Tag Archives: digitisation

Multispectral Imaging Trials with The Photon Science Institute – George Christian and Robert Longstaff

 

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Measuring the wavelengths of the Megavision Panels using a spectrometer

 

We are all used to the fact that unique or very rare manuscripts, like those stored in the collections of the John Rylands Library, must be handled with extreme care. They are often only displayed to the public through a layer of protective glass or maybe even exclusively as photographic reproductions; the originals far too fragile to be brought out of the dark for extended periods of time.

Since they provide us with such a precious link to the past, it is very understandable that they should be treated in this way. So it might be easy to forget that this has not always been the case. There are many examples of manuscripts whose raw materials (usually parchment) were at one time deemed more valuable than the text they contained, and which therefore became palimpsests.

A palimpsest is a manuscript from which the text has been removed and replaced by new writing, effectively recycling the original material. This then creates a new challenge for scholars who wish to read the original text which may only be very faintly visible, if at all. Traditionally, the underlying text would have been read simply by close inspection of the faint impressions left by the writing. However, this is obviously limited to manuscripts for which this text is visible to the naked eye in the first place.

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, scholars brought out the less visible text with various chemical cocktails which were often highly damaging to the manuscripts. More recently, far less invasive techniques have been developed based on a fundamental understanding of light and how it interacts with matter, and CHICC has teamed up with the Photon Science Institute (part of the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manchester) to trial the technique of Multispectral Imaging.

We (George Christian and Robert Longstaff) are two fourth-year physics undergraduate students who are working with the imaging team to explore the potential usefulness of this technique. Multispectral imaging is the technique of capturing data (in this case photographs) from one source at multiple wavelengths of light. By treating these images as mathematical objects (where each pixel has a numerical value associated with it), they can be combined and manipulated in such ways as to produce images where the previously invisible text can be seen and interpreted (hopefully) much more easily. For example, often invisible text can be made very clearly visible by illuminating it with ultraviolet (UV) light. The trouble is, the text that replaced it is usually also just as visible in the image.

However, if an image taken at a wavelength where only the overlying text is visible is subtracted from the image where both texts are visible, then we are left with an image containing only the text that was previously very difficult or impossible to make out. The techniques we are using were employed on the now famous Archimedes Palimpsest, and the results they have achieved can be seen in full on their website (http://www.archimedespalimpsest.org/).

We have already had some success, although really we are learning as we go. Our main challenge is to find ways to bring out the “hidden” text as clearly as possible, and hopefully in a way that is useful to the scholars! This is a very exciting opportunity for us as it’s the first time this has been offered as a final-year project, and it offers a unique chance to work in the John Rylands Library which doesn’t happen very often for physics students!

George & Robert

George and Robert’s findings can be read here

 

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Yggdrasill Online

Recently digitsed and now available online are twenty-two manuscript copies of the Ashburne Hall Magazine, Yggdrasill, c.1901-1909. These beautiful magazines are a wonderful snapshot of life in the contemporaneous Hall and are undoubtedly a rich source of research material for scholars of many disciplines.  The post that follows has kindly been supplied by Sheila Griffiths, Honorary Secretary of the Ashburne Association.

 

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Amongst the documentary archive of Ashburne Hall, University of Manchester, is a unique collection of hand written magazines, giving us a glimpse into the lives of the first students of Hall.

In 1899, a public meeting was held in the Lord Mayor’s Parlour in Manchester Town Hall. The aim was to raise funds for the establishment of a Hall of Residence for women. Professor Alexander, philosopher and supporter of higher education for women, had often heard complaints from Head Mistresses that there was a lack of pleasant accommodation for their girls in Manchester; they often advised them to apply to another university.

The public meeting raised £3,000 and Robert Derbyshire, lawyer in the city, generously purchased Ashburne House next to his own in Victoria Park. Other wealthy benefactors opened their attics, to provide furniture for the “Women’s College”. However, fearing that the women would be kept separate because of male opposition, it was decided it should be known as a Hall of Residence. Women were to be included in the university and wherever possible, taught side by side with men.

As late as 1905, the Manchester University Magazine comments that Ashburne House had originally been “only a venture”, but with growing numbers of women students, there was no question as to its viability Manchester was also a centre of the women’s movement, with many eminent professors and C.P.Scott of the Manchester Guardian advocating votes for women.The city was a vibrant focus for politics, science and the arts.

Into this academic hot house came the first dozen Ashburnians, desperate to show that they were both worthy and capable. New education grants for teaching made it possible for girls from modest backgrounds to read for a degree. Ashburne House was no finishing school for rich young ladies: it was for women who had to earn a living.

The hand drawn and painted magazines ceased in 1909, when the hope of the first editor that one day they would be printed was realized. The manuscript editions have great charm and freshness. Here was a lively community of young women ready for the fun of tennis parties, picnics and bicycling expeditions, yet with a deep sense of purpose, an awareness of how much there was to accomplish in the world.

In 1908, preparations were made to move to a larger site, The Oaks in Fallowfield, generously donated by the Behrens family. This became Ashburne Hall, the home now of over six hundred students

Like the Yggdrasill, the Tree of Knowledge, with its branches spreading wide, we now have Ashburnians all over the world, both men and women. Our annual magazine continues with the same name today.

