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The Invisible Library

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In 1752, a team lead by Swiss architect and engineer Karl Weber, excavated the Villa dei Papiri, "the only sizable library from the ancient world to emerge intact." This ancient library had been discovered two years earlier in Herculaneum, a town destroyed, along with Pompeii, during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. The Villa dei Papiri contained hundreds of ancient scrolls, many of which scholars of antiquity have long hoped may contain long-lost texts by writers including Aristotle and Epicurus. However, while a number of these scrolls have, remarkably, survived the centuries since their creation, many have also been damaged in previous attempts to read them. In this fascinating 2015 piece from The New Yorker, John Seabrook writes about contemporary efforts to use digital restoration techniques to restore damaged scrolls and make them legible again. These techniques were first proposed by University of Kentucky software engineer Brent Seales at a 2005 conference for Herculaneum scholars and enthusiasts. Since then, papyrologist Daniel Delattre of the Institut de France and others have attempted to utilize these new technologies. Seabrook's essay weaves together the complex history of the Villa dei Papiri scrolls alongside a profile of Delattre and his quest to bring some of these scrolls to light.
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2017-04-07
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