Digital retrieval

The state-of-the-art retrieval of palimpsest data that will be used by this project involves high-resolution digital imaging using interference bandpass techniques to capture multiple multi-spectral images ranging from the ultra-violet to the infra-red light spectra. The resulting images are then combined and processed using a mainstream image editing software to digitally recover and reconstruct the palimpsest text. A trial of the methods has been already applied to a 14th-c. palimpsest digitised by the Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures in Hamburg; the results of the innovative combination of Dr Andreas Janke's imaging and Craig-McFeely's digital retrieval.[1] MusRes will work in collaboration with the Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music (DIAMM) at the University of Oxford, led by Dr Julia Craig-McFeely, who has 20 years of experience in digital retrieval of text from damaged documents, where the applicant will spend a five-month period of secondment. The secondment will be targeted to the acquisition of the advanced skills needed for implementation of this innovative process of post-capture digital recovery, as well as the specialist techniques of multi-spectral digital imaging. These methods will be employed in the study of a selected group of palimpsests, by performing the best digital recovery of the musical information that can be achieved. By doing so, MusRes will be the first ever project to apply these protocols to a corpus of manuscripts, as well as the first digital recovery of palimpsests of early medieval chant.

Techniques of digital photography and image editing have proven successful in recovering erased texts otherwise not visible to the naked eye from palimpsest pages, yet musicology still lags behind other disciplines in the use of modern digital methods to access palimpsest texts.[1] Recent proof-of-concept work on an early chant palimpsest I led at the University of Oxford has shown that multi-spectral digital imaging combined with post-processing digital editing techniques using image editing software can retrieve much of the data lost in palimpsest manuscripts, making their contents accessible to both scholars and the public, as well as ensuring the preservation of the contents against further deterioration.[2] A MSCA-IF will allow MusRes to implement image editing protocols for digital retrieval of data from palimpsest sources on a selected group of five important, hitherto unstudied music manuscripts, already digitised with mobile cutting-edge digital image-capture techniques as part of my previous pilot project, finally opening up an invaluable corpus of material evidence for study and dissemination.

[1] Such as Archaeology or Byzantine studies, e.g. Archimedes’, Lazarus and Sinai Palimpsests projects. Work was conducted in the past on a palimpsest containing late medieval polyphony by A. Janke et al., ‘Multispectral Imaging of the San Lorenzo Palimpsest (Florence, Archivio Del Capitolo Di San Lorenzo, Ms. 2211)’, Manuscript Cultures 7 (2014), pp. 113–125; J. Nadas and A. Janke, eds., The San Lorenzo Palimpsest. Florence, Archivio del Capitolo di San Lorenzo Ms. 2211. Ars Nova, n.s. 4. (Lucca: Libreria Musicale Italiana, 2016).

[2] The work, resulting from a collaboration with Dr Julia Craig-McFeely is still in progress and unpublished. See also J. Craig-McFeely, ‘Recovering lost texts, rebuilding lost manuscripts’, Archive Journal Digital Medieval Manuscript Cultures special edition, ed. Michael Hanrahan and Bridget Whearty, 2018, and most recently Craig-McFeely, 'Restoration, reconstruction, and revisionism: altering our virtual perception of damaged manuscripts' in G. Varelli, ed. forthcoming (December 2020) Disiecta Membra Musicae. Studies in Musical Fragmentology (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2020).

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