Tag Archives: photography

Techniques for recovering lost texts

Research Fellow Renate Smithuis and Research Associate Stefania Silvestri, are working on a Catalogue of Codices, Scrolls, and Other Texts in Hebrew Script in The University of Manchester Library.

The Library holds one of the most important smaller collections of Hebrew manuscripts in Europe and this project will create a full, online catalogue compliant with current cataloguing and metadata standards. To support the production of the catalogue, digitisation of a number of manuscripts is being undertaken. All images, included fully digitised volumes, are added to the Hebraica Collection in the John Rylands Library Image Collections, LUNA.

A substantial portion of the Rylands Gaster manuscript collection have already been selected for digitisation, including a number of manuscripts that suffered water damage during the Second World War. The level of water damage varies, some texts are still legible but faint, others have whole sections of pages rendered illegible.

The Heritage Imaging Team have been investigating the best way to recover the text in these volumes, unsurprisingly, we have found that a single solution does not fit all. The aim of this blog post is to demonstrate the different processing options available to researchers. We are researcher-led in the work that we do with Multispectral Imaging of our collections, so if you come across a text you cannot read, please get in touch to discuss your needs in more detail (email: uml.chicc@manchester.ac.uk).

I should note at this point that these examples are not exhaustive and we are always in the process of developing new techniques.

Trials in image processing have been run on pages from Gaster Hebrew MS 1832. The first step of carrying out any specialist techniques is to produce a high resolution ‘standard’ light photographs. These are the images that you can access in high resolution in our online image collections. Often, close inspection at high resolution enables a reader to decipher more than they can read with the ‘naked eye’.

In this example, the first image shows page 1 recto of Gaster Hebrew MS 1832 in ‘standard’ light. You are able to see that there is some faded text on the page but it is extremely faded in some areas:

Gaster Hebrew MS 1832

Gaster Hebrew MS 1832 1 recto standard image

The second image shows a standard high resolution image which has undergone additional image processing in Photoshop. The image has been inverted to help the text show through in certain areas of the page.

Gaster Hebrew MS 1832

Gaster Hebrew MS 1832 1 recto standard image with processing

The third image shows page 1 recto again, a standard high resolution image which has undergone processing in Photoshop to bring out the most faded central areas of the text.

Gaster Hebrew MS 1832

Gaster Hebrew MS 1832 1 recto standard image with additional processing

Here is a detail from each file type for comparison:

The benefit of this approach is that these results can be achieved without any additional imaging of the manuscript and standard photo manipulation software can be used. In addition, once results have been achieved, these can be batch applied to a set of images for an entire manuscript. The results may not be 100% consistent depending upon the range of damage to each page, but if the results are ‘good enough’ it will save many hours of image processing time.

 

Our next example shows firstly, page 2 recto of Gaster Hebrew MS 1832 in ‘standard’ light, plus an example of the same image which has been processed in Photoshop:

However, with this example we took several further steps to recover the lost text. In this instance, the manuscript has also been imaged using Multispectral Imaging. We now use a Phase One Achromatic IQ260 digital back, iXr camera body and standard lens combined with Megavision LED lighting panels and a filter wheel to capture 17 images at different points along the electromagnetic spectrum. I have included 2 images here, take at 370nm (UV) with a long pass violet filter, and at 448nm (Deep blue) as these single images give the best results. In the infrared wavelength, the text on this manuscript disappeared completely, which suggests that it is an iron gall based ink.

 

Using multispectral imaging we are able to take our image processing and textual recovery even further. Using ImageJ software I have combined several of the individual wavelengths to create a ‘pseudocolour’ image. This applies false colours to areas of difference across the page. Note the two images below in colour.

The colour results are not attractive to every eye, especially to the colour blind so can be converted in to greyscale. In the examples here, I have added an additional filter using the Channel Mixer in Photoshop to increase the contrast of the text even further.

Here you can see details of all 8 examples described above, click on the image to flick through each detail.

There are obvious benefits of taking every possible step of image processing to recover as much text as possible. However, there are also drawbacks. The manuscript must be subjected to a second round of digitisation using the Multispectral Imaging system, this is not only time consuming, but for fragile items it also increases the possible risk of damage to the physical item. There is additional time required for the photographer to process the images and store the additional data. Metadata must be produced to accompany the new images and to detail the processing work that has been carried out on the images.

