|Posted on Friday, July 11, 2003 - 7:53 am: || |
In view of the misinformation and allegations that have appeared on these boards (briefly) and in private e-mails over the last few days on the subject of testing the “Ripper Diary”, I, as owner of the Diary, believe that it may be helpful to make the following statement on the history and current status of Diary testing.
1. Between 1992 and 1994, Shirley Harrison arranged for three independent testing organisations to examine the Diary, in order to determine whether the ink had been placed on the paper in the nineteenth century or in more recent years. These were: Document Evidence, Dr Nicholas Eastaugh, and in, November 1994, The Department of Colour Chemistry and Dyeing at Leeds University. None of them discovered any ingredient in the ink either to confirm or disprove that the ink was Victorian. Document Evidence were of the opinion, that it contained a modern synthetic dye, Nigrosine, but ink expert Joe Nickell, a member of Kenneth Rendell’s team, has written that this dye has been used commercially in inks since 1867.
2. In 1994, Melvin Harris commissioned Analysis For Industry to determine whether the ink contained Chloroacetamide. They detected a very small amount, but were not asked by Mr Harris to make any comparison with Diamine, a modern ink containing a significant amount of Chloroacetamide, and which is the ink Michael Barrett at one time claimed he had bought to forge the Diary. Furthermore Chloroacetamide had been in existence as a preservative since, at least, the Victorian period, although it is unknown whether it was used in inks at that time. Analysis For Industry’s findings were brought into question by tests at Leeds University, who concluded (in a second test, eliminating contamination) that there was no Chloroacetamide in the ink. A further test by Analysis For Industry to ascertain whether there was Chloroacetamide in the Diary paper, was commissioned by Shirley Harrison in 1996. The result was negative.
3. In August 1993, Warner Books, at considerable expense, commissioned Kenneth Rendell to assemble a crack team of document examiners and ink specialists, to determine whether the Diary was genuine or a fake. Four experts worked on the Diary, which I had taken to them in Chicago, and a fortnight later produced a report. Despite large sums of money being thrown at the testing by Warner and the high quality of the investigation team, the Rendell report found no scientific evidence, that the ink in the Diary was of recent manufacture or that it had been placed on the paper in recent years. One of Rendell’s scientific tests did perversely produce a “date of 1921, plus or minus 12 years”, but nevertheless the Rendell report concluded that the Diary was likely to be a modern fake.
4. Last year John Omlor on these boards and in private e-mails, asked for my co-operation in another set of scientific tests on the Diary. He did not require me to fund them or to spend time on investigating the efficacy of the tests. He would deal with all of that. I simply had to supply the Diary. How could I not embrace the opportunity? On the one hand, I had nothing to lose, as I have had no direct commercial interest in the Diary, since 1997, when I ceased to be its publisher. On the other hand, I had everything to gain. If the Diary were proved to be a fake, I could get it out of my life once and for all.
What I and the Ripper community didn’t need, was another set of inconclusive tests on the Diary. I therefore made a stipulation in a written agreement with John Omlor, dated 28th June 2002. It was this:
“The purpose of such investigation is to establish whether a testing organisation is able to determine conclusively when the ink was placed on the paper in the Diary within a reasonable margin of error”.
On 15th July 2002 came the very disappointing news from John Omlor that he was resigning from the job of investigator/organiser, but assuring me, that he would remain responsible for raising the funds required for testing. He confirmed, that he had signed the agreement with me, but explained: “thinking things over, it became clear to me that perhaps someone with more experience in these matters and with a more direct, professional involvement in the case should be actively involved in this process as it continues”.
He and I cast around for someone armed with the detailed knowledge and objectivity to replace him. He proposed Keith Skinner (who declined) and Paul Begg (who accepted). For the last year, Paul has tried to establish with John Omlor’s proposed testing organisation, McCrone Associates, whether they could meet the requirement for approximately dating the Diary.
In the light of a statement made by McCrone Associates to Shirley Harrison, who has been making independent enquiries of her own, to include in the new edition of her book, it is clearly problematic whether they can. They wrote: “We are often successful in comparing ink samples on one document and determining if the inks are consistent or inconsistent over a document. The analysis of an ink which may be from a certain period is more difficult. Our laboratory does not have access to historical ink libraries which would be helpful in examining components of an ink from that era. There is a concern that someone could prepare an ink with a recipe from the era (an iron gall ink for example) and apply it to papers also from that era, which you pointed out are easily available”.
