Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Next Age of DiscoveryBy ALEXANDRA ALTER

In a 21st-century version of the age of discovery, teams of computer scientists, conservationists and scholars are fanning out across the globe in a race to digitize crumbling literary treasures.

Ancient Manuscripts In a Digital Age

Wayne Torborg

Some manuscripts are in poor condition, like this worm-eaten, 17th-century Christian Arabic Book of Hours from Balamand Monastery, Lebanon.

In the process, they're uncovering unexpected troves of new finds, including never-before-seen versions of the Christian Gospels, fragments of Greek poetry and commentaries on Aristotle. Improved technology is allowing researchers to scan ancient texts that were once unreadable -- blackened in fires or by chemical erosion, painted over or simply too fragile to unroll. Now, scholars are studying these works with X-ray fluorescence, multispectral imaging used by NASA to photograph Mars and CAT on

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