At a Christie’s auction in 1998, a battered medieval manuscript sold for two million dollars to an anonymous bidder, who then turned it over to the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore for further study. The manuscript was a palimpsest-a book made from an earlier codex whose script had been scraped off and the pages used again.
Behind the script of the thirteenth-century monk’s prayer book, the palimpsest revealed the faint writing of a much older, tenth-century manuscript.
Part archaeological detective story, part science, and part history, the forthcoming book Archimedes Codex (Fall, 2007)tells the incredible story of this lost manuscript, from its tenth-century creation in Constantinople to the auction block at Christie’s, and how a team of scholars used the latest imaging technology to reveal and decipher the original text.
What they found was the earliest surviving manuscript by Archimedes (287 b.c.-212 b.c.), the greatest mathematician of antiquity-a manuscript that revealed, for the first time, the full range of his mathematical genius, which was two thousand years ahead of modern science.
For a great visual introduction to the project on which the book is based, see:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8211813884612792878 (1 hr. video)
dave buehler, ph.d. | providence college