Roger L. Easton, Jr.
revised 24 June 2006 (in Bangalore, state of Karnataka, India)

Imaging of Historical Manuscripts
I worked for several years of the application of modern imaging technologies to recover writings from historical manuscripts. I started in this work as a collaboration with the late Dr. Robert Johnston of RIT and Dr. Keith Knox, formerly of Xerox Corporation in Rochester, NY and now with Boeing Corporation in Kihei, HI. Our early activity concentrated on the Dead Sea Scrolls, but most of my effort now is devoted to imaging of the Archimedes Palimpsest and the Sarvamoola granthas.

Archimedes Palimpsest      098v-102r

I am a member of the imaging team that is helping scholars read the original text in the Archimedes Palimpsest, a 10th-century manuscript containing the oldest copies of seven of Archimedes' treatises. Included among these is the only known copy of a treatise generally known as "The Method of Mechanical Theorems," where Archimedes described his use of physical analogues to prove mathematical hypotheses. This treatise may be renamed based on readings of the title from the images in this project.

The original manuscript was copied onto pages of parchment (treated animal skin) from an earlier manuscript that may have been a papyrus scroll -- the parchment manuscript is formatted in columns as a scroll would have been. The leaves of the original Archimedes codex were approximately the size of a sheet of standard notebook paper. The pages were bound into a book and kept in a library in Constantinople (now Istanbul).  In those days, parchment writing materials were so valuable that they were commonly reused when the book was considered "out of date" or if the subject was judged inappropriate or less valuable.

The book was disbound and erased in the 12th century, probably after Constantinople was sacked in April 1204 during the Fourth Crusade. The pages were erased by scraping the ink off with a solvent (perhaps orange juice), cut in half down the center, and rebound as a smaller book. The pages were overwritten with the text of a Christian prayer book, the Euchologion. Such overwritten manuscripts are called palimpsests, from the Greek word palimpsesto ("scraped again").  From the image of the colophon of the Euchologion made during this project, we have found that the prayer book was dedicated on April 13, 1229.

The book spent the next 700 years at various religious shrines in the holy land. Its existence first became known to western civilization in the middle 1800s when its existence was recognized by Constantin von Tischendorf, who is better known for discovering the Codex Sinaiticus (a Greek manuscript of the Bible) at Saint Catherine's monastery on Mount Sinai. The Archimedes Palimpsest was studied extensively by Johan Ludvig Heiberg in 1906. The book then disappeared again and was feared lost until it resurfaced in the late 1990s. It was sold at auction by Christies in 1998 to an anonymous American collector, who has made the book available for study. An international team of scholars, conservators, and imaging scientists is currently studying the palimpsest to recover the original writing.

The investigation and significance of the Archimedes Palimpsest is the subject of the program "Infinite Secrets" broadcast by PBS on NOVA on 30 September 2003. A low-resolution copy of the program is available on Google video.

The work was selected as one of the imaging "Solutions of the Year" by Advanced Imaging Magazine in January, 2003.

So far, we have successfully extracted approximately 80% of the text using multispectral imaging, which combines images taken under a variety of conditions and at different wavelengths. We also are using more exotic techniques to try to read the remaining text, including x-ray fluorescence imaging at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory. Some photos of the process at SSRL are shown below.

A book by the Project Director, Dr. William Noel of the Walters Art Museum, and one of the scholars documenting the text, Dr. Reviel Netz of Stanford University, on the history of the Archimedes Palimpsest and the efforts made to read the text is expected to be published in 2007.

Additional information is available at the Archimedes Palimpsest website, the cover story in the London Sunday Times Magazine of 17 June 2001, the cover story in Physics Today, of June 2000, and in an ABC News Report on 20 October 2000. Will Noel, Mike Toth, and I presented a talk at the Googleplex in Mountain View, CA, on 7 March 2006 that is available on Google video.

K-12 Activity based on the Archimedes Palimpsest

Diane Kucharczyk, formerly an undergraduate student at the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science, and Russell Knox, then a student at Brighton High School, NY, developed a K-12 classroom activity based on the work to extract text from the Archimedes Palimpsest. This is available as an HTML Powerpoint file.

