Multispectral Imaging: A New Look at Old Stuff

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Now damaged or old texts can be brought back to life with a new technology called multispectral imaging. William ShakespeareMI exposes the text to 12 different wavelengths ranging from ultraviolet to infrared and then combines those images with a very high resolution photograph to create the clearest picture of the text. This new image shows a lot more than the naked eye can see. It shows old, erased text, original text that was written over, scratched out text, faded signatures, as well as water and fire damaged text.

A professor from the University of Mississippi has used this technology to study the title page of the legal treatise “Archaionomia,” which was a collection of Saxon laws published while Elizabeth I of England was in power. This technology was used to discover five new poems written by William Faulkner, they were originally lost to fire damage.

The research team traveled to Washington D.C. to inspect a scribble thought to be Shakespeare’s. The team was able to reconstruct the signature, but were not immediately able to determine if it was in fact Shakespeare’s. Now they can compare it to real and fake signatures to see if it is in fact the famous playwrights. If it in fact turns out to be his it could offer new insight to the mind and the man of William Shakespeare.

The uses for this technology, in my eyes, are endless. It would be interesting to turn it on all handwritten documents and see if there are any scratch outs, or re-dos. There is a possibility that maybe some some line was crossed out on the Declaration of Independence, or Constitution that could change our views on the document. Obviously, any findings need to be taken with a grain of salt, because obviously what we cannot see, we weren’t meant to see, but it can offer insight into the minds of the authors who wrote these historical documents.

Image from Wikimedia

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