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Concept: Codex


Computer imaging techniques are commonly used to preserve and share readable manuscripts, but capturing writing locked away in ancient, deteriorated documents poses an entirely different challenge. This software pipeline-referred to as “virtual unwrapping”-allows textual artifacts to be read completely and noninvasively. The systematic digital analysis of the extremely fragile En-Gedi scroll (the oldest Pentateuchal scroll in Hebrew outside of the Dead Sea Scrolls) reveals the writing hidden on its untouchable, disintegrating sheets. Our approach for recovering substantial ink-based text from a damaged object results in readable columns at such high quality that serious critical textual analysis can occur. Hence, this work creates a new pathway for subsequent textual discoveries buried within the confines of damaged materials.

Concepts: Codex, Manuscript, Ein Gedi, Torah, Israel, Scroll, Dead Sea, Dead Sea scrolls


Tissue-thin parchment made it possible to produce the first pocket Bibles: Thousands were made in the 13th century. The source of this parchment, often called “uterine vellum,” has been a long-standing controversy in codicology. Use of the Latin term abortivum in many sources has led some scholars to suggest that the skin of fetal calves or sheep was used. Others have argued that it would not be possible to sustain herds if so many pocket Bibles were produced from fetal skins, arguing instead for unexpected alternatives, such as rabbit. Here, we report a simple and objective technique using standard conservation treatments to identify the animal origin of parchment. The noninvasive method is a variant on zooarchaeology by mass spectrometry (ZooMS) peptide mass fingerprinting but extracts protein from the parchment surface by using an electrostatic charge generated by gentle rubbing of a PVC eraser on the membrane surface. Using this method, we analyzed 72 pocket Bibles originating in France, England, and Italy and 293 additional parchment samples that bracket this period. We found no evidence for the use of unexpected animals; however, we did identify the use of more than one mammal species in a single manuscript, consistent with the local availability of hides. These results suggest that ultrafine vellum does not necessarily derive from the use of abortive or newborn animals with ultrathin hides, but could equally well reflect a production process that allowed the skins of maturing animals of several species to be rendered into vellum of equal quality and fineness.

Concepts: Illuminated manuscript, Vellum, Embryo, 13th century, Codex, Mass spectrometry, Skin, Mammal


Throughout Antiquity magical amulets written on papyri, lead and silver were used for apotropaic reasons. While papyri often can be unrolled and deciphered, metal scrolls, usually very thin and tightly rolled up, cannot easily be unrolled without damaging the metal. This leaves us with unreadable results due to the damage done or with the decision not to unroll the scroll. The texts vary greatly and tell us about the cultural environment and local as well as individual practices at a variety of locations across the Mediterranean. Here we present the methodology and the results of the digital unfolding of a silver sheet from Jerash in Jordan from the mid-8(th) century CE. The scroll was inscribed with 17 lines in presumed pseudo-Arabic as well as some magical signs. The successful unfolding shows that it is possible to digitally unfold complexly folded scrolls, but that it requires a combination of the know-how of the software and linguistic knowledge.

Concepts: Scroll, Silver, Epistemology, Jordan, Torah, Linguistics, Writing, Codex


The objects of this study are various local charters (cartas de foral, in Portuguese) granted by Dom Manuel I, King of Portugal (1495-1521), which substituted for medieval ones and were intended to achieve an administrative unification. These are luxuriously illuminated manuscripts, and our study aims at obtaining a better understanding of the gilding and silvering techniques applied to the parchments, in which the forais were written, between 1500 and 1520. The combined use of microscopy and X-ray spectroscopy analyses allowed us to identify the vestigial materials used for making the parchments, including products such as salt (NaCl), lime (CaO), pumice stone (SiO2+Al2O3), and chalk (CaCO3). Chalk was employed as a whitening agent to give the parchment its final color and opacity. Shell-gold and shell-silver mixed in with animal glue or gum binding media were directly applied on type 1 and 3 forais, while very thin gold leaves (<1 µm) were applied over lead-based tempera grounds (50-180 µm thick) in type 2 forais. Silver was always employed in its finest form without a further protective layer (thus its recursive state of corrosion), while gold was used in various alloy grades.

Concepts: Palimpsest, Codex, Parchment, Illuminated manuscript, Silver, Gold, Vellum, Manuscript


Writing on paper is essential to civilization, as Pliny the Elder remarks in his Natural History, when he describes the various types of papyri, the method of manufacturing them, and all that concerns writing materials in the mid-first century AD. For this reason, a rigorous scientific study of writing is of fundamental importance for the historical understanding of ancient societies. We show that metallic ink was used several centuries earlier than previously thought. In particular, we found strong evidence that lead was intentionally used in the ink of Herculaneum papyri and discuss the possible existence of ruled lines traced on the papyrus texture. In addition, the metallic concentrations found in these fragments deliver important information in view of optimizing future computed tomography (CT) experiments on still-unrolled Herculaneum scrolls to improve the readability of texts in the only surviving ancient Greco-Roman library.

