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VMs: Garlic-smelling manuscripts

  > [Dan Gibson:] I have friends who have read many similar
  > manuscripts in Strangaili.
Google cannot find Strangaili or Strangali. What else could it be?
Perhaps Estrangelo?

  > The old books had a distinct garlic smell about them. The reason
  > for using garlic, is that the garlic actually burned the vellum.

This sounds strange; organic smells are not supposed to last that 
long, as they are easily oxidized or eaten up by microbes. Garlic
smell in particular is a very reactive compound that is created when
the fresh bulbs are crushed and decays very quickly.

Here are some possibilities I can think of:

1) There may have been some confusion somewhere between "garlic" and
"gallic". Gallic acid is indeed one main ingredient of European
writing ink, which was universally used from the 12th to the 20th
century precisely because it would chemically bind to the vellum
(rather than just sit on it); which could perhaps be described as 
"burn the vellum".

2) The special ink of those manuscripts contained some arsenic
compound. Arsenic sulphide was a popular yellow pigment, and arsenic
compounds were well-known to alchemists and metallurgists since
antiquity. Arsenous oxide, which could be slowly formed as the pigment
oxidized, is said to smell like garlic. Being a toxic mineral, any
arsenic compound in the ink would last for centuries. It is possible
that some arsenic compound would be able to "burn the vellum", and
would be used in a special ink for that reason.

3) I just read in some site: in India books were preserved from
insects by wrapping them in cloth that had been impregnated with
arsenic sulphide pigment. Perhaps that could be the source of the
garlic smell reported by Dan's friends?

All the best,

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