List of Individual Magazines available:

Yggdrasill, Autumn 1901

Yggdrasill, Lent 1902Yggdrasill, Summer 1902Yggdrasill, Christmas 1902

Yggdrasill, Spring 1903Yggdrasill, Summer 1903Yggdrasill, Autumn 1903

Yggdrasill, Lent 1904Yggdrasill, Summer 1904Yggdrasill, Christmas 1904

Yggdrasill, Lent 1905; Yggdrasill, Christmas 1905

Yggdrasill, Lent 1906Yggdrasill, Summer 1906Yggdrasill, Christmas 1906

Yggdrasill, Lent 1907Yggdrasill, Summer 1907a; Yggdrasill, Summer 1907b

Yggdrasill, Lent 1908Yggdrasill, Easter 1908

Yggdrasill, Lent 1909Yggdrasill, c.1909

 

 

 

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RTI Cuneiform tablets now online

Sumerian tablet P108057. From the Umma Period, 2100-2000 BC.

Sumerian tablet P108057. From the Umma Period, 2100-2000 BC.

Rylands Cuneiform tablets, digitised using Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) are now available online. We posted an interesting piece a while back about the digitisation process here. The library worked in collaboration with the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative based at UCLA, and Dr. Klaus Wagensonner of The University of Oxford. See the amazing images and transcriptions here.

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Sketches by Wenceslaus Hollar

We are pleased to make available in its entirety, Rylands English MS 883, a book of drawings by the esteemed artist and master etcher Wenceslaus Hollar, 1607-1677.  Born in Prague, Hollar’s craft took him to various parts of Europe and he spent many years in England in the employ of Thomas Howard, the 21st Earl of Arundel.  Hollar was a prolific worker and there are collections of his work in both the British Museum and in the Royal Collection at Windsor.  The University of Toronto also has a significant online collection of prints.

The collection of sketches is fascinating; the pieces are beautifully executed original drawings with the exception of one etching, a portrait of J. Banfi Huniades.  The drawings (which do not appear in any particular order) are of various places in Europe, including London, Prague, Amsterdam and Cologne.  There are some sketches on loose scraps of paper and a good number that have been stuck onto the leaves of the book.  The digital bookreader object of English MS 883 is hosted in our Rylands Collection along with various leaves we already had digitised.

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Graham Moss of Incline Press on Portrait of a Living Archvie

 

Graham and Skipper

We are pleased to share a great blog post from one of the sitters of the Portrait of a Living Archive Exhibition:

Graham Moss of Incline Press on Portrait of a Living Archvie

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Upcoming CHICC Appearances

CHICC photographers Jamie and Gwen will be giving talks at two exciting events over the next few weeks. On 24th of October Jamie will be over in Oldham at a TEDx event talking about recent advances in imaging at the Rylands, while on 14th November, Gwen will giving a paper about CHICC and sustainability for AHFAP 2013 conference at the Tate in London. The TEDx event has sold out, however there will be live streams available on the day. see the website for details.

Ted

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Art of Thomas Bewick

Recent additions to LUNA include a number of examples of the wonderful wood engravings of master engraver Thomas Bewick.  Thomas Bewick (1753 – 1828) was an engraver and natural history writer who re-popularised wood engraving in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.  Major works include A History of British Birds  and A General History of Quadrupeds.   Amongst the images digitised are a number of examples of tail-pieces from A History of British Birds.  Tail-pieces are very small engravings used to fill the small spaces at the end of text sections; what is amazing about them is the great detail demonstrated in such tiny images and the obvious skill of Bewick who crafted them.  The image below is a tail-piece from The Fables of Aesop, and others, Bewick notably illustrated many editions of Aesop’s Fables throughout his life.

Waiting for death

Waiting for death

 

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Locating Boccaccio in 2013

On the 700th anniversary of his birth the Rylands exhibition Locating Boccaccio forms part of a series of events around the world celebrating Giovanni Boccaccio in 2013. The exhibition seeks to locate Boccaccio in different times, languages and places showcasing many outstanding examples from our own collections. Images are now available in LUNA of some of the items currently in the exhibition. These images and others relating to Boccaccio can be found here.

   

Giovanni Boccaccio

Giovanni Boccaccio

   

  

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Spectral Imaging testing at The National Library of Scotland

Combe MS 7382 page 6 in visible light (left) and in UV light (right)

Combe MS 7382 page 6 in visible light (left) and at 365nm UV light with image inverted (right)

On 2nd July the CHICC photographers travelled to Edinburgh for some Multispectral Imaging testing on some George Combe letterbooks at the National Library of Scotland. Francine Millard of the NLS writes:

George Combe (1788-1858) was an Edinburgh lawyer who was among the first converts to phrenology. This was a science which believed that people’s characters could be read from the bumps in their skulls.

The National Library of Scotland holds a remarkable collection of George Combe’s papers from 1804 to 1872. The collection begins with his apprenticeship as a clerk to Writers to the Signet and charts his promotion of phrenology which included co-founding the Edinburgh Phrenological Society in 1820 and the works Elements of Phrenology (1824) and The Constitution of Man (1828). Combe’s outgoing and incoming correspondence document his efforts to spread the causes of phrenology, secular education, and criminal and prison reform.

 

Combe’s letterbooks contain a large proportion of his replies to his brother, Andrew Combe, who was also a fervent supporter of phrenology, and to those seeking his help and advice both in Britain and America. Combe’s replies were copied by wet letter press copying (or wet-transfer) and some pages in these books have now faded to the point of invisibility.

 

The National Library of Scotland teamed up with CHICC in July to see if multi-spectral imaging would be able to render Combe’s words visible. These tests would inform the Library on what approach to take to preserve the Combe papers through digitisation.

To find out more, watch this short film of the work in action:

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Digitising Latin MS 113

CHICC recently digitised a beautiful 15th century chronicle roll here at the Rylands.

We decided to make a quick video of us working, showing how we tackle imaging a 20ft parchment roll.

Have a look at the video below, the images can be found on LUNA here.

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