Neem glue – pigment binder.

McCrone’s report of their tests of inks and pigments (selected by the client) for some extraordinary reason included reference to mopa mopa, whose use assumes some connection to south America.  The tests, as one might expect, only told us that the pigments as applied in the manuscript were not made in south America.

One wonders what tests McCrone might have conducted if they’d had their choice?

Perhaps the first tests might have been ones to identify the binder used.

Gum arabic, egg-white, the resin of Chios, or Neem glue would narrow the search to the right part of the world, at least.

I mention Neem glue in particular (for those who come late) because of the substantial evidence that the botanical section and its related lading section relate to trade across the eastern maritime routes to at least as far as the Moluccas.  There is also the close parallels between certain characteristics seen in the botanical section and the customs of e.g. Warli painting.  Particular plants identified (if only by me) in the botanical section also indicate southern India.

  • all these points have been covered, discussed and illustrated in previous posts.

To make the binding medium, the bark of the trunk  was scored and the gum left to collect and harden for a week.  It was then mixed with water to form a glue to mix with the raw pigment.  Depending on the medium, a greater or lesser amount of water was (and still is) added.

Neem (Azadirachta indica) is native to India and revered especially by the Nair, though at some unknown time it had been planted across western North Africa and those trees continued to flourish until about the seventh century AD. Some Neem trees are still seen in the untouched jungle of the Niger valley, and are believed to have descended from those earlier ones to the north. .

Not only manuscript painting, but murals employed Neem glue and possibly (though I’ve not had time to check it) the Patua ‘story-rolls’ described and discussed in earlier posts.

For myself, I was more curious to see what McCrone had identified as the binding medium than about the ink.

Perhaps next time.

(Among the animal glues used as binding media buffalo-skin glue has been found in ancient Indian manuscripts; and Yak skin glue in Tibetan ones).


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