The Stomachion    001v-002r
This treatise in the Archimedes Palimpsest had been thought to describe a game similar to "Tangrams". Reviel Netz of Stanford University has suggested that the Stomachion really is about geometrical "combinatorics", which is the study of the number of combinations of shapes that produces a specific result. This work was reported in a cover story in the New York Times of December 14, 2003.

X-Ray Fluorescence Imaging at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lab (SSRL)

Uwe Bergmann of the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (SSRL), which is part of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC), is leading the effort to image the most difficult and important pages of the Archimedes palimpsest using X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF). A page of the palimpsest is raster scanned through the X-ray beam. The X rays are "scattered" by atoms in the palimpsest; the incident X ray ionizes an inner shell electron from the atom and another electron drops into the resulting "hole" while releasing another lower-energy X-ray photon.  The energy of the emitted photon is characteristic of the ionized atom. In this way, a map of the constituent materials in the palimpsest may be constructed. The results obtained thus far have been very encouraging, allowing much previously unreadable text on the first folio to be read.

Two imaging sessions have been held at SSRL-SLAC and two more are planned. In the session in March 2006, the name of the scribe who copied the Euchologion was read. The imaging run is rather intense, because the system is running 24/7 for nearly two weeks. By the end, we were rather beat (see photo of Mike Toth at end of the "death march," below)

XRF of Stub

Example of XRF imaging of a stub of an Archimedes leaf (click for larger image). The visible and pseudocolor images of the verso side show no text at all, but writings from BOTH sides of the page are visible in the the XRF image. There is a fragment of a diagram on the verso side (shown in white) and characters on the recto side (shown in cyan).

A few photos from the session of March 2006 are shown below. Click on each thumbnail to view a larger image.

SSRL  Entering SSRL; note the bright blue sky in March (this certainly isn't Rochester!)

with Mike Toth Will Noel at SLAC  Pre-run conference at the SLAC Guest House: with Mike Toth and Will Noel (Photo by Bob Morton)

with Uwe Bergmann  with Uwe Bergmann in SSRL hutch 6-2.

 Uwe Bergmann, Abigail Quandt, Jennifer Giaccai, Mike Toth During the run: Uwe Bergmann, Abigail Quandt, Jennifer Giaccai, myself (what happened to my hair?), and Michael Toth

I am NOT cutting a page of Archimedes (Reviel Netz in background)  Contrary to the apparently incriminating evidence, I am NOT using scissors to trim the edge of folio 021 of the Archimedes palimpsest; this was a test object to check beam and system alignment. Standing behind (L to R) are Will Noel, Mike Toth, and  Reviel Netz, Professor of Classics at Stanford University.

Abigail in the hutch with 057r  Abigail in the hutch with folio 081, showing the forgery that was painted on this page (and 3 other existing pages, plus possibly 3 missing pages) after 1938.

057r in X-ray beam  Folio 057 (another forgery) in the beam

Archie SLAC Team  The members of the imaging team in front of hutch 6-2 at SSRL: (left to right) myself (RIT), Abigail Quandt WAM), Will Noel (WAM), Keith Knox (Boeing), Mike Toth (R.B. Toth Assoc.), Bob Morton (ConocoPhillips), Uwe Bergmann (SLAC), and Jennifer Giaccai (WAM).

Mike Toth's Death March  Mike Toth seems to be finishing a death march; actually he is adjusting the position of the table relative to the X-ray beam.

Will Noel with a Floating Body  On the last night of the run, Will Noel uses a champagne cork at the celebratory dinner to illustrate Archimedes' most famous achievement, as presented in "On Floating Bodies."

