Enhanced digitization experience

This summer, the Bodmer Lab is working with the team from the eFacsimile project of the Audio-visual Communication Laboratory (Laboratoire de Communication Audiovisuelle; LCAV), directed by Martin Vetterli at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne. We are launching a series of studies using dynamic data modelling of rare books. At the Martin Bodmer Foundation Cologny, we will use an experimental digitisation table specially created for scanning the collection’s documents.

The technology developed by Loïc Baboulaz and his colleagues works by varying light sources during the image-capture process in order to reproduce the smallest surface irregularities on the screen with the help of logarithms. The scanned object responds to different simulated environments, using various adapted sensors (of tablets, smartphones), to ambient light parameters. The rare book suddenly jumps into our world with an unprecedented degree of precision.

The Bodmer Lab is tapping into this technology for scientific ends. It represents the possibility of employing new digital resources in order to formulate unprecedented hypotheses about the history of culture.

Specialists of “physical bibliography” are already exploring first editions of Shakespeare, finding many more details than would be possible with the naked eye. We expect that these studies will lead to a better understanding of the way in which the dramatist was edited in the 17th century and, more broadly, new insights into European publishing in the modern era. This is just one example of the scientific potential of this augmented digitisation.

The simulations made possible by LCAV open up an exciting avenue for approaching the history of reading: does the “same” book appear to its readers in the “same” way, depending on whether they see it by the light of the sun, a candle, and incandescent lamp or by LED? Is the brain acted on similarly in these different situations? Is the information contained within books captured and process identically? A phenomenology of reading fed by neuroscientific insights might well find a new research field.