We are pleased to share a great blog post from one of the sitters of the Portrait of a Living Archive Exhibition:
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:
A few weeks ago, CHICC traveled over to the Blackburn Museum to digitise some wonderful manuscripts from the R.E. Hart collection.
The work forms part of a much larger AHRC funded project for an exhibition of parts of the collection at the Senate House Library in London.
From the project blog:
“On the 1st of May, James Robinson, head photographer of the John Rylands Heritage Imaging group, worked on-site at the Blackburn Museum. The session had been arranged by our team member, Tony Harris, and the specifications for our display needs were agreed between James and Tony. The beauty of the John Rylands expertise, is that all the photography took place at the Blackburn Museum itself. The manuscripts and incunabulae were therefore spared transportation, and our project was spared that expense. Jamie managed to take sixty photographs over the course of the day, assisted by Vinai Solanki, the curator of the Museum , and myself. The kit which Jamie had with him enabled us to photograph items of great variety in size and shape, from a palm -sized English Book of Hours, to a fold-out fifteenth-century map of Jerusalem that extended to five feet in length. The images will be used on a display screen at the exhibition, to enable the viewers to see more of the manuscripts themselves, and to illustrate our catalogue for the show. Vinai will also use the images to raise the profile of the Hart Collection in the community itself.”
Be sure to follow the blog for progress on the project, and look out for the exhibition opening in November.
CHICC are pleased to announce we have begun the digitisation of John Henry Cardinal Newman’s vast archive. The project is a collaboration between ourselves, The National Institute for Newman Studies, in Pittsburgh and Birmingham Oratory where the archive is kept.
A new blog is now live, following the progress of the digitisation project make sure to follow for regular updates!
On Tuesday 15th January 2013 the Rylands were very pleased to welcome Rachel Billinge, from the National Gallery, and Ed Potten, Head of Rare Books at the University of Cambridge for some very exciting imaging.
Rachel brought with her an Osiris camera for high-resolution infrared reflectography. The camera was developed by Opus Instruments based on a prototype that was designed and built by the National Gallery‘s Science and Conservation departments. The Osiris camera records infrared light wavelengths from 900-1700 nanometres, reaching further in to the infrared light spectrum than a standard CCD sensor could. The camera takes many images of an item and automatically stiches each ’tile’ together, saving hours of post-processing time.
Rachel produced images of the St. Christopher Woodcut, in a bid to produce a legible image of the watermark to confirm, or otherwise, the dating of the Woodcut. The St Christopher woodcut, 1423, is the earliest dated example of European printing. It is preserved as an endpaper in a manuscript dated 1417 from Bohemia, the ‘Laus Virginis’. Rachel also imaged the Annunciation Woodcut, although no watermark is believed to be present in this print.
Members of staff from across the Library were on hand to support and analyse the images as they were produced. We await the results with bated breath… we will share the findings with you in a follow up post as soon as we possibly can.
It hardly seems a year ago that CHICC were wishing everyone the best over the holiday season, but here we are again!
What a fantastic and eventful year it has been! We have seen some extremely exciting projects take place over the last 12 months, Historic Maps of Manchester going online, our initial experiments with Spectral Imaging, working with more amazing partners, including Blackpool Illuminations and the National Trust. There have been many books and manuscripts digitised from our own collections too of course, all freely available on LUNA.
We already have some fantastic projects coming in the New Year, so make sure you keep an eye on the blog for the latest news!
So, From all at CHICC, have a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
Recently at CHICC we have finally begun our tests with our new MegaVision spectral lighting panels. Micheal Toth who has worked on the spectral imaging of the Archimedes palimpsest and other cultural imaging projects joined us for a 2 day workshop. Michael also gave a great presentation to staff about his recent work on the Galen Palimpsest digitisation project, and the importance of creating an online repository for the data. Michael has also been working on an incredible spectral project within St Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai desert, a wonderful in depth article can be found here.
The light panels work through the electromagnetic spectrum, emitting light from 12 different wavelengths, starting off in UV and working through visible into infrared. We removed the IR filter from our Phase One P45+ back to be able to pick up the invisible light. By photographing objects under this lighting system, we are able to see what is essentially hidden, either text under text, water marks, text on pasted down pages and text obscured by damage.
The 12 images captured are then processed through open source software ImageJ. This is the more difficult part of the process. The software is incredibly powerful, but it takes time to process the images and create results. We are currently working with image scientist Bill Christens-Barry in the US who will guide us through imageJ, and work on the images we have collected so far.
We tested the system on a variety of different objects from our collections, to test how the lights can help us with different problems. The famous St. Christopher woodcut, to try and bring out the watermark on the pasted down page. The above Coptic Palimpsest fragment, inscriptions in the Gutenberg Bible that have faded, and most effective without processing, carbonised Greek papyrus fragments, that are barely legible, completely when photographed under normal conditions. The below image shows the difference between normal and infrared. Even without processing the images through ImageJ, you can see the text is now clear.
We will be sending our captured images over to Bill who will guide us through the processing. We will have some more conclusive results soon.
“From straunge and dampe woodlands is borne Herman Inclusus, a plagve ridden scholar, chronicler and adept of an unheralded preisthood whoth sanctifies the Despondent. He has brought fourthe his collections of unholy relics and exhvmed icons to illuminate your pervertd souls. Blesseth the sicke. Hail Herman Inclusus. ”
Herman Inclusus is the pseudonym of Stuart Kolakovich. Here he will present new works “IN GREAT DECREPITUDE” inside a shed that has been converted to an Orthodox style church.
Stuart Kolakovic was born in the Midlands, UK – home to Black Sabbath and industrial pollution. Graduating from the Illustration course at Kingston University in 2007, his final major project, Milorad, an 80 page comic about his Serbian Grandfather, won a D&AD New Blood Award and came runner up in The Observer / Jonathan Cape, Graphic Short Story Prize.
Since graduating Stuart has worked consistently, consolidating his drawing, inspired and influenced by his Eastern European heritage and it’s folk art aesthetic. Whilst the visual impetus behind his work may be apparent, for Stuart, the need to communicate and to tell a story, is the most important aspect of folk art.
IN GREAT DECREPITUDE draws on inspiration from mythical and occult themes, illuminated manuscripts, orthodox iconography and Gothic literature. To see more of Herman Inclusus’ offerings, view his sacred vault online.
IN GREAT DECREPITUDE runs from 15th October 2012 until 27 January 2013 in the Historic Entrance.
A brand new blog for the John Rylands Special Collections is now live. Expect some great insights into some of the incredible items from the collections. Don’t forget to follow the blog for regular updates.