The Maybrick Diary was originally a scrap album, and the small corner of what was evidently a photograph was also found in the spine. Perhaps what is being called "bone black," is nothing more than charcoal from a charcoal drawing, which, of course, is what one finds in scrap albums from the early 1900s.
Well, Feldman’s claim that charcoal was used with arsenic appears to be based on an affidavit from Maybrick’s acquaintance Valentine Blake (see Chris Jones, A-Z) who apparently gave Maybrick three packets of arsenic. One was white, being more or less pure, but the other two were gray (grey to y’all) because they had been mixed with charcoal. Whether this was bone black or some other type of charcoal, I don’t know and don’t know if anyone else knows. But I don't think we can say that Feldman merely made it up.
Meanwhile, the powder found in the spine of the Diary was not described as gray, but black, and Dr. Eastaugh merely **suggested** it might be bone black, which he also claimed was used as “a drying agent.” (I don't have the report, see Jones again).
However, as always, more questions than answers. Was this just a throwaway suggestion or did Eastaugh actually go on to make a chemical analysis? And was his statement based on a visual examination only? According to the National Gallery, bone black should be distinguishable from other types of charcoal, because under magnification its individual grains tend to be disk-shaped, whereas charcoal made from wood tends to be more irregular. (Art history stuff). What did the “Maybrick” powder look like? And was Eastaugh aware of this difference? Further, was the powder found in the section of the spine with the cut-out pages, or in the section containing the Diary’s text? If the former, isn’t it likely to have been associated with what had been removed? Since scrap books of this type are used for photographs, valentines, postcards, small drawings, etc., I am merely suggesting it could be charcoal from an artist’s charcoal pencil, which, once upon a time, was a popular way to make sketches. These pencils are not bone black, but made from the charcoal of willow, but again, how did Eastaugh make his analysis?
Considering other indications of the Diary being a rather crude hoax, it seems unlikely that the hoaxer would plant bone black in the spine in hopes that Feldman or someone else would make this obscure connection. If they were going to that length, why not just use actual arsenic?
Well, Feldman’s claim that charcoal was used with arsenic
The relevant passage in Feldman doesn't say that bone-black was used with arsenic, RJ, but that "bone black was also used as an antidote to strychnine poisoning [and] James Maybrick was an arsenic and strychnine addict". That's saying something quite specific about bone-black which I've been unable, so far, to corroborate.
Sam--Fair enough, but even if Feldman was slapping a little gold leaf on the lily, I think we have to concede that charcoal was mixed into arsenic on occasion...but....check this out:
"In the year 1888 Mr. [Valentine] Blake was engaged with a Mr. Nation in making cotton from rhea grass or ramie in which manufactured arsenic was used." Blake's process used ...."a mixture of arsenic and charcoal (the statute requires arsenic to be mixed with soot or indigo, not charcoal, when sold by a chemist)." "In February, 1889, Mr. Blake again visited Liverpool, and he handed to Mr. Maybrick in his office about 150 grains of arsenic made up in three packages--one of white arsenic, one of arsenic mixed with soot, and one of arsenic mixed with charcoal." South Wales Daily News, 1 June 1894.
So, this was a "one off" occasion in which Blake gave Maybrick some arsenic used in the production of ramie, hence the charcoal. One wouldn't normally expect to see charcoal in the sources Maybrick snorted. The article also states charcoal and soot, not "bone black."
Anyway, it seems strange that if Feldman found this to be exciting evidence he didn't have the black dust analyzed further.
For what it is worth, and it may be worth little, I also have a memory of looking through my parents' photo albums as a child and seeing lots of black dust in the spine. It was from those little black "mounting corners" that were popular in the 1930s-60s for mounting photographs in albums. The black paper would degrade and leave a lot of nasty black dust. Who knows on what Eastaugh's statement was based?