X-rays reveal 1,300-year-old writings inside later bookbindings
Posted: 05 June 2016 02:29 AM   [ Ignore ]
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https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/jun/04/x-rays-reveal-medieval-manuscripts

X-rays reveal 1,300-year-old writings inside later bookbindings
The words of the 8th-century Saint Bede are among those that have been found by detecting iron, copper and zinc – constituents of medieval ink

Dutch scientists and other academics are using an x-ray technique to read fragments of manuscripts that have been reused as bookbindings and which cannot be deciphered with the naked eye. After the middle ages manuscripts were recycled, with pages pasted inside bindings to strengthen them. Those fragments may be the unique remains of certain works.

Dr Erik Kwakkel, a medieval book historian at Leiden University, told the Observer: “It’s really like a treasure trove. It’s extremely exciting.”

Professor Joris Dik, of the Delft University of Technology, described the potential for finding new material with clues to the past as “massive”. The technology does not just make hidden texts visible, but legible.

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Posted: 05 June 2016 05:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Until the early 1800’s, when the first board-making machines were built, all paperboard (for bookbinding or any other purpose) was made by gluing together multiple sheets of paper (or sheets of other writing/printing material). Naturally, discarded paper would be used, in preference to costly virgin paper or vellum or whatever. Library researchers have know this from time out of mind, and have tried by various techniques to recover the written or printed words hidden inside these bookbindings.  What these people have done is invented a more effective and less destructive process, for recovering more of the recycled printed/written material than was hitherto possible.. In the nature of things, the amount of valuable material recovered is going to be very small.  People usually don’t discard or recycle stuff that they consider valuable or irreplaceable, though of course this can happen accidentally.

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Posted: 05 June 2016 05:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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In the nature of things, the amount of valuable material recovered is going to be very small.

Not necessarily so. A lot depends on the period and how you define valuable.

For books from the later period, which used printed material for the recycling, the chance of finding unique or new texts is likely small. There are fewer “lost” works from the age of print simply because there were more copies to start with. But this isn’t the case for manuscripts. Many medieval works, for example, survive in single copies. Finding a second copy, even if it is only a fragment, of a work with a single exemplar would be extraordinarily valuable. Furthermore, finding a previously unknown edition of a printed work, especially an incunabulum, would be valuable to bibliographers.

And what is valuable is subjective and changes with the audience and over time. For instance, books are commonly discarded because they have been written in. But such annotations and marginalia are highly prized by bibliographers and those studying how texts were received. What someone thought was useful only for pulp in the eighteenth century might be highly prized in the twenty-first. I know many scholars who have literally wept upon finding a text that some nineteenth-century bookbinder has trimmed in order to make it the same size as all the other books on the shelf, destroying the marginalia and often portions of the text itself.

What will be found, though, will be fragments of longer works. But even a line or two from an Old English poem, for example, would be a huge find.

[ Edited: 06 June 2016 08:05 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 06 June 2016 06:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I know many scholars who have literally wept upon finding a text that some nineteenth-century bookbinder has trimmed in order to make it the same size as all the other books on the shelf, destroying the marginalia and often portions of the text itself.

I didn’t weep, but I was really mad when I realized this had been done to the closest thing to an incunabulum I’ll ever own, my 1507 printing of Quintus Curtius.

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Posted: 06 June 2016 08:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Indeed, the sort of occasion that would seem to call more for savage grinding of teeth, and unprintable thoughts, rather than for tears....

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