Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Resurrecting the Dead with MSI

Georgian NF 19, 57v.
One of the New Finds manuscripts
at St. Catherine's monastery

As news of the contents of the Sinai Palimpsests Project spreads, more and more people are bound to wonder about what multi-spectral imaging is and how it works.  Just how can researchers read a text after a copyist has erased it and written another composition on top of it?  To answer that question, here are some resources – a few of which are related to the Archimedes Palimpsest (an ancient document which, after it was purchased in 1998 for $2,000,000, sparked new developments in the science of palimpsest-reading) that explain multi-spectral imaging and its usefulness in the recovery of the text of ancient manuscripts.   

● At the Sinai Palimpsests Project website, this page describes the basics of MSI, and this page shows what MSI can do with digital images of otherwise difficult-to-read texts.

● In this video from 2016, Dr. Gregory Heyworth of the University of Rochester describes the potential of MSI for recovering lost texts.  Dr. Heyworth directs The Lazarus Project.
● In this video from 2008, Dr. Bill Christens-Barry describes the usefulness of MSI in the recovery of the text of the Archimedes Palimpsest.

Georgian NF 19, 57v
processed via MSI to emphasize
the lower writing
● In this video from 2012, Dr. William Noel describes the usefulness of MSI in the recovery of the text of the Archimedes Palimpsest.

  In this video from 2012, Dr. Fenella France presides at lectures by Justin Sinaites and Mike Toth, sponsored by the Library of Congress.  The three lectures, approximately 30 minutes each, are followed by a Question-and-Answer session.  Images of some of the manuscripts among the Sinai Palimpsests Project are featured especially in the third lecture. 

At the British Library’s website, Christina Duffy briefly describes palimpsests and how they can be read more easily using MSI. 
This video from 2012 features information on how MSI is being used on the Dead Sea Scrolls.

● This post from earlier this year reports the purchase of an MSI-camera by the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, to be used in future manuscript-photographing projects.

Georgian NF 19, 57v -
the reconstructed lower writing
(Luke 8:21b-16a)
The name of The Lazarus Project is very fitting, for in a way, MSI technology is bringing dead documents – documents that were previously either unreadable or only readable with great difficulty – back to life.  Our ability to read the lower writing on recycled manuscripts via MSI may provoke many a curator to take a new look at later manuscripts – antiphonaries, New Testament minuscules, patristic compositions, lectionaries, and more – to see if their parchment might contain older texts.    

All images courtesy St. Catherine's Monastery of the Sinai.  
Used with permission. 

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