How dedicated are the researchers at Rome’s Institute of the Pathology of the Book, a restoration establishment created to preserve everything from ancient manuscripts to priceless books to historic documents?
They donated their own blood to carry out experiments after learning that an ink with human blood had been used to write the Dead Sea Scrolls – apparently because its iron content helped stabilize colors, according to Agence France-Presse.
The institute has been a cutting-edge entity since it was founded in 1938 to preserve Italy’s priceless archives.
“The museum is filled with books suffering from the worst kinds of ailments – including one with a hole as big as a fist eaten by termites or another riddled with bullet holes from the Battle of Monte Cassino during World War II,” according to the wire service.
The institute is the main point of reference for book and archive restoration in Italy but also does work for the Vatican and internationally, it added.
And its work has expanded greatly over the past seven decades from simply restoring Italian archives.
A recent research project was carried out on fragments of Koranic manuscripts found in Yemen dating back to at least the eighth century, not much later than, relatively speaking, the beginnings of Islam.
“The main problems we see are linked to water, heat, dust and insects,” said Flavia Pinzari, head of the institute’s biology department.
Projects can be long-running, with the institute’s book restoration course lasting a full five years.
The institute brings together scientists as well as literature specialists and artisans with a range of skills from traditional book binding, to the production of parchment, to the restoration of mediaeval illuminations, according to Agence France-Presse.
They work with X-ray microscopes but also pincers, old printing presses and special machinery that ages paper artificially.
“We consult old recipes, some of them mediaeval, to make colors and certain types of ink,” Pinzari said.
They also rely on specialized firms in Italy and abroad, including one in Japan that makes a special paper used to “reconstruct” damaged pages.