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Eric Nye

Penetrating the Secrets of the Past in Literary Manuscripts: Reflectance Transformation Imaging and the Modern Palimpsest


Funded Projects, February 2014

Researcher: Eric Nye
Department: English

When John Kemble deleted dozens of lines in his 1830-1 manuscript journal, what was he trying to hide? Today the secret may be yielded up to a new technology for analyzing artifacts in the humanities called Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI). Using inexpensive equipment and software developed by the nonprofit Cultural Heritage Imaging Corporation, I will attempt to recover the content of those lines so successfully overwritten or obliterated to the naked eye. Perhaps we will uncover some secrets of this important member of the Cambridge Apostles during his dark days in Gibraltar, torn between politics and love, struggling to establish a career. The journal is filled with revelations but perhaps the greatest of these still remain to be discovered. The man who would later give us Beowulf (1833) clearly had much to hide in his Spanish adventure.

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