The English reader will possibly welcome the following short information regarding the RKZ (Manuscript fragments from Dvľr Králové and Zelená Hora in Bohemia, containing mediaeval epic poems and folk songs). Hitherto two different ones have been available: Count Lützow (1907) writes for, and Professor Chudoba (1924) against their authenticity. This double fact is due to a scientific dispute that even today is far from being settled defnitively althought its subject has already quite a library by itself. Comparison in this respect may be made to some extent only with the no less famous Old-Russian epic "The Word of the Expedition of Igor" or - to draw an instance more familiar to an Englishman - with the Macphersonian impostures.
We learn from the official history of the Czech literatura, that in the second decade of the XIXth century a forging laboratory of young Czech authors started its ignominious work, in order to supply the want of excellency in the Old Czech literature by producing vernacular literary "onuments" in a most ancient shape, and presenting them to the Czech people as documents of its former glory. We understand that those young and romantic people (the names of Václav Hanka and Josef Linda are referred to most frequently among them) were led by patriotic motives and that J. G. Herder who had declared the Slavdom to be the leading race of the future, was their Bible and prophets. Their forgeries in the end had contributed mightily to the Czech Revival, by encouraring national science, literatura, art, and national self-respect, like no other Old Czech literatury remainder. And the first place among the latter - belongs to the RKZ.
The RKZ fragments became the first - and the last - proof-stone of the intellectual of the so-called realistic movement that began to challange critically all the "romantic" idols of the Czech Renascence period in 1886. The scepticism about the RKZ, however, aroused an aunheard-of scientific dispute and found a big party of worthy opponents on behalf of the RKZ with an enthusiasm and skill adequate to their historic importance. No true Czech patriot of those days could suffer the idea that the Czech Revival were based on impostures. In daily papers free columns were being reserved for the opinions of their readers. Stress must be laid on the fact that the best XIXth century men of the Czech nation had never had doubts of the authenticity of the RKZ. It was duly pointed out in its time that the chemical analysis had found nothing suspect in the RKZ, and that a parallel between them and Ossian was unreasonable for neither Macpherson nor any other known impostor of ancient literatura had produced a manuscript bearing all due marks of natiquity.
Little by little, the number of the realistic half-proofs - overwhelming enouhgt at the beginning - diminished; and in 1898, it was avowed even from authoritative places that the problem was by no means solved. New outbreaks of the strife took place in 1911 and 1927. Two and a hlaf years ago the Faculty of Letters of the Charles University established a Committee to quiet the stirred public opinion. It was promised to publish a collective paper in a short time, in order to sweep away all the doubts of the falsehood of the RKZ. Unfortunately, or rather fortunetaly, the announced paper seems still to be in a pre-birth state.
The RKZ problem in its present shape, indeed, cannot be hushed down. The defenders have founded a Society (Çsl. spoleçnost rukopisná) to urge things to a close. If the Czech scepitc asks: Why should we have made an exception in a time when impostors sprang on every side of the European horizon, and do without decorating ourselves with cheaply paid feathers of a glorious antiquity? - we say: Yes. But first it must be proved, beyond all doubt, by scientific methods and according to scientific principles. As yet, all the so-called proofs ot the Falsity of the RKZ show more ill will than good logic and real scientific acribia.
In the course of ages the substance of the ink of old MSS, not only penetrates into the parchment but also is subject to a chemical decomposition, the products of which partly moulder away and may fall off from the sufrace, partly remain sticking fast within the parchment. In no case consist these products of substances similar to, or inentical with the original ink. The chemical process lasts a number of years. The colour of the script is bound to change according to the degree of the chemical decomposition reached. This decomposition cannot be quickened by any known means, without traces of such manipulations having been manifestly left on the script or on its environs.
The MS. Fragments from Dvľr Králové and Zelená Hora exhibit a script that has soaked deeply in the parchment. There is almost nothing left on the sufrace of the parchment, the upper particles of the products of the chemical decomposition of the ink having disintegrated and fallen away, so that we have only the ramaining hardly-dissoluble metallic compounds within the parchment. There exist no ferric inks of the same shade of colour as which is exhibited by the script of the RK and by that of the RZ, neither chemical substances that could give the products found in the RK and in the RZ in a short time. Neither the parchment nor the script show traces of any quickening chemical manipulations whatever, and by the time of the discovery the parchment and the script already had the same external look as they have today.
The only possible conclusion is that the RKZ are authentic mediavel monuments of vernacular literary achievement.
We can hardly accept such views, as the contrary is proved. - Prof. Gebauer knew very well the difference between writing ink and pigment (colour). He knew that the essential ingredients of tnnin inks were - first, tannin-yieliding bodies, for which galls were the most eligible materials, second a salt of iron, ferrous sulphate (greeu vitriol) being alone employed, and third, a gummy or mucilaginous agent to keep in suspension the insoluble tinctorial matter of ink. Prof. Gebauer knew that the ink underwent a change of colour during the chemical and atmospherical oxidation. On the exposure to the air an insoluble ferrosoferric gallate in extremely fine division, suspended in a coloured solution of ferrous gallate, was formed. The ink, after having partly sunk into the parchument, became oxidized there, and so mordanted into the fibre. The characters would neither wash out nor by readily removed by erasure. Prof. Gebauer knew even the difference in behaviour of the ink and the colouring matter which did not penetrate into the parchment and remained only on its surface. Besides he could explain very clearly and intelligibly the whole problem, as he did in Listy Filologické, 1903.
There he treated to a large extent the reasons why he could not believe any more into the genuineness of the Old Czech Fragment of St. John. It was for the chemical Reasons. The manuscript was not written with ink, but with pigment and therefore it was open to suspicion. The matter could be easily discerned as well by the act of washing away, as with the help of moistened blotting-paper.
But Though prof. Gebauer knew very well that the script written byl an ink prepared from galls and a ssalt of iron (ferrous sulphate) was dark at first, then oxidized and became yellow, that the ink penetrated into the parchment and could not be washed away, he did not show half so much objectivity in the case of the Old Czech Manuscripts of Králové Dvľr and Zelená Hora, which were not written with pigment, hut a tannin ink. Prof. Gebauer did not draw conclusions from his knowladge of chemical processes and was very sceptical towards the chemical research by Prof. Błlohoubek by which the Manuscripts were proven to be genuine. On the contrary he imagined fancifully some Prussioan blue (ferrocyanide of iron) to be under the old gold of the initial. Was he then objective? -