Finally depending upon the nature of the damage to the page, a reader may need to consult a combination of 2 or 3 final processed images in order to read the entire page. Additionally, there must be a flow of communication between the reader/researcher and the person processing the images in order to process the ‘best’ results.

Specialists are currently working on software solutions to allow us to present the data to readers which will allow the reader themselves to combine and ‘play’ with images to suit their needs. We will report on developments in this area when they are available. Until then, we will continue to take a ‘triage’ approach to image recovery, assessing each item against the needs of the researcher to take the right steps to uncover lost texts.

 

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A midsummer night’s dream

We have recently digitised two very charming items from the Rylands Children’s Collections, both of which lend themselves beautifully to a blog post.

The first is an item that I was very excited to come across through a customer enquiry. The volume is Hubert, the cottage youth; : being the sequel to Phoebe, the cottage maid. Hubert is the second in a series of ‘Elegant juvenile’ books of the early 19th century produced by S. and J. Fuller.  The first book is Phoebe, the Cottage Maid which details the daily life of a country girl and the series includes Ellen, or, The Naughty Girl Reclaimed and The History and Adventures of Little Henry. The books are examples of some of the earliest paper doll books, although truthfully, Hubert is less of a paper doll than a paper head who moves through a series of outfits that accompany his story.

Hubert3

Hubert’s sartorial journey

As is so often the case with children’s literature, the series of books are morality tales where good or conforming behaviour is rewarded and less agreeable behaviours are discouraged and repented. As morality tales go, Hubert is relatively straightforward as a somewhat pastoral figure whose clean living, humble but productive life sees him attain his happy ending. Hubert’s dedication and diligence as a worker pays off, allowing him to afford buy the farm his father only rented and his story ends with Hubert enjoying a prosperous and respectable marriage. In fact Hubert marries Phoebe, she of the prequel to his own tale, Phoebe, the Cottage Maid. Unfortunately, Hubert is the only example we have from this series and sadly our copy is incomplete; wanting at least one outfit and a headpiece.

Unashamedly, we have become slightly obsessed with Hubert; we have digitised the entire story to be enjoyed here the plates and slip case are also available to view here. We have also been happily experimenting with making Hubert a little more animated…

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Careful Hubert!!

 

Our second enchanting item, tying in nicely with both midsummer (yes, it is!) and the celebrations of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, is this wonderful Arthur Rackham illustrated copy of Shakespeare’s popular comedy A midsummer night’s dream.

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This particular volume is from the Alison Uttley Children’s collection. Uttley was the author of the popular Little Grey Rabbit Children’s books and was herself Alumni of the University of Manchester, reading Physics here and graduating in 1906. Here at the John Rylands Library we have the Alison Uttley Papers and a number of books from her personal library.

Alison.Uttley

Alison Uttley via Wikimedia Commons

Arthur Rackham’s illustrations are familiar to many and we already have a number of Rackham’s beautiful illustrations digitised already and available to view in our online collections. Well known for his illustrations of children’s books, Rackham’s distinctive and sometimes rather dark artwork produces some wonderfully ethereal depictions, entirely fitting for Shakespeare’s fairy realm.

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The entire volume can be viewed in all its loveliness here.

All images unless otherwise stated are copyright of the University of Manchester and can be used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike Licence.

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Li Yuan-chia – The Man behind the Artist.

“Over the last 4 months we have been working across teams, (The Visual Collections and The Manuscript and Archives Departments), to try and enhance our understanding of what is contained in the uncatalogued archive of the artist Li Yuan-chia. We have been trying to improve upon the current box list for the collection to enable researchers to have better access to the collection and to rehouse the material into more manageable archival storage.”

Read more on the Rylands Special Collections blog below

Li Yuan-chia – The Man behind the Artist..

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A book 100 years older than the Magna Carta goes digital

Textus_Roffensis_0001 A manuscript predating the Magna Carta is to be seen, in full, online, by the public for the first time thanks to a project involving digital experts at The University of Manchester working in partnership with Rochester Cathedral.

The Textus Roffensis, a 12th century legal encyclopaedia compiled by a single scribe at Rochester Cathedral, in Kent, in the 1120s has been digitised by the University’s Centre for Heritage Imaging and Collection Care.

The medieval manuscript, which is almost 100 years older than King John’s Magna Carta and has been described as ‘Britain’s Hidden Treasure’ by the British Library, has never before been seen in its entirety by the public.
The University of Manchester’s Centre for Heritage Imaging and Collection Care provides specialist and bespoke solutions for the digitisation and collection care of heritage and cultural collections.

