On 20 September Steve Booras, CPART project manager, gave a slide presentation and shared preliminary results of his team's recent work of digitally imaging ancient texts from the Herculaneum Papyri and from the Vatican Apostolic Library in Rome. The Herculaneum papyri comprise nearly 2,000 scrolls that date from 250 B.C. and treat such matters as philosophy, music, poetry, and mathematics. Unearthed in 1753 at ruins called the "Villa of the Papyri" (destroyed when Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79), the carbonized scrolls are difficult if not impossible to read without the aid of multispectral imaging (MSI) technology.
The CPART team made 23,000 images representing about 1,000 of the 1,600 unrolled scrolls. Breakthroughs included revealing (1) a portion of Philodemus's commentary on the poetry of Aristotle (all but one line of text can now be read from a fragment that scholars believed to be blank) and (2) several portions of text previously lost in the wrinkled areas of the fragile fragments (the new images already have caused scholars to rewrite their original transcriptions of those fragments).
The team also spent a month imaging 28 Syriac Christian manuscripts selected from the vast holdings of the Vatican Apostolic Library. One such text written on brittle vellum dates to A.D. 523 and is titled Jacob of Serugh, Homilies. Another of unknown date is titled Lives of the Saints. The 28 texts are being transcribed and will be jointly published by the Vatican Library and BYU/FARMS. In addition, the team successfully imaged a previously unreadable manuscript held by the Biblioteca Casanatense in Rome. Called the Psalms of Solomon, the text was damaged by varnish applied in the 1700s to enhance legibility. Now the entire text can be read.