On January 26, 2013
a band of al-Qaeda militants entered
the ancient city of Timbuktu on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert
在这里 他们烧毁了一座中世纪的图书馆 这座图书馆藏有3万份阿拉伯语
There, they set fire to a medieval library 30,000 manuscripts written in Arabic
and several African languages and ranging in subject from astronomy to geography
history to medicine including one book which records
perhaps the first treatment for male erectile dysfunction
unknown in the west ,this was the collected wisdom of an entire continent
the voice of Africa at a time when Africa was thought not to have a voice at all
The mayor of Bamako who witnessed the event called the burning of the manuscripts
“a crime against world cultural heritage.”
他是对的 或者他本该是对的 如果他没有撒谎的话
And he was right — or he would have been, if it weren’t for the fact that he was also lying.
In fact, just before
African scholars had collected a random assortment of old books
and left them out for the terrorists to burn
Today, the collection lies hidden in Bamako
the capital of Mali,moldering in the high humidity
What was rescued by ruse
is now once again in jeopardy this time by climate
But Africa, and the far-flung corners of the world
are not the only places,or even the main places
in which manuscripts that could change
the history of world culture are in jeopardy
Several years ago, I conducted a survey of European research libraries
and discovered that at the barest minimum there are 60,000 manuscripts
pre-1500 that are illegible
because of water damage,fading mold and chemical reagents
The real number is likely double that,
and that doesn’t even count
Renaissance manuscripts and modern manuscripts
and cultural heritage objects such as maps.
What if there were a technology that could recover
these lost and unknown works?
Imagine worldwide how a trove of
hundreds of thousands of previously unknown texts
could radically transform our knowledge of the past
Imagine what unknown classics we would discover
which would rewrite the canons of literature, history,
philosophy, music —
or, more provocatively, that could rewrite our cultural identities,
building new bridges between people and culture.
These are the questions that transformed me
from a medieval scholar
a reader of texts,
into a textual scientist.
What an unsatisfying word “reader” is.
For me, it conjures up
images of passivity,
of someone sitting idly in an armchair
waiting for knowledge to come to him in a neat little parcel.
How much better to be a participant in the past
an adventurer in an undiscovered country
searching for the hidden text.
As an academic, I was a mere reader
I read and taught the same classics
that people had been reading and teaching for hundreds of years —
维吉尔 奥维德 乔叟 彼特拉克
Virgil, Ovid, Chaucer, Petrarch —
and with every scholarly article that I published
I added to human knowledge
in ever-diminishing slivers of insight.
What I wanted to be was an archaeologist of the past,
a discoverer of literature,
an Indiana Jones without the whip —
or, actually, with the whip.
And I wanted it not just for myself
but I wanted it for my students as well.
And so six years ago, I changed the direction of my career.
At the time, I was working on “The Chess of Love,”
the last important long poem of the European Middle Ages
never to have been edited.
And it wasn’t edited because it existed in only one manuscript
which was so badly damaged during the firebombing of Dresden
in World War II that generations of scholars had pronounced it lost.
For five years, I had been workingwith an ultraviolet lamp
trying to recover traces of the writing
and I’d gone about as far as technology at the time
could actually take me.
And so I did what many people do.
I went online,
and there I learned about
how multispectral imaging had been used to recover two lost treatises
of the famed Greek mathematician Archimedes
from a 13th-century palimpsest.
A palimpsest is a manuscript which has been erased and overwritten.
And so, out of the blue,
I decided to write to the lead imaging scientist on the Archimedes palimpsest project,
Professor Roger Easton, with a plan and a plea.
And to my surprise,he actually wrote back.
With his help, I was able to win a grant from the US government
to build a transportable,multispectral imaging lab,
And with this lab, I transformed what was a charred and faded mess
into a new medieval classic.
So how does multispectral imaging actually work?
Well, the idea behind multispectral imaging is something that
anyone who is familiar with infrared night vision goggles will immediately appreciate:
that what we can see in the visible spectrum of light is only a tiny fraction of what’s actually there.
The same is true with invisible writing.
Our system uses 12 wavelengths of light
between the ultraviolet and the infrared,
and these are shown down onto the manuscript from above from banks of LEDs,
and another multispectral light source
which comes up through the individual leaves of the manuscript.
Up to 35 images per sequence per leaf are imaged this way
using a high-powered digital camera equipped with a lens which is made out of quartz.
There are about five of these in the world.
And once we capture these images,
we feed them through statistical algorithms to further enhance and clarify them,
using software which was originally designed for satellite images
and used by people like geospatial scientists and the CIA.
The results can be spectacular.
You may already have heard of what’s been done for the Dead Sea Scrolls,
which are slowly gelatinizing.
