Thursday, August 03, 2006

A cataloger's dream or nightmare?

At the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Labs they are using X-ray fluorescence to reveal an original Greek transcription of some of Archimedes' writings that are the foundation of math today--texts that developed mathematical ways to represent the real world.

The reason they need this technology is that the texts in question -- a 10th century monk's transcription -- was obscured by a 13th century monk who recycled the parchment by scraping away the original text and writing his own text on top. (Bonus points for those who know what this practice is called.) To top it off, last century a forger tried to increase the value of the manuscript by adding gold religious paintings. You can't seem much of anything of the original. Cataloging something like this makes our 'bound-with' cataloging problems seem frivolous.

The X-ray florescence technique involves scanning the surface with a very fine beam. One page can take up to twelve hours to scan. I'm assuming there will be a digital output to archive. Now that would be a fun thing to cook up metadata for.

Go to the Exploratorium website today to watch the process. There's a live feed at 4 pm PST but they seem to archive their broadcasts if you miss it live.

1 comment:

Susan said...

ooh, ooh, I know! Palimpsest. Another question...who is the billionaire bidder who purchased the palimpsest at Christies and is now having it imaged at the Walter's?

Could it be the same anonymous rich person who gave Hopkins all the bricks?