Glossary of Ingredients in the Dye

Abfeilinch: filings, presumably of iron. Ferrous Oxide, or rust, is one of the few dyes that requires no mordant to make it colourfast. It produces, predictably, a reddish/rust-brown hue.

Alaun: Alum, or Aluminium Potassium Sulfate. One of the most common mordants in the dye industry, even today, it was widely used during the middle ages to make color fast on fabric. It is used in solution in the above instructions, and called alaunwazzer, or "alum-water". In modern recipies, the fabric/fiber is usually boiled in a alum-water solution, wrung out and rinsed, and then put into the dye bath. In most of the above recipies, however, it seems that the dyestuff was combined with the alum in one solution.

Attichpleter: Leaves of the dwarf elder tree. There are two recipies in the manuscript which include elder; in one, which specifies that the leaves be used it is used in combination with indigo to produce blue. In another, elder--whether the leaves or the whole plant is uncertain--is used to make a green dye. (see the notes for "Holdern". )

Auripigmentum: orpiment (arsenic trisulfide). This dangerous chemical, used extensively as a pigment for painting and illumination at the time, produced a bright yellow dye.

Aychephel: Oak galls, those bulbous objects on oak trees which are actually infections caused by wasps. Oak galls have long been used to make a black dye. As they are so rich in tannin, a natural mordant, no other mordant is necessary. The addition of oak galls to a dye bath will dull or mute the resulting color. It is one of the more common ingredients in medieval recipies for ink, and darkens with time and exposure to air.

Chrebsen: Crabs. One of the least believable recipes in the manuscript specifies that crabshells be boiled, finely ground, and combined with verdigris to make a red color on cloth.

Ezzeich: The translation of this word is confusing; I at first thought it to be the MHD equivilant for the modern German word essig, or "vinegar", which was used and is used today as a mordant for fabric. In his book "Ein Buch von Alten Farben", however, Emil Ploss translates the word to mean "lime water", a water solution of carbon hydroxide. Lime Water was mention in Thomas Cooper's 19th century manual on dyeing as a way to bring the color out in a dye bath, to make it stronger and clearer. The only definitive way to find out which translation is correct would be to follow the instructions using both materials, and seeing which works the best; if anyone does this, please let me know the results of the experiment!

Grünspat: Verdigris, a combination of copper acetate and copper salts, usually used as a pigment in paintings and illuminations of the time. The pigment is a deep greenish-blue in hue.

Gumi: Gum Arabic. Gum arabic was used in inks and pigments, and in these recipies is used in combination with the water-insoluble ingredients lapis lazuli, cinnabar, and verditris to help the coloring agent stick fast to the fabric. Using Gum arabic produces a stiff, rather brittle fabric.

Harn: Urine. Urine has enjoyed a long history as an aid to dyeing cloth. The minerals and salts in uric acid, as well as the ammonia it contains, makes it a very good mordant as well as producing a number of different colouring effects when used with various dyes.

Holdern: Elder. Whether the leaves, berries or the whole plant is used isn't specified; Elderberries have been used to make a rather fugitive purple-grey dye, and the leaves contain a noticeable amount of tannin, which works as a mordant.

Indich: Indigo (indigofera tinctoria) was obtained from the leaves of a plant grown in India and Egypt for thousands of years. It was used by the Ancient egyptians as a dye, and its popularity as a strong blue dye has remained constant throughout the millenia. Indigo contains a chemical which turns blue upon oxidation, and requires careful and prolonged processing to produce a good blue. Many of the old recipies for indigo include the use of urine. (see Harn)

Kalch: Chalk, probably a form of limestone or a similar mineral, is used with brasilwood in one of the Innsbruck recipies, possibly in the same capacity as lime water (see ezzeich)

Lasurblau/Lasawr The stone lapis lazuli, which in ground form was one of the major pigments used by medieval artists, was also used to dye cloth. Gum Arabic was used to help it stick to the fabric.

Massalterein/s: Ploss translates this into the latin Acer campestre, which is a small maple, no more than 30 feet in height, and quite drought tolerant. Unfortunately, I do not know the vernacular English name. The bark of the Norwegian maple, Acer Platinoides, produces a reasonably colorfast rose-tan or brown dye, as does the bark of the Silver maple.

Menschenharn: Human Urine. See Harn.

Minig/Menninge Lead Oxide. This is used to make a red colour. I can't find any example of it in modern use, most likely because of the danger involved, and have no information on the colour it produced.

Nusscheln: Nutshells, most likely Walnut, which produce a dark brown color.

Pech: Pitch. Pitch is specified in one of the above recipies for brown, in addition to rusty iron (ferrous oxide). What part the pitch played in the dye process is unknown--whether it was only a dyestuff, or a mordant to make the color fast as well.

Peizzelpaum: the Barberry (Berberis Vulgaris) is well known for the bright yellow dye, somewhat fugitive, which can be obtained from its berries.

Presilig: Brasilwood (Caesalpinia sappan). Although the modern name refers to the dyes found in the wood of Caesalpinia echinata, discovered in Brasil, the wood refered to in this manuscript came from Sri Lanka, India and Malasia. It produces hues ranging from pink to a deep claret, and is more fugitive than madder or cochineal. Different mordants produca a variety of different colors.

Rostiges Eisen : Rusty iron, or ferrous oxide. (See Abfeilinch)

Zynober Cinnabar, or vermilion (Mercuric sulfide). This pigment, also used for painting, was not water soluble and produced a bright orange-red color.