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Sinai Palimpsests Project (2011 – 2017)

St Catherine's Monastery

A collaboration of St. Catherine’s Monastery of the Sinai, Egypt, EMEL, and the UCLA Library, made possible by grants from Arcadia.

Constructed between 548 and 565 CE, St. Catherine’s Monastery of the Sinai is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the world’s oldest continually operating library. Among its treasures are 160 known palimpsests. Palimpsests are recycled manuscripts. Ancient and medieval scribes would sometimes erase the writing from older manuscripts and reuse the pages to make new manuscripts. The erased layers of writing in Sinai’s palimpsests preserve ancient and medieval texts in 10 languages that date from the 5th to 12th century, nearly all of which had not been studied or identified until now.

The goals of the Sinai Palimpsests Project are to:

• Use spectral imaging to render legible the erased ancient texts on Sinai palimpsests.
• Identify and paleographically describe the erased texts, as possible.
• Publish an online, digital library of Sinai palimpsests for scholarly access.

Before the Sinai Palimpsests Project, only three of the Monastery’s 160 known palimpsests had been comprehensively studied by scholars and published. Over the course of the five-year project, EMEL spectrally imaged 74 of the Monastery’s palimpsests (6,800 pages). Based on these images, participating scholars have identified more than 285 erased texts. Many of these texts are new discoveries, previously unknown to scholarship, and others are either the oldest surviving copies of known texts or the first instance of a known text in a new language (e.g., translations of Greek texts into Christian Palestinian Aramaic).

View image gallery here…

The UCLA Library is preparing a digital library of Sinai palimpsests to be hosted online on behalf of St. Catherine’s Monastery. See www.sinaipalimpsests.org

 


Integrating Spectral and Reflectance

Transformation Imaging Technologies (2013-2014)

Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities Digital Humanities Start-Up program.

This project seeks to integrate two proven technologies for imaging cultural artifacts:

• Spectral imaging, which collects detailed color data in order to recover information which is indistinguishable to the naked eye, such as unreadable text on a manuscript or stages of revision in a painting.
• Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI), which captures the detailed surface texture of artifacts. RTI images can be viewed interactively and enhanced, allowing scholars and conservators to reconstruct the methods by which an artifact was produced and to analyze its current physical condition.

 


Important Textual Witnesses in Vienna Greek Palimpsests (2013)

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EMEL provided spectral imaging and image processing to recover erased ancient texts on selected palimpsests at the Austrian National Library. An international team of scholars, under the direction of Prof. Otto Kresten, is now analyzing EMEL’s results to identify and reconstruct the erased texts.

Austrian National Library – Division of Byzantine Research (site translation from German to English)

View Image Gallery here…


Restoring David Livingstone’s Nyangwe Diary (2012)

Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities Digital Humanities Start-Up program.

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Page of David Livingstone’s Nyangwe Diary, made with the materials he had at the time: a copy of The Standard and an ink from native plants


The David Livingstone Spectral Imaging Project is a collaborative, international effort to use spectral imaging technology and digital publishing to make available a series of faded, illegible texts produced by the famous Victorian explorer when stranded without ink or writing paper in Central Africa.

Visit the The David Livingstone Spectral Imaging Project here

 

 


Sinai Diaspora Project (2007- )

Detail of St. John the Evangelist from UCLA Special Collections Ms. 170-347, a 12th century Greek Gospels manuscript from St. Catherine’s Monastery of the Sinai, Egypt
Detail of St. John the Evangelist from UCLA Special Collections Ms. 170-347, a 12th century Greek Gospels manuscript from St. Catherine’s Monastery of the Sinai, Egypt

 

EMEL has a long-term program to digitize manuscripts which originate from St. Catherine’s Monastery of the Sinai, but which are now scattered in libraries in Europe and North America.

To date, EMEL has digitized a 12th century Greek Gospels codex held by UCLA Special Collections and two Georgian codices held by the National Centre of Manuscripts, Tbilisi, Georgia.

View image gallery here…

 


Next-Generation System for Imaging Fragile Codices (2006-2009)

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“Next-generation” digitization system for fragile codices, built by Stokes Imaging according to specifications by EMEL.

EMEL worked with Stokes Imaging of Austin, Texas, to develop a computer-controlled cradle which supports fragile manuscripts during digitization and which improves efficiency and lowers costs for the digitization of large collections of precious manuscripts.

This system is now installed at:

• St. Catherine’s Monastery of the Sinai, Egypt
• the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore
• UCLA