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Jubilees Palimpsest Project Will Use New Technology to Recover Unreadable Text from Ancient Manuscript

San Antonio, TX: The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded $325,000 to the Jubilees Palimpsest Project at St. Mary’s University. This honor recognizes the significance of Spectral RTI technology, which was invented at St. Mary’s University. Spectral RTI is a new way to integrate previously incompatible imaging technologies. Faculty and students, joined by collaborators from the Early Manuscripts Electronic Library and the Rochester Institute of Technology, will travel to Milan to apply the technology to a fifth-century erased manuscript containing ancient books excluded from the Bible. The interactive images will be published online for anyone to study, led by scholars from St. Mary’s, the University of Notre Dame, and the University of Pennsylvania. Grant funds will also pay for faculty and students from St. Mary’s to train scholars and curators across the nation in the use of the technology.

The Jubilees Palimpsest is a manuscript that once contained a copy of Jubilees, the Testament of Moses, and an Arian Commentary on the Gospel of Luke. The writings were deemed heretical and the parchment erased so as to be used for a more orthodox text.

Spectral RTI technology combines two technological innovations in manuscript imaging from recent years. Spectral imaging uses more than five times the color resolution of the human eye to see invisible contrasts. Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) captures and visualizes the texture of each of fifty million pixels in a photograph. Combined, these technologies can recover text from erased parchment if any trace of ink remains or if the ink corroded the surface of the parchment before being erased.

The project supports the mission of St. Mary’s University in leading internationally-recognized scholarly excellence in the study of the Catholic intellectual tradition. The grant extends opportunities to St. Mary’s students to work alongside leading experts in building the tools that will help define the future of digital humanities research.

More information about the Jubilees Palimpsest Project is available at and by following @thanneken on Twitter.

About St. Mary’s University

Founded in 1852 by the Society of Mary, Marianists, St. Mary’s is a comprehensive Catholic and Marianist university with a strong tradition of integrating liberal arts with professional studies. St. Mary’s enrolls 4,000 students in a diverse university with five schools, more than 40 academic programs including Ph.D. and J.D. programs, and numerous pre-professional programs. St. Mary’s has been cited for high graduation rates among Texas colleges and is ranked among the best in the West Region for value and academic quality by U.S. News & World Report. St. Mary’s is the oldest Catholic university in the Southwest, and continues to advocate the Marianist mission of academic excellence and servant leadership.

About the National Endowment for the Humanities

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at:

“NEH provides support for projects across America that preserve our heritage, promote scholarly discoveries, and make the best of America’s humanities ideas available to all Americans,” said NEH Chairman William D. Adams. “We are proud to announce this latest group of grantees who, through their projects and research, will bring valuable lessons of history and culture to Americans.”

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The National Endowment for the Humanities: Celebrating 50 Years of Excellence