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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.

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