Sarvamoola granthas:
Shri Madvacharya (1238-1317) was a philosopher whose ideas had a profound impact on Indian society. His philosophy, known as Dvaita, is a synthesis of ideas from other holy texts that believes that the structure of the spirit serves as the backbone of the diversities of the world. His insight shows the importance of logic and faith in God to mankind. He authored several works including 36 that are collectively called Sarvamoola granthas. These manuscripts were incised on palm leaves using a metal stylus and the characters filled with ink. The manuscripts were stored at several monasteries in and near the town of Udupi on the western coast of India in the state of Karnataka. Unfortunately, in the ensuing 700 years, many of the original manuscripts were lost or damaged by deterioration of the palm leaves. The only remaining copy is stored at Palimaru math in Udupi.

In the summer of 2005, Dr. P.R. Mukund of the Department of Electrical Engineering at RIT proposed a collaboration to image this remaining copy, which is comprised of approximately 200 palm leaves. Dr. Mukund, Dr. Keith Knox, and I traveled to Bangalore and Udupi in December, 2005 to perform some preliminary imaging experiments. This was the first trip to India for me, Keith, and Keith's wife Dale Stewart and was a wonderful experience. Everyone we met was very nice to us. We flew back to Bangalore and drove to Udupi to image the entire manuscript in June 2006.

Trip to Udupi in December 2005

Click on each thumbnail to view a larger image:

Banu and Ajay  Banu Ramaswamy and Ajay Pasupuleti

Traveling to Udupi  at Tumkur on the way to Udupi

on the road to Udupi  On the Road to Udupi

 Preparation for Imaging in Udupi, 12/2005  Setting up the camera in a building near Sri Krishna Temple in Udupi, with Ajay Pasupuleti, Prasanna, and Keith Knox

Setting Up the Camera in Udupi  Setting up for camera focus test

camera test  Testing the camera, with Keith, Ajay, and P.R. Mukund

pre-imaging consultation  Conferring with Ajay and Keith

ramanath with ajay, keith, pr  Ramanatha Acharya, the manuscript scholar, with Ajay, Keith, PR, and me (hiding behind the camera)

Keith, Ramanatha, etc.  Keith, Ajay, PR, Ramanatha Acharya, and Prasanna

Dale Stewart in front of Temple  Dale Stewart (Keith's wife) in front of Sri Krishna Temple in Udupi

at the temple  At Palimaru matha near Udupi

Keith showing the images to Swamiji  Keith showing images to the Swamiji at the Pajaka matha school

Kids are the same everywhere Kids are the same everywhere (at the Pajaka matha school)

Job Security? At Pajaka matha, more palm-leaf manuscripts to be imaged?

Ramanatha and the palm leaf manuscript  Ramanatha Acharya and the Sarvamoola granthas manuscript

Keith showing the images  Keith showing the images to Shri Vidyadeesha Teetha Swamiji of Palimaru matha and his entourage
  Swamiji views the images  Showing the images to Ramanatha Acharya and the Swamiji

  India Team  Team picture with Sarvamoola grantas in the foreground

An image of one side of one page of the Talavakara, one of the palm leaf manuscripts, after processing and digital stitching. The image has been subsampled from its original width of 14000 pixels.Click on the image to view a larger zoomable image.

Image of one palm leaf

Trip to Udupi in June 2006
We (Ajay Pasupuleti, P.R. Mukund, and I) left Rochester on Tuesday afternoon, June 13 and took the overnight British Airways service from Chicago (Ajay had to pay an extra $40 for baggage overcharges, but was also granted a simultaneous upgrade to Business Class, with a flat bed, for the overnight flight, while P.R. and I had to sit up in "World Traveler Plus." We have not let him forget it, either!). We met Keith Knox and Dale Stewart in Heathrow Airport after their flights from Maui to San Francisco to Boston to London. After another 10-hour leg, we arrived in Bangalore at about 4 AM on Thursday, June 15, 2006.

We left Bangalore at about 9:30 AM on Friday to drive to Udupi,a 400km trip that takes about 12 hours. The weather was fine until a light rain started just as we reached the edge of the Deccan plateau on the road that winds down the scarp through the Western Ghat Mountains from about 3000' to sea level. We saw the remnants of two serious accidents on the road during the descent, but arrived safely in Udupi at about 10 PM., thanks to the skill of our professional driver.