5. And that’s it. After one year, it appears established that McCrone Associates have little to offer, except a hope that, if they had the Diary, they might be able to find some evidence. But that isn’t good enough after five other testing organisations have pored over the Diary and/or the ink. I am willing to look at other organisations and to be flexible in my requirements, but the bottom line question is this: Is there any testing organisation which, on looking at the reports of the tests already conducted, and assessing their own resources, track record and abilities, can confidently propose, that they are able to determine when approximately, say within a span of 25 years or even 50 years, the ink was put on the paper. If it can’t, then it is a waste of time, and of the funds contributed by volunteers, to commission it.
If anyone knows of any such testing organisation, would they please give details to Paul Begg. Frankly, it would be a great relief for me, if the Diary controversy were settled one way or the other.
That is my position now, and it is the same position I have held and expressed consistently over a number of years.
John V. Omlor
Post Number: 108
|Posted on Friday, July 11, 2003 - 9:53 am: || |
Since I am mentioned in this post, I suppose I should respond. But I will do so somewhat briefly and vaguely, as I have no desire to become embroiled in anything unpleasant.
The author of the post above claims that "what I and the Ripper community didn’t need, was another set of inconclusive tests on the Diary."
Of course, this makes the definition of "inconclusive" the single lynchpin around which now turns the entire question of whether new tests will be done.
But if new tests are able to advance our knowledge about the book in any way, if new tests are able to resolve existing scientific conflicts about the book, if new tests are able to tell us more about what we have, then, although they might not fit the overly-restrictive criteria of "conclusive," there is a professional and scholarly responsibility to have them conducted, especially if those who fund them are willing to have them done for those purposes.
But even that is beside the point, since we are told that the only way tests will be allowed is if the tests are able "to determine conclusively when the ink was placed on the paper in the Diary within a reasonable margin of error."
But as the director of of McCrone's labs and other scientists repeatedly told me personally, they cannot promise in advance whether or not they would be able to do any such thing without first having the material in their lab to examine.
And we are being told above that new tests will not be commissioned, that the material will not be sent to their lab for examination, unless they announce first that they can reach such a single, definitive conclusion.
So, professional, responsible, understandably cautious scientists will never be allowed to see the diary if they are unwilling to say, before seeing the material, that they can produce conclusive, definitive results.
And they will always be unwilling to say that.
I say there is a responsibility, both to history and to the truth, to have this object as thoroughly and comprehensively tested as possible.
I say not having the diary more thoroughly re-tested, whatever the results and however definitive or "conclusive" they might be, is simply bad scholarship and renders any investigation into the history of this document incomplete. A "final" answer is not the only meaningful answer.
I say get the tests done by the best available labs and the best available people and see what they are able to tell us. That, I believe, is the responsible thing to do.
If McCrone, as a lab, is unacceptable, I am more than willing to find and name a host of other similar labs. None will promise conclusive results of course (science can't in advance, as we all know). But that should not deter us from finding out whatever we can about the document, especially if we really want to learn more about the history of this peculiar and troublesome little book.
Claiming that, if a lab can't promise final and conclusive results to the single question of when the ink went on paper, then all of their tests would be a "waste of time" is simply and unnecessarily to restrict the knowledge that might be available to us.
That should never happen.
That should not be how historians proceed.
That is my position, for what it is worth.
All the best,
Christopher T George
Post Number: 228
|Posted on Friday, July 11, 2003 - 10:14 am: || |
Hi, John and Robert:
First, let me say that I applaud you both for going public with your thoughts on retesting the Diary. I do think it is important that more testing be done and I would urge that the Diary be placed in the hands of some proposed testing organisation, be it McCrone Associates or some other laboratory that would be willing to test the age of the ink of the diary or make some other determination about the document that might advance our knowledge beyond the very uncertain and unsatisfactory position in which we now find ourselves.
I do think, Robert, that you are being perhaps too stingent in requiring that such a testing organization should guarantee ahead of time, that "they could meet the requirement for approximately dating the Diary" i.e., "to determine conclusively when the ink was placed on the paper in the Diary within a reasonable margin of error."
