Norfolk

Bressingham scroll: 'Unreadable' parchment's secrets revealed

  • 27 November 2013
  • From the section Norfolk
Apocalypto scan of Bressingham scroll
Image caption Initial scans of a 10mm section of the scroll have revealed the text to be written in a Latin cursive script

The secrets of a 15th Century Norfolk scroll, that has been unreadable for decades, are set to be unlocked when it is virtually unrolled using a 3D X-ray.

The badly water-damaged parchment, from Bressingham Manor, would disintegrate if physically opened but it has now been "read" using microtomography.

The process scans the iron and copper used in the ink to reveal a high contrast image of the manuscript.

Details of what the scroll contains are expected to be revealed by Christmas.

Image caption The majority of the scroll cannot be unrolled as it is stuck together

Gary Tuson, from the Norfolk Records Office (NRO), said: "We have documents from Bressingham Manor dating back to 1273, but when you get to the 15th Century you just can't get at what it says on the inside of this roll.

"Having the chance to unlock a part of Norfolk history which has been closed to us for maybe hundreds of years feels very special."

The scroll's details have been unlocked as part of the Apocalypto Project, a collaboration between the NRO, experts at Queen Mary University of London and Cardiff University.

The X-ray system, usually used for dentistry, has scanned the scroll in segments to create about 40,000 images which will be composited to reveal the text.

The document is known to be an account roll kept by the manager of Bressingham Manor and experts hope the details will shed light on everyday life in the Norfolk village during the 1400s.

David Mills, from the Apocalypto Project, added: "To be able to unlock documents like this, to be the first person to read them in hundreds of years, is fascinating.

"As you start to delve through the image you start to see the outline of letters come together - it's a great feeling.

"It's just a shame you can't read it - it's all in Medieval Latin."

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