Egyptian Coptic, 6th Century Acts

This 100 page parchment codex contains one of the earliest full copies of the Acts of the Apostles in any language. Only one page is readable. Its other contents remain a complete mystery, due to its charred, extremely fragile condition. The other contents may represent different readings or textual variations from the English versions of the Bible, or they may be from other writings entirely. This manuscript presents an interesting virtual unwrapping challenge due to the extremely thin parchment, which makes is difficult to isolate the writing surfaces in the tomography, plus the fact that writing appears on both the recto and verso side of each page. The manuscript was scanned in December of 2017 and November of 2018, and work continues in the lab to reveal its contents.

Another interesting feature of the manuscript is its exquisite binding, which has been preserved in fragmentary form, including the sewing threads, two wooden boards, a leather spine piece and evidence of wrapping bands. Its features are consistent with Coptic wooden board bindings of the 4th and 5th centuries. Only a small number of Coptic bindings from this era survive. The fragments of the binding thus provide a significant view into the earliest methods of binding the codex book form that is familiar today. These images of the manuscript in its bound form will allow confirmation of internal binding features, and also obviate the need to interfere with any of the original binding features to make the text accessible to scholars

Egyptian Coptic, 6th Century Acts'
Egyptian Coptic, 6th Century Acts'

The Morgan Library and Museum

Inside Story: Using X-ray Microtomography to See Hidden Features of a Manuscript Codex

By: Thaw Conservati

In 2017, book conservators at the Morgan embarked on a project with Brent Seales, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Kentucky and director of the Digital Restoration Initiative, and Paul Dilley, Associate Professor of Ancient Mediterranean Religions at the University of Iowa, to see whether non-destructive imaging techniques could uncover hidden text and sewing details. Seales and his team have been involved in a number of projects using X-ray microtomography, or micro-CT scanning, to reveal texts made inaccessible by damage or age; one of their most notable projects has been the ‘virtual unrolling’ of a carbonized scroll from the En-Gedi archaeological site.

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