As John Omlor says, no scientific outfit is going to make such a guarantee prior to the testing taking place. If as you indicate the Diary has become a problem in your life, which I can well understand, any enlightenment should be welcomed by you and by the Ripper community in general.
In short, let the testing begin but, Robert, do, as you hint in your post of Friday, July 11, 2003 - 7:53 am, that you might, relax your requirement that the testing organization guarantee a result before they begin the testing.
Post Number: 75
|Posted on Friday, July 11, 2003 - 10:45 am: || |
For what its worth, when I spoke to Nick Eastaugh about the possible tests on the diary, I gathered that a major problem was that there are so many possible anachronistic elements that might be detected in the paper or ink of the diary that an almost endless battery of tests might have to be undertaken, (meaning an unpredictable and barely finite series of fees). I don't remember why Carter and friend decided to test for the anachronistic grass in the paper when exposing T.J.Wise, but evidently they were getting a better start than the diary owners and proprietors have had.
All the best,
Post Number: 97
|Posted on Friday, July 11, 2003 - 12:29 pm: || |
Back when I was caught up in the diary debate, I spent a bit of time studying ink evidence, though I'm certainly no more than a novice. One group I came across was the Spekin Forensic Lab in Okemos, Michigan (near Lansing). They seem confident about their ability to date ink. Mr. Begg might wish to contact them. They have a web-site.
I would meekly suggest that the lab attempt to recreate the exact chemical "recipe" of the diary's ink and compare this with Diamine's recipe circa 1991, which the diary's original owner, Mike Barrett, alleged was used in its creation. It would settle that specific matter once & for all.
Yet, at the risk of injecting a sour note into an otherwise pleasant conversation, I'm somewhat of the opinion that it is a lost cause. The longer ink has been on paper, the more difficult it becomes to date it with any degree of accuracy. However old the diary is, it has now been on paper for at least twelve years. Science does march on, and perhaps improvements have been made, but I think we are expecting too much from science. Dried chemical compounds, oxidized minerals, scratches on metal..things like these can't usually be dated. As tedious as it is, I think the best scientific indication of the age of the Liverpool Diary still must rely on the early tests done by Baxendale, Eastaugh, &tc. and to glean from their results what was really indicated, especially in the light of a textual analysis. But even angels would fear to tread down that path again...
Err... I don't doubt the good intentions of those here, but human nature is human nature. Whatever results a new test would bring, wouldn't the long history of the "thing" still loom in the background? I can image the pro-crowd still quoting Voller, the old-hoax crowd clinging to McNeil, the recent-forgey lot insisting on Rendell & Baxendale, and those who seem to delight in the mystery still pointing out the discrepencies in each.
Cynically yours, RJP
John V. Omlor
Post Number: 109
|Posted on Friday, July 11, 2003 - 4:44 pm: || |
Believe me, I share your cynicism. It is my "human nature" as well. However, you are quite right about science "marching on." And the fact is that the initial tests on the diary produced various questions and conflicts which a reputable, professional lab can indeed go a long way towards settling in a purely objective fashion. And yes, several labs have also expressed a new-found confidence in the possibility of dating ink.
Martin and Chris,
Many thanks for the thoughts. Frankly, I see no need to debate this at length either here or in any other forum.
In the end, only one of two things will happen. Either the diary will be tested in a thorough, professional, and comprehensive manner or it will not.
If it is, I am confident we will, at the very least, learn some things about this document, some objective truths, which we do not now know. That, I believe, is the goal of all responsible scholarship.
If it is not, we will not learn anything.
And, despite my cynicism and RJ's appropriate warnings about human nature, I still know which option I favor and why.
All the best,
Caroline Anne Morris
Post Number: 205
|Posted on Monday, July 14, 2003 - 5:34 am: || |
As briefly as I can manage it (sighs of relief all round!), I think it's fairly unreasonable to expect anyone who went through those early diary years to look forward fondly to another round of tests which, on all the information I can gather to date, from several sources, would only add more fuel to whichever individual fire one is warming one's hands on at the time.
