Monday, April 23, 2012

What can dirt on pages tell us about medieval manuscripts and their readers?

For the first time a new scientific technique has allowed us into the minds and motivations of medieval people – through their dirty books. A new technique invented by Dr Kathryn Rudy, lecturer in the School of Art History at the University of St Andrews, can measure which pages in medieval manuscripts are the dirtiest, and therefore, the most read.

 A machine called a densitometer allows the dirt contained within the pages of books centuries old to reveal the inner thoughts of our ancestors. Dr Rudy’s new technique with the machine, used on medieval prayer books, has shown people were as self-interested, and afraid of illness as today. The ground-breaking research has even managed to pinpoint the moment that people fell asleep reading the same book.

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