manuscript lab

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

Case Study: Vercelli Book

The Vercelli Book (Vercelli Biblioteca Capitolare MS 117) is a compilation of poems, homilies, and a prose saint's life in Old English dating to the second half of the tenth century. In the 19th century, a copyist applied a gall nut reagent to a number of the degraded text entries in an attempt to enhance the visibility of the inks. As the result of this treatment, large brown stains completely or partially obliterate the text. To establish whether the text can be recovered using modern technology, we performed full multispectral imaging (MSI) of the book and XRF trace analysis on the selected ink and reagent spots. In the majority of the spots, the dark color of the spots cannot be penetrated by the MSI technique. Our XRF study has shown that application of the mixture resulted in the delocalization of the ink components in some locations, so that no text recovery seems possible. Yet, in other locations the text remained preserved under the tincture and, therefore, can be accessed with the help of imaging XRF. (Rabin et al. 2015)

XRF study: net peak intensities of the elements extracted from the scan across a line with partially obscured inks. The white arrow in the image in the lower part of the diagram indicates the position of the line scanned, with the step of 0.15 mm.