Using infrared, we’ve been able to read
even the darkest corners of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
You may not be aware, however,
of other Biblical texts that are in jeopardy.
Here, for example,is a leaf from a manuscript that we imaged,
which is perhaps the most valuable Christian Bible in the world.
The Codex Vercellensis is the oldest translation of the Gospels into Latin,
and it dates from the first half of the fourth century.
This is the closest we can come to the bible
at the time of the foundation of Christendom under Emperor Constantine,
and at the time also of the Council of Nicaea,
when the basic creed of Christianitywas being agreed upon.
这个手稿 不幸运的是 已经被严重损坏了
This manuscript, unfortunately, has been very badly damaged,
and it’s damaged because for centuries,
it had been used and handled in swearing in ceremonies in the church.
In fact, that purple splotch that you see in the upper left hand corner is Aspergillus,
which is a fungus
which originates in the unwashed hands of a person with tuberculosis.
Our imaging has enabled me to make the first transcription of this manuscript in 250 years.
有一个移动实验室可以到那些收藏品所在地 然而 这只是解决方案的一部分
Having a lab that can travel to collections where it’s needed, however, is only part of the solution.
The technology is expensive and very rare,
and the imaging and image processing skills are esoteric.
That means that mounting recoveries is beyond the reach of most researchers
and all but the wealthiest institutions.
That’s why I founded the Lazarus Project, a not-for-profit initiative
to bring multispectral imaging to individual researchers
and smaller institutions at little or no cost whatsoever.
Over the past five years,
our team of imaging scientists, scholars and students
has travelled to seven different countries
and have recovered some of the world’s most valuable damaged manuscripts,
included the Vercelli Book,which is the oldest book of English,
the Black Book of Carmarthen,the oldest book of Welsh,
and some of the most valuable earliest Gospels
located in what is now the former Soviet Georgia.
So, spectral imaging can recover lost texts.
More subtly, though, it can recover a second story behind every object,
故事包括了这些卷帙是何时 被谁 怎样创造的
the story of how, when and by whom a text was created,
and, sometimes, what the author was thinking at the time he wrote.
Take, for example, a draft of the Declaration of Independence
written in Thomas Jefferson’s own hand,
which some colleagues of mine imaged a few years ago at the Library of Congress.
Curators had noticed that one word throughout had been scratched out and overwritten.
The word overwritten was “citizens.”
Perhaps you can guess what the word underneath was.
这里 女士们先生们 美国的民主政治由托马斯·杰斐逊展开
There, ladies and gentlemen, is American democracy evolving under the hand of Thomas Jefferson.
Or consider the 1491 Martellus Map,
which we imaged at Yale’s Beinecke Library.
This was the map that Columbus likely consulted before he traveled to the New World
and which gave him his idea of what Asia looked like and where Japan was located.
The problem with this map is that its inks and pigments had so degraded over time
that this large, nearly seven-foot map,
made the world look like a giant desert.
Until now, we had very little idea, detailed idea, that is,
of what Columbus knew of the world and how world cultures were represented.
The main legend of the map was entirely illegible under normal light.
Ultraviolet did very little for it.
Multispectral gave us everything.
In Asia, we learned of monsters with ears so long that they could cover the creature’s entire body.
In Africa, about a snake who could cause the ground to smoke.
Like starlight, which can convey images of the way the Universe looked in the distant past,
so multispectral light can take us back to the first stuttering moments of an object’s creation.
通过镜头 我们目睹了错误的发生 思维的改变
Through this lens, we witness the mistakes, the changes of mind,
the naïvetés, the uncensored thoughts,
the imperfections of the human imagination
that allow these hallowed objects and their authors to become more real,
that make history closer to us.
What about the future?
There’s so much of the past,
and so few people with the skills to rescue it
before this objects disappear forever.
That’s why I have begun to teach this new hybrid discipline
that I call “textual science.”
Textual science is a marriage of the traditional skills of a literary scholar —
the ability to read old languagesand old handwriting,
the knowledge of how texts are made in order to be able to place and date them —
运用新技术 比如 影像科学
with new techniques like imaging science,
the chemistry of inks and pigments,
computer-aided optical character recognition.
Last year, a student in my class, a freshman,
with a background in Latin and Greek,
was image-processing a palimpsest that we had photographed at a famous library in Rome.
As he worked, tiny Greek writing began to appear from behind the text.
Everyone gathered around,
and he read a line from a lost work of the Greek comic dramatist Menander.
This was the first time in well over a thousand years that those words had been pronounced aloud.
In that moment, he became a scholar.
Ladies and gentlemen,that is the future of the past.
Thank you very much.