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Current Issue Article Abstracts

Spring 2018 Vol. 3.1

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The Syriac Galen Palimpsest Project: An Introduction

William Noel and Ralph M. Rosen

This special issue of Manuscript Studies was born of a conference held by the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies at the Kislak Center of the University of Pennsylvania Libraries on April 29–30, 2016, entitled “Revealing Galen’s Simples.” The conference concerned a Syriac palimpsest first mentioned in a 1922 catalogue of the book dealer K. W. Hiersemann. It comprises an eleventh-century liturgical overtext and a ninth-century undertext. The undertext in the manuscript is illegible, but it was known to be medical in nature when it was bought by its current owner in 200⒉ Three years earlier this private collector had acquired the Archimedes Palimpsest, and had subsequently funded the effort to image and study that manuscript. The imaging techniques developed for the Archimedes program were applied to this codex in 2009, and immediately bore fruit.


Pulling It All Together: Managing the Syriac Galen Palimpsest Project

Michael B. Toth

During a two-year period, from 2009 to 2010, a multidisciplinary team conducted multispectral imaging, digital processing and data management of the Syriac Galen Palimpsest.  This contractor-led team applied the turnkey multispectral imaging techniques developed in earlier advanced imaging projects to this palimpsest. This required new management techniques and work processes to provide useful results efficiently and quickly, while minimizing risk. In the initial risk-mitigation study phase, the team first imaged several leaves of the bound SGP in 2009 to characterize the imaging and processing challenges. Building on the findings from this first phase, they then imaged all the disbound leaves in 2010. Management of the SGP imaging and processing focused on integration of the people, processes and technology into an efficient imaging system. This included planning and managing the data flow, data replication, image processing and production of the image product while avoiding bottlenecks. With over 300 GB of data hosted for open access, this project provided opportunity for further study and collaboration, and multispectral imaging work processes used on subsequent programs. This access to the online images allowed a global team of scholars to conduct independent research, during which they also discovered leaves missing from the bound manuscript.


The Codicology and Conservation of the Syriac Galen Palimpsest

Abigail B. Quandt and Renée C. Wolcott

Disbinding the Syriac Galen Palimpsest to allow for more successful imaging also permitted conservators to examine the codicology and binding of the palimpsest, the quality of its parchment, and the chemistry of its inks. Both the upper and lower texts were found to have iron gall black inks. The red ink in the Galen text was identified as red lead mixed with cinnabar or vermilion, while the red ink in the liturgical text was identified as cinnabar or vermilion alone. The leaves of the manuscript were coated with chalk according to Syriac tradition. The binding, which was probably applied at St. Catherine’s Monastery, retained evidence of both Syriac and Greek binding elements, including heavy endbands, reinforced headcaps, chain-stitch sewing, wide fabric spine linings, book markers, and interlaced fastening straps. During conservation treatment, conservators released leaves that were adhered in the gutter, mended edge tears and losses in the parchment, reduced adhesive residues, and consolidated flaking inks resulting from water damage. At the request of the palimpsest’s owner, the book was rebound after imaging. The repaired quires were sewn over a paper concertina to protect the parchment from adhesives and to make the binding readily reversible. The volume was provided with new fabric spine linings, plain endbands, and a new leather spine that maximized visibility of the earlier binding features.


Spectral Imaging Methods Applied to the Syriac Galen Palimpsest

Roger L. Easton, Jr., Keith T. Knox, William A. Christens-Barry, and Ken Boydston

The spectral imaging techniques applied to the so-called “Syriac Galen palimpsest” in 2008-2010 are reported, including examples of results obtained. The imaging methods were adapted from those used on the Archimedes palimpsest during prior years, and are now comparatively elementary relative to methods that have been developed since. These recent advances will be outlined to demonstrate why improvements would be expected in newer imaging collections and processing.


The Galen Palimpsest and the Modest Ambitions of the Digital Data Set

Doug Emery

The digital Syriac Galen Palimpsest (SGP) data set is an archive built on the model of the digital Archimedes Palimpsest. As with Archimedes, the SGP data set is meant to promote the long-term preservation of and access to the digitized palimpsest. The SGP data set follows archiving best practices and uses the Archimedes Palimpsest Metadata Standard for spectral imaging metadata. The data is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license (CC BY 3.0). The SGP project used custom software to manage its data and metadata from the time of capture to final data set publication. In the years since initial publication, newly discovered leaves of the manuscript have been discovered, imaged, and added to the on-line archive. Since the publication of the SGP data set, subsequent projects have built on and refined the methods established by the SGP team by moving away from content-based file naming, establishing formal quality assurance practices, increasing automation in the creation and management of data and metadata, and including full bit-depth capture images in the digital product.