As RJ puts it so well (I gave you five stars, RJ), new test results would inevitably be challenged by someone closely involved in 'the long history of the "thing"'. Take the simplest example, a result that showed the diary ink had no ingredients that would have been unavailable in 1888. It would tell us nothing about when this ink met the paper, and the arguments would continue, from the history of chemicals used in ink manufacture to whether the lab screwed up by not identifying a vital ingredient that could not have been in a genuine Victorian one. Dating the ink itself will not help to determine when it was applied to the paper, unless a modern ingredient is found in it that cannot be willed away by arguments that the ingredient is not modern or that the lab was not competent. Failing that, we would be back to square one.
A direct comparison between the ingredients in pre-1992 Diamine and the diary ink was not asked for by Melvin Harris, as we know, even though he was the one who apparently took Mike Barrett's claim seriously enough to want to test it. Had this been done back in 1994, and a positive result been obtained, it would have been nigh on impossible for any pro-diarist to still be in denial. On current information from all sources regarding the diary ink's make-up, it's hard to see how any lab anywhere, if asked to compare it with pre-1992 Diamine, would conclude that Diamine was used. And what happens then?
Hi John (O),
You seem to have changed the goalposts in the year since you agreed with Robert Smith that: “The purpose of such investigation is to establish whether a testing organisation is able to determine conclusively when the ink was placed on the paper in the Diary within a reasonable margin of error”. You also agreed with Robert that he would simply release the diary if and when you (and later Paul Begg) were able to establish the kind of tests an organisation would do that could help date it.
Recently you appear to have been highly critical of Robert simply for maintaining the position you were happy with this time last year. And, as far as I can ascertain, neither you nor Paul Begg, nor anyone else has thus far been able to provide Robert with any promising information about new tests, and therefore nothing upon which Robert could have made a decision one way or another. His post above shows he is prepared to be flexible with his requirements (the requirements agreed with you this time last year) if and when he receives information about any useful new tests that could be done.
For my part, I would absolutely love to know when ink met paper, and the sooner the better. It happened; the day it happened can't be changed; it couldn't matter less to me when that was. And it would, of course, be a fabulous way for anyone to end a book reporting the facts about the investigation.
From what Martin says, it looks like Nick Eastaugh more or less confirmed my own impression of a bottomless pit, if someone were to start throwing money and the diary at any and every organisation that could offer to do tests. Common sense dictates that some care is taken to determine what tests are on offer, which ones, if any, are likely to help resolve any of the existing conflicts, and how much it's all going to cost someone.
Perhaps a chin wag with an objective authority like Nick Eastaugh might give a better idea of the advantages and disadvantages of a new round of testing.
John V. Omlor
Post Number: 111
|Posted on Monday, July 14, 2003 - 7:54 am: || |
A similarly "brief" response.
The fact that "new test results would inevitably be challenged by someone closely involved in the long history of the thing" is certainly not a logical reason not to conduct the tests.
The fact that there might be people in the world who would not accept whatever new, objective findings are produced, whatever new knowledge science gives us about the document, cannot be considered a rational reason not to let science do so.
Such thinking would have prevented anyone from learning anything, ever.
"Dating the ink itself will not help to determine when it was applied to the paper, unless a modern ingredient is found in it..."
Yes, well, that's a pretty big unless. And if a new test does detect a modern ingredient, then that alone would make the whole thing more than worth the price of admission.
Once again, you are arguing in favor of not learning anything because you might not learn the answer to the specific, exclusive question you want to ask. To me, that is simply bad scholarship.
And frankly, I don't care what anyone, including Mr. Harris, did or did not ask for in the past. We have a responsibility to the truth and to knowledge. Let's get the thing done right. Now.
"On current information from all sources regarding the diary ink's make-up, it's hard to see how any lab anywhere, if asked to compare it with pre-1992 Diamine, would conclude that Diamine was used."
It's especially hard to see how they would do that if no lab anywhere is given the diary to look at. Only once a scientist has the book in his lab will we know for certain what they can or will conclude. This is how professional, objective science works. It should be given a chance to do so. Not giving it that chance dooms us to learn nothing more about the diary. Why would we possibly want to do that?
Then you address me directly. In response I would say only that it became clear and apparent to me, after speaking to the directors of several prominent labs, that they could not and would not promise any such definitive results without first seeing the material in question. Consequently, beginning with the position that unless a lab could say that they could produce final, definitive results, the diary would not be released to them, had the effect of making any further tests simply impossible.
