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Subject: Deciphering fire damaged documents

Deciphering fire damaged documents

From: Steven Prins <sprins1102>
Date: Friday, April 16, 2004
Lorraine Finch's citation of Rathelot's description of burnt
documents reminded me of the scrolls recovered from the Villa Papyri
in Pompeii.  These had a very similar appearance, especially in that
the black of the ink and of the paper could be distinguished only by
the contrast of texture and reflectivity. But while this allowed the
scrolls to be deciphered, it was only with great difficulty.
Moreover, the results proved to be very unreliable once better means
were discovered.  The better method proved to be one already
familiar to many conservators today:  infrared photography.  Anyone
faced with the challenge of deciphering charred documents should
start by undertaking infrared photographs with a progressive series
of cutoff filters to determine the range of wavelengths that will
provide the best results.  Good luck,

Steven Prins
Conservator of Paintings
Steven Prins and Company
1570 Pacheco, Suite A-W5
Santa Fe NM 87505

                  Conservation DistList Instance 17:67
                 Distributed: Wednesday, April 28, 2004
                       Message Id: cdl-17-67-001
Received on Friday, 16 April, 2004

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