethite in the particles from the crease of the
Map, provide reasons for reconsideration of the Map ink
as an iron gall ink. Further examination of the Map under
ultraviolet coul d be usef ul .
I would also suggest that analyses of other medieval
inks that contain titanium to determine in what form the
titanium is present need to be carried out before conclu-
sions regarding the authenticity of the Vinland Map are
considered. This last research effort is the one that is
probably most easily undertaken following along the
lines of analyses that were conducted on the Vinland
Map ink. It would be reasonable to suggest that docu-
ments analyzed by earlier researchers and determined to
have inks that contain titanium could be analyzed to de-
termine in what form the titanium is present. A project of
this nature would require funding but the methods for
analysis are available.
5. Radiocarbon Date of Vinland Map
It is useful to point out here for readers who are not fa-
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. ACES
J. S. OLIN 517
miliar with the literature about the Vinland Map that the
parchment of the Map has been securely dated to the 15th
century by radiocarbon dating [17]. Subsequent to the
conclusion of fo rgery based on the presence of anatase in
the ink, the radiocarbon dating of the parchment was
recognized as being able to show whether a date would
confirm the 20th century origin of the Map or whether it
would be a 15th century date and would continue to sup-
port the need for further investigation of the ink. The
latter is the case. However, papers published subsequent
to the publication of the 15th century date in 2002 have
taken a simplified approach and merely claimed that a
forger used a 15th century piece of parchment. A detailed
explanation of the means by which the forger obtained
the piece of parchment is needed. This must include how
the Map was eventually included in the volume now
proposed as the location of the Map for a long enough
period of time to produce wormholes consistent with
being bound with other 15th century documents. Further
consideration of the 15th century date of the parchment is
important and supports the call for certain forms of fur-
ther investigation of the Vinland Map and the medieval
documents with which it was at one time bound.
6. Recommendations for Further Research
A complete study of the three documents involved,
Vinland Map, Speculum Historiale and Tartar Relation,
has been carried out and reported by Rene Larsen and
Dorte V. P. Sommer [18,19]. These authors also recom-
mend further experiments, in this case for the determina-
tion of whether the three manuscripts had been bound
together in th e 15th century. In this regard, it is impor tant
to note the significance of the discovery by Gregory
Guzman of a copy of the Tartar Relation and of the
Speculum Historia le that were boun d together in the 14 th
century [20].
The technical studies that have been carried out to date
on the Vinland Map have provided a basis for further
consideration of the questions that need to be addressed.
The task is by no means completed and the value of fur-
ther studies is important to recognize. The absence of
iron in large concentrations in the ink throughout the
Vinland Map is important to explain. In preparing ana-
tase from ilmenite in 1974 to demonstrate the possibility
that the anatase in the ink of the Vinland Map could have
originated in some manner from ilmenite in the ink, I
assumed an iron gall ink. The following comment re-
garding my proposal that the anatase in the Vinland Map
ink could be present naturally and not be a forger’s addi-
tion is entirely appropriate with regard to iron. The ref-
erence to anatase in the comment should be prefaced by
stating that the evidence does show that the titanium is
concentrated in the ink [9,21]. Suggestions that the ana-
tase is over the entire surface of the Map parchment have
not been confi r med.
“Examination of her (JSO) anatase by a colleague,
mineralogist Dr. Kenneth Towe, showed that it was very
different from the neat, rounded crystals found in the
Vinland Map and modern pigments, and despite decades
of further work, she was also never able to explain how
the iron would have disappeared from the Vinland Map
ink” [22].
I propose that consideration be given to the explana-
tions presented in this paper regarding the absence of
large concentratio ns of iron in some areas of the Vinland
Map ink. Also, as I stated in 2000, further studies of tita-
nium containing compounds in medieval inks should be
undertaken to pursue an understanding of the source of
the anatase in the Vinland Map ink [15]. In addition, I
propose that the x-ray diffraction pattern of the anatase in
the Vinland Map ink be published. This could provide
data for evaluation of the rounded crystals of anatase in
the ink.
Another area in need of further research relates to the
fact that the origin of the Vinland Map remains unre-
solved. A paper in press in Pre-Columbiana provides
observations regarding that matter by Thomas E. Mar-
ston written prior to his death in 1984 [23]. Further re-
search is needed regarding the provenance of the Vinland
Map and the documents that are proposed to have been
bound with it in the 15 th century.
[1] R. A. Skelton, T. E. Marston and G. D. Painter, “The Vin-
land Map and the Tartar Relation,” Yale University Press,
New Haven, 1965, 1995.
