Palimpsest

DEFINITION

An object or image that reveals its history, just as a chalkboard sometimes allows us to see partially erased marks. Out of necessity, creating palimpsests was an early method of recycling. For much of history, writing surfaces were so rare that they were often used more than once. When parchment ran short, many a writer would wash or scrape away an old manuscript to remove old marks, so that new marks could be made right over them, usually at right angles to the old lettering. Fortunately for modern scholars erasing was generally ineffective, because original texts can frequently be distinguished under the later writing. Any old objects ? for example: ancient ruins, antique furniture, and battered toys ? that show the effects of their past can be seen as palimpsests, relating information about their histories. A palimpsest then may be anything having diverse layers or aspects apparent beneath its surface. Close examination of a painting&#39;s layers might reveal changes made by the original painter, by later painters, conservators, restorers, by environmental factors, or by vandals.(pr. PAL-&#601;mp-sest or p&#601;-LIMP-s&#601;st)Examples: The Archimedes Palimpsest. This medieval palimpsest on parchment was discovered in 1899 in a library in Istanbul. The overlapped writings on the pages of this book are works of the ancient Greek mathematician, engineer, and philosopher, Archimedes (287?<br><br>An object or image that reveals its history, just as a chalkboard sometimes allows us to see partially erased marks. Out of necessity, creating palimpsests was an early method of recycling. For much of history, writing surfaces were so rare that they were often used more than once. When parchment ran short, many a writer would wash or scrape away an old manuscript to remove old marks, so that new marks could be made right over them, usually at right angles to the old lettering. Fortunately for modern scholars erasing was generally ineffective, because original texts can frequently be distinguished under the later writing. Any old objects. For example: ancient ruins, antique furniture, and battered toys that show the effects of their past can be seen as palimpsests, relating information about their histories. A palimpsest then may be anything having diverse layers or aspects apparent beneath its surface. Close examination of a painting&#39;s layers might reveal changes made by the original painter, by later painters, conservators, restorers, by environmental factors, or by vandals.(pr. PAL-&#601;mp-sest or p&#601;-LIMP-s&#601;st)Examples: The Archimedes Palimpsest. This medieval palimpsest on parchment was discovered in 1899 in a library in Istanbul. The overlapped writings on the pages of this book are works of the ancient Greek mathematician, engineer, and philosopher, Archimedes (287? to 212 BCE). In the 10th century a monk in a Greek Orthodox monastery in Constantinople copied Archimedes&#39; work from older documents onto these pages. In the 12th century the parchment was washed and scraped (although only partly in this case), and religious Christian texts were written at right angles on top. The religious reasons justifying the reuse of this parchment included religious intolerance: some Christians of the time thought it was a holy act to destroy a pagan text and replace it with a Christian one. The location of the Archimedes Palimpsest was unknown between 1916 and 1998, when it appeared at auction at Christies in New York, and was sold on behalf of an anonymous seller. The man who bought it for two million dollars agreed to make it available for scholarly research. Although parts of Archimedes&#39;s text in the Palimpsest have been previously available, some found here are apparently closer to the original, and some have very important sections not otherwise known to have been preserved. See scriptorium and xenophobia.

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