Concepts: Writing material, Ancient Egypt, Writing, Codex, Papyrus, Pliny the Elder, Paper, Science


Ultraviolet visible (UV-Vis) fluorescence spectroscopy is widely used to study polychrome objects and can help to identify the nature of certain materials when they present specific fluorescent properties. However, given the complexity of the stratified and heterogeneous materials under study, the characterization of an intrinsic fluorescence related to a given constituent (a pigment or a binder composing a paint layer for example) is not straightforward, and the recorded raw data need to be corrected for a number of effects that can influence the detected spectral distribution. The application of standard correction procedures to experimental fluorescence data gathered on the polychromatic surface of the Codex Borbonicus, a 16th-century Aztec manuscript, is described. The results are confronted to an alternate new methodology that is based on the hypothesis of transparent non-scattering paint layers. This second approach allows to establish more clearly the material origin of the detected emission and to discriminate apparent fluorescence (emitted by the substrate and transmitted through the paint layers) from actual intrinsic emission generated by the coloring materials under study. The results show that most of the various emission profiles detected in the paint layers of the manuscript actually originate from a unique fluorophore (composing the substrate) and should not be used to characterize the coloring materials.

Concepts: Ultraviolet, Materials science, Fluorescence spectroscopy, Painting, Light, Codex, Fluorescence, Spectroscopy


On occasion we receive manuscripts that we would like to publish, but do not have the page room to include in the print journal. For the full article, please go to or enter the provided address into your address bar.

Concepts: Codex, Virtual memory, Latin


On occasion we receive manuscripts that we would like to publish, but do not have the page room to include in the print journal. For the full article, please go to or enter the provided address into your address bar.

Concepts: Codex, Virtual memory, Latin


A limited single-laboratory validation (SLV) was conducted in the authors' laboratory to investigate the performance of AOAC Official MethodsSM 2011.19 Determination of Chromium (Cr), Selenium (Se), and Molybdenum (Mo) in Infant Formula and Adult Nutritional Products by Inductively Coupled Plasma/Mass Spectrometry and 2015.06 Determination of Minerals and Trace Elements in Infant Formula and Adult/Pediatric Nutritional Formula by Inductively Coupled Plasma/Mass Spectrometry at analyte levels below the practical LOQs (PLOQs) already published for these Final Action Official Methods. This work was needed to verify that the actual LOQs were below the minimum requirements for minerals in infant formula as given in CODEX STAN 72 (1981). Linearity studies at low levels were conducted as well as the analysis of blanks over multiple days to establish the LOQs (as opposed to PLOQs) for these nutrients. Several placebo matrixes from the AOAC Stakeholder Panel on Infant Formula and Adult Nutritionals (SPIFAN) program were tested over multiple days at two different sample sizes to quantitate the effect of doubling the sample size given in the original publications. The SLV results indicate that both methods can meet the Codex minimum requirements as-is, without modification of the methods, albeit with a relaxation of the stringent precision criteria originally established for these methods by SPIFAN. Precision can be improved by doubling the sample size, but this step is not necessary to use the method for its intended purpose. A concurrent collaborative study of Method 2015.06 showed that the RSDR obtained across eight laboratories for several infant formula placebos containing mineral concentrations between the PLOQ and LOQ were indeed worse than SPIFAN expectations, but reasonable Horwitz ratios (HorRat) were nonetheless obtained for these analytes.

Concepts: Analyte, Method acting, Codex, Placebo, Dietary mineral, Nutrition, Analytical chemistry, Sample size


The Coronation Gospels or Krönungsevangeliar is a manuscript kept in Vienna at the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, datable to the end of VIII century A.D. and produced at Charlemagne court. It is an example of a purple codex, i.e. its parchment is coloured in purple. It has to be considered as one of the most important medieval codices, according to its use to take oath in the coronation ceremony of kings and emperors of the Holy Roman Empire up to 1792. In order to gather information of the manufacture of the manuscript and its present conservation state, a diagnostic investigation campaign has been carried out in situ with totally non-invasive techniques. X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometry (XRF), UV-visible diffuse reflectance spectrophotometry with optical fibres (FORS), spectrofluorimetry, optical microscopy and multispectral analysis have been applied in order to identify the colourants used in the decoration of the manuscript, with the main concern to the dye used to impart the purple hue to the parchment. The information collected was useful in order to address some of the questions raised by art historians concerning its history.

Concepts: Codex, Bishop, Austria, Germany, Holy Roman Emperor, Holy Roman Empire, History of Germany, Pope