Under the lamp

Under the lamp

Monday 20th July 2015

From Ellie Jones, Cathedral Archivist

Last week the Cathedral Library & Archives took possession of a brand new ultraviolet (UV) lamp. This is a very useful new piece of equipment to be able to offer our readers and researchers. It’s an added bonus that it makes you feel a bit like a CSI tech when you use it!

There are a number of techniques that can be used to try and reveal tantalising traces of ink on historic books and documents. There are plenty of hi-tech and digital imaging solutions, but there are also more traditional approaches. UV lamps have long been used in libraries and archives to help in the attempt at revealing faded writing. Essentially, parchment fluoresces under ultraviolet light, whereas the ink absorbs the light, and this effect means that sometimes traces of faint ink can be made legible again. The new UV lamp is set to be a real asset in the current study of the Exon Domesday manuscript (1086) as part of the Conqueror’s Commissioners project, but it will be available to all users of the reading room.

The photograph shows me and Dr Francisco Jose Alvarez Lopez (Conqueror’s Commissioners Research Associate) trying out the new lamp on part of the Exon Domesday manuscript. The ink did show up in greater contrast to the parchment, but some other traces such as erasure marks and the texture of the parchment also became more apparent. We look forward to many more discoveries in the future!


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