We visited the nearby Pajaka mathu Saturday morning and returned to Udupi in the afternoon to set up the equipment in the same room we used in December 2005 near the Sri Krishna Temple. This time Guru Reverend Sri Bannanje Govindacharya was present during the imaging of a few manuscripts that afternoon. In the evening, we moved the equipment to the nearby home of the Guru at his invitation, where we had a much larger, much cooler, and much quieter work space. However, when we tested the equpment that Sunday morning, several minor electrical shocks led us to suspect grounding problems in the building wiring. The Guru called a local electrician, who came right over (on a Sunday morning) and confirmed the grounding problem. The electrician ran a new grounded line to power all of the equipment, including camera, lights, and two laptop computers.

To enhance the contrast between the text and the darkened palm leaf, images were taken through an infrared-transmitting bandpass filter (with peak transmission at about 800 nm and good transmission out nearly to the cutoff wavelength of silicon at about 1100 nm). During imaging, we were taking shots just about as fast as the data could be pumped through the camera cable to the computer; as soon as one image was displayed, we made the next shot; we took 7500+ images of 336 leaves of the Sarvamoola granthas between Saturday and Wednesday afternoons. Immediately after finishing, we packed up and departed for Bangalore at about 5 PM, arriving at about 5 AM on Thursday, June 22.

While in Udupi, the Guru's daughter-in-law prepared fresh vegetarian meals three times a day for about 12 people. Much of the food was harvested from their own garden, and the yogurt was made from milk from their own cows. The food was just spectacular (one of the great pleasures of mankind is a breakfast dosa).

This project has been very rewarding. Keith, Dale, and I were able to help preserve writings of great significance to many millions of people who were genuinely appreciative of our efforts. We also were introduced to a very rich culture (and, not incidently, wonderful food!) that was completely new to us and met many unforgettable people. The entire experience has been a gift of grace.

Click on each thumbnail to view a larger image:

South Circle Apartments  In front of Indian Fast Food Restaurant...  Our "hotel" (actually an apartment) and an Indian fast food breakfast on Thursday, 15 June in Bangalore (me, Sharmila Sridharan, Tejasvi Das, Dale Stewart, P.R. Mukund)

Where Are We?  Where Are We? Dale Stewart (Keith's wife) using GPS in front of the van in Bangalore before leaving for Udupi on Friday 16 June. (Thanks to my Dad for inventing GPS!)

In the van, headed to Udupi  Ajay in van  In the van, on the way to Udupi

Parked trucks on the road  Goods trucks parked by the side of the highway near Bangalore after unloading their night's haul

By the side of the road  On the road to Udupi  donkeys on the road  Hairpin Turn in the Ghats On the road to Udupi, including one of many hairpin turns in the Ghat Mountains in the rain (the petrol truck should be in the lefthand lane!)

Traffic accident in Udupi  Traffic accident in Udupi on Saturday 17 June, note fire extinguisher near front wheel.

Udupi Panorama from Kediyoor Hotel  Udupi panorama from Hotel Kediyoor

Who let faculty have knives?  Setting up table  camera setup  Set up  Setting up in building near Sri Krishna Temple. Who let faculty use knives?

Prasanna, Guru, and Ramanatha Acharya  Prasanna Rajanna, Guru Sri Bannanje Govinda Acharya, and Ramanatha Acharya with the Sarvamoola Granthas

Guru's House  Home of Guru Reverend Sri Bannanje Govindacharya in Udupi, where we did most of the imaging.

Conference  Conference at home of the Guru (seated); standing, left to right: Dale Stewart, Tejasvi Das, P.R. Mukund, Prasanna Rajanna, Ajay Pasupuleti.

Guru and Ramanatha Acharya  Guru and Ramanatha checking the manuscript before rebinding

Guru's Study, with Dale Stewart  with Keith in Guru's Study  in the Guru's study, with Dale Stewart and with Keith

Count the imagers  more cooks  How many imagers, scholars, and visitors does it take to turn on a digital camera?

