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April 01, 2003

Literature: Classic Blog Archives
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Secrets of Long Lost Library Revealed?

Important and irreplaceable manuscripts have been lost when libraries burned to the ground. The most famous lost library was the one at Alexandria, though that loss is still something of a hotly debated mystery. In Tom Stoppard's "Arcadia," Thomasina cries: "Oh, Septimus!—can you bear it? All the lost plays of the Athenians! Two hundred at least by Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides—thousands of poems—Aristotle's own library!...How can we sleep for grief?"

On May 26, 1944, an important medieval library at Chartres, France burned to the ground during a World War II bombing. A collection of more than 2,000 books were housed in the library, and some of those works dated back to the 12th century, as BBC's Paul Rincon explains, in his article "Hi-tech imaging could reveal lost texts." Despite valiant efforts to restore the damaged Chartres manuscripts, many of them were rendered unreadable; that is, until now. However, non-invasive technology, which is being used in archaeological restoration, may now offer a solution. Rincon details how "digital technology called multispectral imaging may now be able to reveal texts on even the most badly burned manuscripts, allowing scholars to study them again."
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