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"Curious and unexplained features of the KH letters"

Nov 13, 2002 10:24 AM
by Daniel H. Caldwell

In his book "H. P. Blavatsky and the SPR", Dr. Vernon Harrison writes 
about "curious and unexplained features of the KH letters":

I draw attention to curious and unexplained features of the KH 
letters, namely the clear, regular striations of some of the writing 
apparently made with blue pencil (Fig. 11), the small amount of ink 
penetration even when thin "rice" paper was used, the unexplained 
features of the erasures seemingly made with ink eradicator yet 
without staining or roughening of the paper, the variability of some 
(but not all) of the characters and the (at times) grossly 
exaggerated t-bars. These features suggest that the documents 
preserved in the British Library may be copies, made by some unknown 
process, of originals which we do not possess.
Quoted from:

In elaboration on the above, Dr. Harrison writes elsewhere in his 

The Ink presents some problems. It has not faded in the manner of the 
ordinary writing inks of the period, which in the course of a century 
fade through brown and yellow to complete invisibility. These have 
remained legible and look as if they were confined to a thin layer on 
the surface of the paper. There is little "strike through." This is a 
term used by printers to denote penetration of ink through the pores 
of the paper to the reverse side. Victorian writing inks used to 
penetrate right through thin paper and make writing on the reverse 
side impossible (see Part 1, Figures 10a and 10b). 

Negotiations with the Trustees of the Letters to have these inks 
tested nondestructively by a university for their chemical 
composition led nowhere; and now that the papers have been 
strengthened by enclosure in archival tissue, further research on 
this problem may prove impossible. 

Blue Pencil: a knotty problem is the writing which appears to be in 
blue pencil or crayon. Much of this writing (but not all) has a 
clean, sharp, striated structure reminiscent of a mackerel sky. It 
looks as if it had been made by a modern, precision line scanner (see 
Figure 11a and Figure 11b). To me, the reason for this method of 
production remains a mystery. Emma Coulomb is reported to have said 
that the effect was made by writing with the paper resting upon 
bookcloth. I cannot understand why anyone should want to write with 
the paper resting on bookcloth; in any case, I cannot get the effect 
by writing in this way. The irregularities of the bookcloth and the 
dragging of pigment into the strips which should remain clear are 
immediately apparent. This remarkable feature of the writing has been 
ignored by most of the writers on the subject of the Mahatma Letters 
whom I have come across. 

Corrections: A further feature of the KH Letters is that corrections 
have been made to the text with much care. These corrections often 
entail the erasure of whole words, or even of whole phrases, and 
writing the corrections over the erasure. The erasures have not been 
made by rubbing with a hard rubber or by scraping with a knife, for 
there is no local weakening of the paper. It looks as if a chemical 
ink eradicator has been used; but application of liquid reagents 
usually disturbs the surface fibers of the paper and leaves faint 
stains that are hard to remove. It would be useful to know from 
laboratory tests whether there are traces of chemical residues in 
these places. If there are not, it may be that the corrections were 
made on originals, of which the Letters preserved in the British 
Library are copies. Knowing nothing of the method of transmission of 
these Letters, I do not know whether this suggestion is plausible.
Quoted from:

Daniel H. Caldwell

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