In-depth phenolic characterization of iron gall inks by deconstructing representative Iberian recipes

Natércia Teixeira, Paula Nabais, Victor de Freitas, João A. Lopes, Maria J. Melo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
20 Downloads (Pure)


Iron-gall ink is one of the most important inks in the history of western civilization. The deep black colour results from Fe3+ complexes with phenolic compounds available in gall extracts. Unfortunately, it induces the degradation of both ink and support over time. Furthermore, our knowledge of these complex molecular structures is limited. This work aims to overcome this gap, revealing essential information about the complex structures of these pigments and dyes that will create a breakthrough in the next generation of conservation treatments. It presents the first in-depth phenolic identification and quantification of extracts and inks, prepared with and without gum arabic (an essential additive in medieval recipes). Five representative Iberian recipes were selected and prepared. Their phenolic profile was analysed by HPLC–DAD and HPLC–ESI–MS, which revealed that the phenolic compounds present in higher concentration, in the gall extracts, are pentagalloylglucose and hexagalloylglucose (0.15 ± 0.01–32 ± 3 mg/mL), except for one recipe, in which gallic acid is the main phenolic. The influence of the ingredients is also discussed by deconstructing the recipes: extracts of additives as pomegranate peel and solvents used in the extraction of the galls (vinegar and white wine) were characterized.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8811
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


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