[2] A. D. Baynes-Cope, “The Scientific Examination of the
Vinland Map at the Research Laboratory of the British
Museum,” The Geographical Journal, Vol. 140, No. 2,
1974, pp. 208-211. doi:10.2307/1797077
[3] K.M. Towe, “The Vinland Map Ink Is NOT Medieval,”
Analytical Chemistry, Vol. 76, No. 3, 2004, pp. 863-865.
[4] J. H. McCulloch, “The Vinland Map—So me ‘Finer Points’
of the Debate,” 2005.
[5] D. McNaughton, “A World in Transition: Early Cartog-
raphy of the North Atlantic,” Vikings: The North Atlantic
Saga, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington DC,
2000, p. 266.
[6] K. T. Knox and R. L. Easton Jr., “Recovery of Lost
Writings on Historical Manuscripts with Ultraviolet Illu-
mination,” Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science,
Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, 2003, p. 3.
[7] W. C. McCrone, “Chemical Analytical Study of the Vin-
land Map,” Yale University Library, New Haven, 1974.
[8] D. Andreeva, I. Mitov, T. Tabakova and A. Andreeva,
“Formation of Goethite by Oxidative Hydrolysis of Iron
(II) Sulphate,” Journal of Materials Science: Materials in
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Copyright © 2012 SciRes. ACES
Electronics, Vol. 5, No. 3, 1994, pp. 168-172.
[9] T. A. Cahill, R. N. Schwab, B. J. Kusko, R. A. Eldred, G.
Moller, D. Dutschke, D. L. Wick and A. S. Pooley, “The
Vinland Map, Revisited: New Compositional Evidence
on Its Inks and Parchment,” Analytical Chemistry, Vol.
59, No. 6, 1987, pp. 829-833. doi:10.1021/ac00133a009
[10] T. A. Cahill and H. K. Bruce, “Compositional and Struc-
tural Studies of the Vinland Map and Tartar Relation,” In:
R. A. Skelton, T. E. Marston and G. D. Painter, Eds., The
Vinland Map and the Tartar Relation: New Edition, Yale
University Press, New Haven, 1995.
[11] W. C. McCrone, “The Vinland Map: Table III,” Analyti-
cal Chemistry, Vol. 60, 1988, pp. 1009-1018.
[12] K. L. Brown and R. J. H. Clark, “Analysis of Pigmentary
Materials on the Vinland Map and Tartar Relation by
Raman Microprobe Spectroscopy,” Analytical Chemistry,
Vol. 74, No. 15, 2002, pp. 3658-3661.
[13] J. S. Olin, “E vidence Th at the Vinland Map is Medieval,”
Analytical Chemistry, Vol. 75, No. 23, 2003, pp. 6745-
[14] W. C. McCrone, “Vinland Map 1999,” Microscope, Vol.
47, No. 2, 1999, pp. 71-74.
[15] J. S. Olin, “The Vinland Map—A Case Study,” Proceed-
ings of the 1st Georgetown University Conference on
Surface Analysis, Georgetown University Law Center,
Wa- shington DC, 1970, pp. 25-39.
[16] J. S. Olin, “Without Comparative Studies of Inks, What
Do We Know about the Vinland Map?” Pre-Columbiana,
Vol. 2, No. 1, 2000, pp. 27-36.
[17] D. J. Donahue, J. S. Olin and G. Harbottle, “Determina-
tion of the Radiocarbon Age of Parchment of the Vinland
Map,” Radiocarbon, Vol. 44, No. 1, 2002, pp. 45-52.
[18] R. Larsen, D. V. P. Sommer and M. Vest, “Assessment
and Survey of the Vinland Map and the Tartar Relation
and Speculum Historiale,” Zeitschrift fur Kunsttechnolo-
gie and Konservierung, Vol. 20, No. 2, 2006, pp. 249-
[19] R. Larsen and D. V. P. Sommer, “Facts and Myths about
the Vinland Map and Its Context,” The 23rd Conference
on the History of Cartography, Copenhagen, 12-17 July
2009, in Press.
[20] G. G. Guzman, “The Vinland Map Controversy and the
Discovery of a Second Version of the Tartar Relation:
The Authenticity of the 1339 Text,” Terrae Incognitae,
Vol. 38, 2006, pp. 19-25.
[21] K. M. Towe, “The Vinland Map: Still a Forgery,” Ac-
counts of Chemical Research, Vol. 23, No. 3, 1990, pp.
84-87. doi:10.1021/ar00171a005
[23] J. S. Olin, “T he Vinla nd Map: Observations by Thomas E.
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