manuscript lab

Separation of under- and overtexts
(palimpsests, faded, damaged manuscripts, sketches)

Case Study: Multispectral Imaging of a Hebrew manuscript

This example demonstrates the use of Multispectral imaging to recover erased text. We focus here on a parchment folio that is a shiwwiti – a devotional plaque that may be used as an amulet as well.

Image taken in visible light (top) and two processed images (middle and bottom).

At the bottom of the amulet is a depiction of the Holy Ark. Below the Holy Ark is a faded depiction of a pair of hands delivering the priestly blessing. The shiwwiti was inspired by the sanctuary of Exodus 25.

The text underneath the crown with the words – “Crown of the Kingdom” (keter malkhut) – starts with a quote from Exodus 25,22:

ונועדתי לך שם ודברתי אתך מעל הכפרת מבין שני הכרבים

And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the cover / mercy seat, from in between the two cherubim (which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel). Two consequential words of the quote: הכפרת מבין – kapporet mi-ben, referring to the mercy seat (kapporet), were erased, probably by a censor, but were successfully revealed using the MSI method (MacDonald and Pouvkova 2015).