L-125a. Scientific Analysis of the Book (22 hours)

Raymond Clemens Richard Hark

Course Length: 22 hours
Schedule: 11 a.m.–5 p.m. ET (including breaks), 28 June–2 July 2021
Format: Online
Cost: $1,000

There have been tremendous advances in science as it relates to the history of the book. This course will introduce the major technologies currently available to most librarians. During each session, Clemens and Hark will present the scientific background necessary to make sense of the technology, and will offer an example of that technology as it has been applied to book history. Most of the examples will come from their own work, either currently taking place or projects that have been completed.  The goal is the foster a community of librarians who are interested in promoting science to further our understanding of the history of the book. On several days there will be virtual demonstrations of the analytical techniques discussed in the course that will take place in the laboratory.

Class size is limited to 12 students.


Monday, 28 June 2021
Birth of authentication of historical materials and use of chemical reagents to reveal palimpsests—moving from a primitive, destructive, and not terribly specific approach to more specific, less destructive approaches. Radiocarbon dating

Tuesday, 29 June 2021
Multispectral imaging (MSI)

Wednesday, 30 June 2021
Elemental spectrography—X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF), hand-held, and scanning instruments

Thursday, 1 July 2021
Privacy and DNA testing for long-dead readers and peptide mass fingerprinting (PMF) for identification of the animal source of parchment

Friday, 2 July 2021
Molecular analysis—Raman and infrared spectroscopy (FTIR)

Course History

Raymond Clemens and Richard Hark teach this course.


  • Raymond Clemens
  • Richard Hark

Raymond Clemens

Ray Clemens is Curator for Early Books and Manuscripts at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University. He is the author, with Timothy Graham, of Introduction to Manuscript Studies (Cornell University Press, 2007), and the editor of The Voynich Manuscript (Yale University Press, 2016). He has held a Mellon Fellowship and a British Academy-Newberry Library Exchange Fellowship.

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Richard Hark

Dr. Richard Hark is a conservation scientist at Yale’s Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage (IPCH), where he works principally with the collections of the Yale Center for British Art and the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. After earning his Ph.D., he spent 25 years as a chemistry professor before joining IPCH. He is currently engaged in projects involving scientific analysis of the Vinland map, a Gutenberg Bible, fifteenth-century Italian tarot cards, William Henry Fox Talbot’s The Pencil of Nature, and the Yale Center for British Art’s “Reformation to Restoration” British portraits project.


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