11.0643 Non-intrusive measures

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Sat, 14 Mar 1998 19:12:41 +0000 (GMT)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 11, No. 643.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Fri, 13 Mar 98 09:59:59 CST
From: Jim Marchand <marchand@ux1.cso.uiuc.edu>
Subject: Non-intrusive measures

>> From: "Jim Marchand" <marchand@ux1.cso.uiuc.edu>

A public answer to a private question: What do you mean by non-intrusive?

Knowledge is often obscured and erased, sometimes by benign ignorance or
neglect, as in the case of palimpsests, sometimes through more sinister
measures. During the 19th Century, it was common for scholars (even such as
Tischendorf, Grimm, Waitz) to travel with vials of vitriol or nut gall in
their kit bags, to apply these reagents to manuscripts they could not read,
in order to bring out the script. That this meant that the next scholar
could not read anything did not seem to occur to them, though Waitz once
said, after mishandling the Auxentius manuscript: "I don't believe my
treatment has damaged the manuscript." He ought to see it now and have to
listen to the curses of modern authorities trying to decipher it. Worse,
some people smeared the manuscripts so treated with gelatin so that they
would not deteriorate further, which then assured that UV treatment would
not work. BTW, in case you think such practices are only examples of 19th
century barbarity, they still go on.
The very act of digging into an Etruscan tomb may destroy some of the
evidence one is looking for, and many archeological digs, where
stratification is of the essence, involve interstratificational confusion.
Steaming apart of books, pasting on of support, etc. can involve loss, often
serious loss. All measures used in treating materials containing knowledge
ought to non-intrusive.
Jim Marchand.

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