Minimally-destructive atmospheric ionisation mass spectrometry authenticates authorship of historical manuscripts

Newton, J., Ramage, G. , Gadegaard, N. , Zachs, W., Rogers, S. , Barrett, M. P. , Carruthers, G. and Burgess, K. (2018) Minimally-destructive atmospheric ionisation mass spectrometry authenticates authorship of historical manuscripts. Scientific Reports, 8, 10944. (doi:10.1038/s41598-018-28810-2) (PMID:30050048) (PMCID:PMC6062563)

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Abstract

Authentic historic manuscripts fetch high sums, but establishing their authenticity is challenging, relies on a host of stylistic clues and requires expert knowledge. High resolution mass spectrometry has not, until now, been applied to guide the authentication of historic manuscripts. Robert Burns is a well-known Scottish poet, whose fame, and the eponymous ‘Burns Night’ are celebrated world-wide. Authenticity of his works is complicated by the ‘industrial’ production of fakes by Alexander Smith in the 1890s, many of which were of good quality and capable of fooling experts. This study represents the first analysis of the inks and paper used in Burns poetry, in a minimally destructive manner that could find application in many areas. Applying direct infusion mass spectrometry to a panel of selected authenticated Burns and Smith manuscripts, we have produced a Support Vector Machine classifier that distinguishes Burns from Smith with a 0.77 AUC. Using contemporary recipes for inks, we were also able to match features of each to the inks used to produce some of Burns’ original manuscripts. We anticipate the method and classifier having broad application in authentication of manuscripts, and our analysis of contemporary inks to provide insights into the production of written works of art.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Burgess, Dr Karl and Carruthers, Professor Gerard and Newton, James and Gadegaard, Professor Nikolaj and Ramage, Professor Gordon and Barrett, Professor Michael and Rogers, Dr Simon
Authors: Newton, J., Ramage, G., Gadegaard, N., Zachs, W., Rogers, S., Barrett, M. P., Carruthers, G., and Burgess, K.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > Scottish Literature
College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Infection Immunity and Inflammation
College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Medicine, Dentistry & Nursing > Dental School
College of Science and Engineering > School of Computing Science
College of Science and Engineering > School of Engineering > Biomedical Engineering
Journal Name:Scientific Reports
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group
ISSN:2045-2322
ISSN (Online):2045-2322
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2018 The Authors
First Published:First published in Scientific Reports 8: 10944
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
594271Integrated Health - Polyomics and Systems Biomedicine (ISSF Bid)Anna DominiczakWellcome Trust (WELLCOTR)097821/Z/11/ZRI CARDIOVASCULAR & MEDICAL SCIENCES
623593Institutional Strategic Support Fund (ISSF)Anna DominiczakWellcome Trust (WELLCOTR)105614/Z/14/ZRI CARDIOVASCULAR & MEDICAL SCIENCES
470561DTC in cell and proteomic technologies (continuation)Jonathan CooperEngineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)EP/F500424/1ENG - BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING