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Thursday, June 1 • 4:00pm - 4:15pm
(Research & Technical Studies) Revealing the text and folds in 17th-century locked letters

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The international and interdisciplinary team of researchers on the Signed, Sealed, & Undelivered Project recently rediscovered early modern letters including 600 that were never opened. The team is collaborating with the Queen Mary, University of London's Institute of Dentistry to apply their Computed Microtomography (CT Scanning) imaging technology to capture complex folding patterns and textual information hidden away without physically tearing open the letters. The project explores a 17th-century trunk held by the Museum voor Communicatie in The Hague. The trunk is filled with an extraordinary archive: 2,600 letters, which were never delivered. The trunk's contents remained virtually untouched by historians until recently rediscovered. They show history preserved at the time of the "Glorious Revolution,” capturing voices which might have never have been heard otherwise. The letters are examples of a technique called "letterlocking” — folding and securing an epistolary writing substrate to function as its own envelope. Part of the effort of the team includes preserving, imaging, transcribing, and identifying letterlocking formats to reveal the chest's secrets for the first time. Micro Computed Microtomography (XMT)[Elliott 1982] is an established technique for the non-invasive, non-destructive 3-D imaging. It is gaining traction in the conservation world for imaging items to gauge their level of damage prior to conservation work, or digitizing objects too fragile to be handled. The high spatial and contrast resolution of the XMT scanners developed at QMUL allows the direct imaging of inks [Mills 2014] and hence, writing inside the Brienne letters. The 3-D volumetric data produced by the scanners also allows investigation of the letterlocking techniques employed by each letter. We present initial results from the first batch of ten letters scanned in 2016. Elliott, J. C. and Dover, S. D. (1982), X-ray microtomography. Journal of Microscopy, 126: 211–213. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2818.1982.tb00376.x Mills D, Curtis A, Davis G.R, Rosin P. (2014) Apocalypto - Reveling the Bressingham Roll, Journal of Paper Conservation, Vol 15 (2014), no 3, p 14-19

Speaker(s)
avatar for Jana Dambrogio, [PA]

Jana Dambrogio, [PA]

Thomas F. Peterson (1957) Conservator, MIT Libraries, Curation & Preservation Services
Jana Dambrogio has been working in the preservation field for 15 years as a conservator, consultant, and teaching professional. She has held positions at the US National Archives, the United Nations, the Vatican Secret Archives, and is currently the Thomas F. Peterson (1957) Conservator... Read More →

Co-Author(s)
avatar for Dr. Graham Davis

Dr. Graham Davis

Reader in X-Ray Microtomography, Queen Mary, University of London
Graham Davis obtained a PhD in medical electronics in 1984 and shortly thereafter began work on the development of X-ray microtomography (XMT). Designing scanners and software algorithms with accuracies exceeding commercially available systems, he is well recognized in this area of... Read More →
avatar for Dr. David Mills

Dr. David Mills

Physicist, Queen Mary University of London
David Mills completed a PhD in Laser-Materials interactions in 2006 and since then has been working on new ways to understand and apply new non-invasive imaging and analysis techniques to the analysis of a wide variety of materials including paper and parchment. He manages the XMT... Read More →

Thursday June 1, 2017 4:00pm - 4:15pm
Regency D Ballroom Level, West Tower

Attendees (103)