Researchers uncover hidden Reformation Bible notes

18 March 2016

Lambeth Palace Library

RESEARCHERS from Queen Mary’s University, London, have used complex image-software analysis to uncover annotations that had been hidden for nearly 500 years between pages of England’s first printed Latin Bible.

The book was published in 1535 by Henry VIII’s printer, and is held in Lambeth Palace Library. Dr Eyal Poleg, a historian from Queen Mary’s, said that he noticed that heavy paper had been pasted over some blank parts of the Bible. “The challenge was how to uncover the annotations without damaging the book,” he said.

Dr Poleg asked assistance of Dr Graham Davis, a specialist in 3D X-ray imaging at Queen Mary’s School of Dentistry. Using a light sheet slid beneath the pages, they took two images in long exposure.

The first image showed all the annotations, scrambled with the printed text, and the second picture showed only the printed text. Dr Davis then wrote a new piece of software to subtract the second image from the first, leaving a clear picture of the annotations.

The texts, copied from Thomas Cromwell’s “Great Bible”, were written between 1539 and 1549, and then covered and disguised with thick paper in 1600. Dr Poleg believes that their presence supports the idea that the Reformation was a gradual process rather than a single, transformative event.

Forthcoming Events

21-22 February 2020
Church Times Festival of Faith and Literature
For 2020 the Bloxham festival celebrates ‘The Power of Love’. Book tickets

26 March 2020
Theology Slam Live Final
Theology Slam is back, continuing its search for the most engaging young voices on theology and the contemporary world. Find out more

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read five articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)