Medieval manuscript discovered in book binding by state-of-the-art imaging technique

A Roman law code manuscript dating to 6th century has been discovered within a book binding of 1537 copy of Hesiod’s  of “Works and Days” using a combination of imaging techniques, including visible-light hyperspectral imaging, and X-ray fluorescence imaging.

View of the text (by Emeline Pouyet)

Between the 15th and 18th centuries, bookbinders routinely recycled Medieval parchments so they could use them as bindings for new, printed books. So far these texts were unreadable, but the newly developed technique is about to change this state. A closer inspection of the 1537 copy of “Works and Days” by the Greek poet Hesiod, revealed that the bookbinder had attempted to remove the text, likely through washing or scraping the parchment used for the binding, but two columns of writing remained, as well as comments in the margins. Scientists used Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS) in Ithaca, New York, revealing a sixth-century Roman law code with notes referencing the church’s canon law. The researchers then developed a combination of two techniques – visible hyperspectral imaging and X-ray fluorescence, which provided provided the best results for revealing old text on manuscripts.

The page of the manuscript (by Emeline Pouyet)

(after Emeline Pouyet & Live Science)

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