A couple of weeks ago we posted this photograph of a book cover in the hopes that someone could help us identify it, and what we discovered was remarkable:
A scholar who visited our Flickr site was able to identify this as a durable parchment, possibly vellum or animal skin. What’s more, the cursive markings seem to indicate that what we have here is a Gothic Latin manuscript cover from the 13th to 15th century!
UPDATED: The cover represents a re-used material, because the book that it binds is an 1807 French-Greek dictionary. The reuse of materials in the binding process was not all that unusual, as we have seen with our discoveries with binding waste. It is possible that the parchment used was dyed a darker color to cover over the manuscript writing and it has faded with time, or because the book was so utilitarian — a dictionary — and not a status object, they might not even have bothered.
This week, Kyle Roberts of Loyola’s History Department and Edward Wheatley of the English Department took the book down to the Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA) to look at the covers under UV light.
Before and after dimming the lights in the room and turning on the UV light:
With the aid of the UV light, the words began to pop from the page:
While we were able to begin to make out letters and words, neither of us were able to make complete meaning from the writings on the page.
The JLPP has been in touch with Jeff Rydberg-Cox at University Missouri-Kansas City to see if he might be interested in looking at the book with the equipment he has for enhancing the faded writing. Stay tuned for more exciting updates!