Research Uncovered—Julia Craig-McFeely on Exultation and Despondency: the digital reconstruction of Tudor Partbooks

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Among the many examples of Tudor music in Oxford’s libraries is a badly damaged set of partbooks written by schoolmaster John Sadler in the mid 1500s. Acid paper and acid ink has caused burn-through damage to most of the pages in the book, rendering much of the content nearly illegible. The Tudor Partbooks project (a collaboration funded by the AHRC between musicologists at Newcastle University and the University of Oxford) is engaged in restoring Sadler’s books to usability for publication in facsimile form as their fragility means they have not been available to readers since the early 1970s. This talk looks at some of the techniques of digital reconstruction and restoration developed by the Tudor Partbooks team, and some of the difficulties we have encountered, both physical and ethical, in developing this complex process.

The Tudor Partbooks project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Julia Craig-McFeely is DIAMM Research Fellow at the Faculty of Music. She is a director of the Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music, for which she has developed digital restoration techniques to restore damaged manuscripts to readability and a database of manuscript metadata that covers every polyphonic music manuscript prior to 1600. She has published and lectured on English Lute Manuscripts, Early modern scribal identification, digital restoration and imaging techniques for fragile manuscripts, and was the imaging advisor on the pilot project to digitise the Dead Sea Scrolls. As a specialist manuscript photographer she has worked on documents as diverse as the Winchester Bible and the diaries of Imogen Holst. She is a collaborator on a number of international projects in digital humanities.


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