Dr Chris Monk, a specialist at the University who worked with Rochester Cathedral on the project, said: “The team here has vast experience digitizing rare books and manuscripts.  To work with this particular national treasure, one of such historical significance, has been remarkable.  And it will be just as exciting and remarkable for the public to see it up close – no longer a hidden treasure.
“The Textus Roffensis is truly a unique manuscript: it predates the Magna Carta by almost a hundred years, contains the only copy of the oldest set of laws in English, and was penned by an English scribe within 60 years of the Norman Conquest.  That it is being made accessible to the public is worth shouting about, and is a tribute to all those involved with the project.”
Written in Old English and Latin in 1123-24 AD, the Textus Roffensis is so called because of a 14th century inscription within the book, The Textus de Ecclesia Roffensi per Ernulphum episcopum (The Book of the Church of Rochester through Bishop Ernulf). It contains the Law of Aethelberht of Kent which dates back to 600AD – it is the only surviving copy of the oldest law in English.
Textus_Roffensis_0247
The book was originally two manuscripts. The first has the only surviving copies of three Kentish laws, including the Law of Aethelberht who was the King of Kent, from 560 to 616AD, and seen by some as ‘foundation documents of the English state’. King Alfred’s Domboc (book of laws) and King Cnut’s laws are also in this section of the book alongside the oldest copy of the coronation charter of Henry I – the wording of which is echoed in the Magna Carta (1215) and the American Declaration of Independence (1776). 
The second part of the manuscript includes the earliest charters of England’s second oldest cathedral – founded at Rochester in 604AD, the oldest known catalogue of books in England and documents concerning the Danish conquest of England in 1016. 
A number of pages in the manuscript display signs of water damage after it became submersed, possibly, in either the River Medway or the River Thames, sometime between 1708 and 1718, when it was being returned by boat to Rochester from London.

The early legal codes are concerned primarily with preserving social harmony, through compensation and punishment for personal injury. Compensations are arranged according to social rank, descending from king to slave. The initial provisions of the code offer protection to the church. Though the latter were probably innovations, much of the remainder of the code may be derived from earlier legal custom transmitted orally.


The Textus Roffensis has been safeguarded by Rochester Cathedral since its inception and has been digitised by The University of Manchester team as part of a Heritage Lottery Funded renovation and community engagement project at the Cathedral.


The Textus Roffensis itself will go on display in Rochester Cathedral next year, as part of the Cathedral’s Heritage Lottery Fund project, ‘Hidden Treasures: Fresh Expressions’, and will enable public access to its remarkable library and other collections and include exhibitions, workshops, events and activities.


Janet Wilkinson is The University of Manchester’s Librarian and Director of The John Rylands Library. She said: “The University of Manchester Library has long recognised the need to preserve its digital material, as well as print, for future generations. I am reassured that this significant piece of history will now survive for future research purposes.”
Find out more in this film produced as part of the project by Manchester Lights Media.
 
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Photo a Day

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This Freedom of the City of Manchester scroll presented to Mrs Enriqueta Rylands in October 1899. Mrs Rylands built the John Rylands Library as a gift to the people of Manchester. Thanks Mrs Rylands!

Throughout October The John Rylands Library will be running a Photo a Day campaign to increase the digital reach and exposure of the Library’s collections.

Each day, an image from the Library’s collections will be shared on Twitter and Instagram. The images will range from portraits of Alexandre Dumas to postcards from a Buffalo Bill scrapbook, and where possible, we will be supporting local, national and international festivals and anniversaries (such as Manchester Literature Festival and Gandhi’s birthday).

Please support the campaign by following us on Instagram and Twitter, retweeting images, commenting on Instagram or sharing your own images using the campaign hashtag #jrlphotoaday.

The account is @TheJohnRylands on both Twitter and Instagram.

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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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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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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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Blackburn’s ‘Worthy Citizen’: The Philanthropic Legacy of R.E.Hart

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.

Hart 20966, f. 106v, Venetian Book of Hours, c. 1470-80

Hart 20966, f. 106v, Venetian Book of Hours, c. 1470-80

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.

Image courtesy of Blackburn Museum

Image courtesy of Blackburn Museum

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CHICC Digitising the Archive of John Henry Cardinal Newman

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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!

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