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Flying through the Bressingham Roll

To get some idea of the internal structure of the Bressingham Roll, it was instructive to generate a fly-though animation. This peels away the scroll, layer by layer showing what is underneath various layers of parchment and how they are stuck together (if they are).

The videos below show two different “cuts” though the roll. The first is parallel to the long axis of the roll. The second is across the long axis of the roll – equivalent to making slices of a Swiss roll.

In this video, you can make out some writing – in places the ink was clear enough to give a good X-Ray contrast with minimal post-processing needed to make it visible.

You can see some dark marks on the parchment in this video, some of these are ink, others are some other material in the roll that is also showing up strongly in X-Rays. It’s much harder to recognise the writing in this view, because it isn’t presented to you in the usual format you see it.

Introducing the Bressingham Roll

As part of our continuing collaboration with the Norfolk Record Office, we’ve recently been lent a parchment roll from a bundle in their archives (Call number PHI468,577X9)

The Bressingham Roll as open as possible. The section to the right of the image is stuck together.
The Bressingham Roll as open as possible. The section to the right of the image is stuck together.

The Bressingham Roll as unrolled as possible. The section to the right of the image is stuck together.

The roll is unfit for production in the archives, with the inner portion becoming stuck together.

End view of the parchment roll in rolled up-state.
End view of the parchment roll in rolled up-state.

The ink used in the writing contains both iron and copper, so should have good contrast in X-Ray imaging.

Bressingham Roll – Initial Results

Soon after the Bressingham Scroll arrived, we performed a quick test CT scan to determine the settings needed so we could image both the parchment and any ink on it.

A single slice of the scan is shown here, the ink shows up as brighter patches on the whirls of the parchment.

The end-on single slice view of Bressingham roll shows both the parchment and evidence of ink very clearly.
The end-on single slice view of Bressingham roll shows both the parchment and evidence of ink very clearly.

This was imaged at 30kV with a 200um Al filter and post-processing with in-house developed beam hardening correction software.

An Endorsement

This pleasing endorsement of the project arrived from Dr John Alban at the Norfolk Record Office.

Through my colleagues in the Norfolk Record Offices conservation section, I have been following your project with great interest, and we were pleased to provide you with a non-archival, non contextual off-cut on which to experiment. It has been intriguing to see the results of your processes for reading unrolled manuscripts and the way in which they have been improving. The latest example which I have seen has amazing legibility, and I am sure that this process is going to provide archivists and historians with an invaluable means of gaining access to the contents of rolled-up documents which, because of their condition, have hitherto been unreadable.

Yours sincerely,
Dr John Alban

[Posted with kind permission of Dr Alban]

Revealing the Unreadable

New scroll, new challenges. First, we were pretty sure that our scroll is two-sides written,  same as the scrolls we processed before. The further analysis revealed that this parchment is one (OUTSIDE) side written, with lots of confusing bright spots of the metal dust on both sides of the parchment. Also we noticed the inside parchment surface generally is much brighter than the outside surface, with the intensity close to the ink intensity.

example

 

Slice from the top of the scroll with a tightly connected metal strip

The next challenge was the metal strip, which has the same intensity as the ink, and very tight connected with the parchment near the top edge of the scroll.  Although we can track the strip and remove it as a separate object in a similar way as we did for the two pages scroll, there are messy areas which impossible to separate without leaving parts of the strip on the parchment.

After the automatic unrolling the result looked promising, but not very readable:

original

After another week of experiments with the local segmentation, filtering, postprocessing and interpretation, almost everything become readable. The scroll appears to be an old, property related legal document.  As one can see on the original photos , the parchment is the cut fragment,  words are missing from both sides, left and right.

text_all