Challenges in the digital preservation of historical laminated manuscripts

By Angelo Mario Del Grosso, Driss Fassi Fihri, Mohammed El Mohajir, Anna Tonazzini, Ouafae Nahli

Abstract


In this paper, we analyze and discuss the characteristics of a system for the effective digital preservation and fruition of historical manuscripts degraded by the process of lamination.

The most significant degradation caused by lamination is that the parchment or paper support loses its flatness, and usually presents ripples and warpings. This, together with the affixed translucent varnish, dramatically impair the digital acquisition process, so that light reflections in the more disparate directions affect the digital images.

A digital system to contrast this irreversible and progressive degradation and to enable an effective access to the fragile asset should provide a number of functionalities: specialized digitization, able to avoid reflections as much as possible; image enhancement, devised to correct the residual degradations and enhance the text for an easier legibility; semi-automatic transcription of the virtually restored pages; and, finally, scholarly encoding and linguistic analysis, which should adapt existing tools to the specificity of the primary source (writing system and language).

As a case study, we will make reference to the ``Poem in Rajaz on medicine'', written by Abubacer in the XII century, and conserved in the Al Quaraouiyine Library located in Fez, Morocco.

The feasibility study for the realization of such a system is of general utility, in that it can provide guidelines for the digitization, the enhancement and the text encoding of the many laminated manuscripts conserved in other historical archives.
On the other hand, from the cultural heritage point of view, the experimentation on the ``Poem in Rajaz on medicine'' could foster the systematic philological and ontological study of a unique piece of our documental heritage: the longest poem of medieval Islamic medical literature.


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