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Scientific analysis of the Codex Fejérváry-Mayer


A researcher from MOLAB setting up the X-ray fluorescence analysis of the Codex Fejérváry-Mayer

The Codex Fejérváry-Mayer is a rare Mesoamerican book dating to AD 1200-1521, and is one of the single most important pieces in the collections of National Museums Liverpool.

A visit from MOLAB

In February 2012 a team of scientists from the University of Perugia in Italy visited Liverpool to characterise the materials used to create the painted images on the Codex. The research was part of the MOLAB (or Mobile Laboratory) project, which provides access to portable analytical equipment and expertise for the study of cultural heritage in Europe. 

The MOLAB research team have studied a number of similar codices, and have successfully characterised the pigments and organic dyes using analytical techniques including: 

The methods are non-destructive, and are used to analyse the surface of the object without the need to take a sample.

Paper conservation

The analysis was carried out in the paper conservation studio in the Conservation Centre, where the environment was controlled to help protect the fragile Codex from sudden changes in temperature and relative humidity. The paper conservators have developed specific techniques for handling the Codex, and turning the pages, so that any variation in the composition of colourants on different pages could be compared.

What will the analysis tell us?

The information discovered on the pigments, dyes and binders is being analysed. It will help us understand how the Codex was created, as well as telling us more about the rate at which the images will fade, and helping us decide how to display the Codex in the future. 

Further information

    • Read a blog post on the analysis of the Codex.
    • Find out more about the Americas collections at World Museum Liverpool