This is the vicious circle which is preventing us from doing anymore scientific work with the document.
And this is what is preventing us from learning anything at all about the book; from gaining even one single piece of objective knowledge about it; from moving even a single step closer to the truth. So, my position, upon discovering this logical impasse, quite rationally had to develop.
You can't make, as a condition before any scientist gets to see the book, a stipulation that no scientist can agree to, and then expect us to learn anything about the book.
And saying the diary will not be released to any lab unless that lab announces in advance of seeing the book that it can determine once and for all exactly when the ink was put on the paper, and only if it does so, is doing just that.
The only responsible position I could take, therefore, was that the diary be properly and thoroughly re-tested in order for us to learn whatever we can, objectively, about the truth and history of it as an artifact.
Not doing so can only have one effect -- the perpetuation of ignorance.
Arguing that not learning anything is better than learning something incomplete or than not learning the single thing you want to know most is simply to argue that there is only one acceptable question to answer, and doing that effectively stifles our ability to answer any questions at all. That seems to me completely crazy. Objective knowledge produced by thorough, comprehensive, scientific testing is worth pursuing, even if it only takes us a bit closer to the truth. To claim it is not is to argue in favor of not learning anything, and I see no reason whatsoever to do that.
Once again, it comes down to a simple choice, after all the arguments end. Either the diary will be tested in a thorough and responsible way, or it will not.
One option offers the possibility of learning something new about the document.
The other insures we will not.
As a scholar, I can only imagine favoring one option over the other.
And claiming that the diary will not be released to a lab unless it says it can produce a final and definitive answer to a single question renders the former option impossible. I see no logical reason whatsoever to do that.
Here's a small suggestion. Today is the 14th of July. Let's agree to meet here around the middle of every month, from now on, and see if the diary has been thoroughly and properly re-tested by a reputable scientific organization.
After all the talk, after all the discussions and arguments and pushing and resistance and all the rest, only one thing matters. Will this document, one that is clearly suspicious and whose origins remain an unsettled question, be re-examined by professionals in a laboratory setting in order to discover whatever is possible about it in an objective fashion? Each month, we can stop by here for a moment and see what the answer is to that question.
If the answer remains "no," then each of us can ask ourselves why. If the answer is "yes," then we can discuss what we’ve learned.
All the best,
Caroline Anne Morris
Post Number: 208
|Posted on Monday, July 14, 2003 - 11:29 am: || |
It makes me wonder if you read all the posts preceding your latest. You say 'it became clear and apparent' to you, 'after speaking to the directors of several prominent labs, that they could not and would not promise any such definitive results without first seeing the material in question.' I can only assume that all this dialogue has taken place since you decided to have nothing more to do with the process of finding out what, if anything, McCrone could do to help date the diary along the lines you and Robert had already agreed. You and Robert together began with the position that until a lab could report to you (and later Paul Begg) on the kind of tests they could do in the quest for enlightenment, there could be no decision made as to whether or not to supply the diary and commission the tests.
I don't know how to make it any clearer for you. Until or unless a lab somewhere gets something in writing to Robert about what tests they could try, the issue of whether or not the diary will be tested is hypothetical. Robert is apparently, unless you know different, still waiting to hear from anyone about the details of exactly what tests are on offer. As far as I can see, you are the only person who is arguing that the agreement you were happy to enter into with Robert a) ought never to have been made, b) stipulated that tests would have to 'produce final, definitive results' (did you even read what Robert has said about that, and his current position?), and c) that the effect of the agreement is to render 'any further tests simply impossible'.
I knew that your argument would, in the end, be reduced to 'a simple choice' - either the diary will 'be tested in a thorough and responsible way, or it will not'.
Ok, so let's wait and see if any labs can come up with a report on what tests they might be able to offer. Then Robert may be in a position to make the 'simple choice' you outline.
Stephen P. Ryder
Post Number: 2776
|Posted on Monday, July 14, 2003 - 11:38 am: || |
Take this conversation to email, or take it to another message board. I believe I've given all sides a fair chance to air their opinions on this subject, but its going nowhere and serves only to increase the personal antagonism between those involved.
Continue the discussion elsewhere, please.
Stephen P. Ryder, Editor
Casebook: Jack the Ripper
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