A few years ago Sam van Schaik (IDP) and Agnieszka Helman-Wazny (Hamburg University) started a small project on the Tibetan manuscripts from Dunhuang. They developed a plan to combine the results of Agnieszka's scientific analysis of the paper used in the Tibetan manuscripts with Sam's work on the textual and palaeographical aspects of the manuscripts. Selecting a group of fifty manuscripts, put everything they could find out about them into a table, and studied at the patterns that emerged. One of the most interesting results was the suggestion that manuscripts that had been brought to Dunhuang from Tibet itself were made in a different way to those made locally at Dunhuang. Though more work needs to be done, this opens up the possibility of ‘fingerprinting’ a manuscript to find out where it was made.
The image above shows a microscopic image of Paper Mulberry fibres, more examples of Agnieszka Helman-Wazny's images of paper fibres from a Dunhuang manuscript can be found on the IDP website.