Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books
A Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology

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palimpsest

A manuscript consisting of a later writing superimposed upon the original writing, which was first removed to the extent possible. A double palimpsest is one that has two subsequent writings, and therefore two removals. The extent to which the earlier writing could be removed depended to a great degree on the ink used. Early carbon inks, which merely lay on the surface of the parchment, could be removed more or less completely simply by sponging, but the later iron gall inks were much more difficult to remove because of the interaction with the fibers of the tannin present in the ink. They had to be scraped and then treated with a weak acid, such as the citric acid of an orange. Even then traces of the original writing remained. Wetting the parchment in this manner softened it to such an extent that it was necessary to treat the skin with dry lime to make it dry and white once again. The word "palimpsest" derives from the Greek roots meaning "rub away again." Also called "rescript. " (143 )




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