Breakfast at Guru's House  Breakfast at Guru's House  Breakfast at Guru's House  kudos to the cook breakfast  Yum, yum  Breakfast at Guru's House. Each meal was prepared fresh by his daughter-in-law. We cleaned our plates; the food was WONDERFUL...

panorama of Guru's garden  Panorama of garden from balcony of Guru's study (a nice place to work!)

Electrical grounding fixed, and on a Sunday!  Electrical grounding problem diagnosed and fixed by local electrician in less than two hours, and on a Sunday! The universal power strip is being used to distribute the new grounded current from the plug on the left. The power strip's own plug is now "hot" and is taped for "safety." Though it worked perfectly well, OSHA would never allow this back home!

Ajay and manuscript, with Dale and Keith  Ajay and manuscript, with Dale and Keith

Ajay moving the platen during imaging  Ajay moving the manuscript by hand through 12 imaging positions. He did this for about 770 sides of leaves over five days, while standing the entire time.

Keith and Ramanatha identify a fragment from the images  Keith and Ramanatha Acharya use the images to identify the source of a fragment as from leaf 096.

Historical Jigsaw Puzzle  imaging fragments  Historical Jigsaw Puzzle, the last fragments

temple near Paajaka  view near Paajaka  near Paajaka 3    monkeys near Paajaka  Monkeys near Paajaka  Film crew  Trip to Pajaka matha with film crew, note the monkeys!

Arabian Sea from Udupi Beach  Arabian Sea from Beach at Malpe near Udupi

Construction Traffic Jam  Close quarters in traffic, we are moving right to left!  Friendly motorcyclists in traffic jam  Construction traffic delay during the drive back to Bangalore (just like summer in Rochester!). During the delay, traffic was stopped in very close quarters for several minutes in both directions. Being westerners, we were objects of friendly curiosity from all sides. During the wait, Dale connected with two motorcyclists travelling in the opposite direction who were stuck right next to our van. She took their photo and showed it to them on the camera's viewscreen, with smiles all around. The cycle driver returned the favor by pulling out his cell phone and taking her picture right back.

leaf 056 stitched  leaf 056 (back side) stitched before image processing (click for full-sized image)

leaf 056 stitched  leaf 056 (back) stitched after image processing (click for full-sized image)

Stitched processed 056b  leaf 056 (back side) stitched after second pass of image processing (click for full-sized image)

 Previous Work on other Manuscripts

Temple Scroll:
The Temple Scroll was discovered in 1947 in Cave 11 near Qumran. It is the longest of the Dead Sea Scrolls -- originally 28' long in 67 columns. We processed color transparencies of images taken by Bruce and Ken Zuckerman. We projected the 3-D color data at each pixel (i.e., the RGB gray values) to an opponent color space (luminance, red-green, and blue-yellow) From these images, we have been able to distinguish 18 characters that had not been recognized previously by Biblical scholars.Our efforts to clarify the so-called Temple Scroll were reported in an article "Imaging the Dead Sea Scrolls" in Optics and Photonics News, 8(8), pp. 30-34, August 1997.  This article was awarded the Archie Mahan Prize for the best paper published in in OPN that year.

Khaboris CodexKhaburis p.008

The Khaboris Codex is the oldest known copy of the New Testament written in the original Aramaic, dating from the 10th century. We worked with Michael Ryce to image the manuscript and develop a public website where the images would be available for scholarly study. A webpage with the pages of the manuscript is available at

Colophon from a Siddur from Florence, Italy:   Florentine siddur

We have collaborated with Evelyn Cohen from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America to reveal the writing on the Colophon (which is a page of dedication from the scribe to the patron) of a Hebrew Siddur copied in Florence, Italy. Evelyn published a paper on the significance of this work, Gallico's Identity Exposed: Revealing an Erased Colophon from a Renaissance Prayer Book, Ars Judaicapp. 85-90, 2005.

A short summary of this work is available as a PDF document.

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