The Syriac Galen Palimpsest: A Tale of Two Texts

Naima Afif, Siam Bhayro, Grigory Kessel, Peter E. Pormann, William I. Sellers, and Natalia Smelova

This article presents the Syriac Galen Palimpsest’s double history, of both the original manuscript and its subsequent reuse. The original medical manuscript contained Galen’s Book of Simple Drugs in Syriac translation, was probably produced in northern Mesopotamia or western Syria, and dates to the first half of the ninth century. After only two centuries, it was erased and reused to produce a liturgical text called Octṓēchos, probably at the monastery of Saint Elias on the Black Mountain. This palimpsest was later transferred to Saint Catherine’s monastery in the Sinai, where it remained for several centuries before being offered for sale in Leipzig in 1922 (perhaps due to the activities of Friedrich Grote). We pay close attention to the context, contents, codicology and palaeography of both the original manuscript and the palimpsest. We also contextualise both texts within the wider story of their transmission. Through the "skeleton" table we present the latest results of our almost complete identification of the undertext. We reconstruct the structure of the original codex through a collation diagram. We draw palaeographical parallels with a dated colophon of the well-known Sahdona-manuscript. This permits us to narrow done the time and place of production of the original manuscript.


Analyzing Images, Editing Texts: The Manchester Project

Naima Afif, Siam Bhayro, Peter E. Pormann, William I. Sellers, and Natalia Smelova

This article discusses the methodologies and tools employed in the study of the Syriac Galen Palimpsest. While it focusses on the efforts of the ongoing Manchester Project, attention is also paid to earlier and contemporary work, particularly the most recent phase of research (which can be said to have started in 2009). In this way, the Manchester Project is properly contextualised. We describe the image analysis techniques employed by the Manchester team. The challenge is to reduce the information contained in the set of multi-spectral images and enhance it where it can usefully distinguish between undertext and overtext. One can either use unsupervised or supervised dimensional reduction techniques. An unsupervised method such as principle component analysis (PCA) provides an automatic result, whereas a supervised method such as Canonical Variates Analysis (CVA) requires one to teach the system by identifying blank areas, areas with only overtext, areas with only undertext, and areas with both. Using the resulting improvements to the visibility of the undertext, the Manchester team has been able to make significant advances in identifying where its folios fit into Galen’s Book of Simple Drugs. The use of a program called SketchEngine is outlined, which permits an engagement with parallel Greek and Syriac texts and powerful searches - this is particularly useful for those folios that come from Books 6–8, for which a parallel Syriac manuscript exists. Having completed this initial stage, it became clear that around 100 folios that did not come from Books 6-8 remained to be identified. SketchEngine again has proved to be very useful in facilitating identifications of these folios. To illustrate the different challenges posed by these two distinct scenarios, examples are provided from Books 5 and 8.


The Textual Interest of the Syriac Versions of Galen’s Simples

Irene Calà, Jimmy Daccache, and Robert Hawley

This paper presents a software framework for the registration and visualization of layered image sets. To demonstrate the utility of these tools, we apply them to the St. Chad Gospels manuscript, relying on images of each page of the document as it appeared over time. An automated pipeline is used to perform non-rigid registration on each series of images. To visualize the differences between copies of the same page, a registered image viewer is constructed that enables direct comparisons of registered images. The registration pipeline and viewer for the resulting aligned images are generalized for use with other data sets.


Of Scribes and Scripts: Citizen Science and the Cairo Geniza
Laura Newman Eckstein

Preserving Endangered Archives in Jerba, Tunisia: The al-Bāsī Family Library Pilot Project
Ali Boujdidi and Paul M. Love

The Intricacies of Capturing the Holdings of a Mosque Library in Yemen: The Library of the Shrine of Imām al-Hādī, Sa῾da
Sabine Schmidtke

Compilation, Collation and Correction in the Time of Encyclopedism: The Case of UPenn LJS 55
Nathalie Lacarrière

Mapping Manuscript Migrations: Digging into Data for the History and Provenance of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts
Toby Burrows, Eero Hyvönen, Lynn Ransom, and Hanno Wijsman


Ahmad ῾Abd al-Bāsit. Catalogue of the Private Collections of Manuscripts in the Egyptian National Library
Elias G. Saba

David T. Gura. A Descriptive Catalogue of the Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts of the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College
Lisa Fagin Davis

Christopher De Hamel. Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts
Daniel Traister