Special imaging allows UI to read ancient texts

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG TV-9) Reading words that are so old, you can't see them with the naked eye. But technology is giving people at The University of Iowa an opportunity to read centuries old manuscripts for the first time.

The technology is two decades in the making. It's been used at the Vatican, the Getty and now at the University of Iowa.

"This is a text that a 13 year old boy wrote by hand as he was studying Latin in the fifteenth century," said UI Outreach and Engagement Librarian Colleen Theisen.

Theisen says UI is filled many of these types of manuscripts.
They know where the documents came from and what kind they were, but not what it actually says. With the narrowband multispectral, now they can.

"They have good cameras and a good digitization system but with the advanced imaging we are able to see the unseen in these manuscripts from the collections of the University of Iowa," said RB Toth Associates President Michael B. Toth.

Theisen says that through this practice they will be able to discover many different stories since each stain can connect to more and more, linking entire networks of manuscripts.

"Parchment leaves survive where there used to be texts that were erased because parchments were so valuable it was reused again and again," said Theisen.

"We're very excited to be here at the University of Iowa because it's got the center for the book and this rich collection of 15th century manuscripts," said Toth.

The Library of Stains project will move to different locations throughout the country.