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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Fri 25 Aug, 2006 5:39 pm    Post subject: Restoration of old manuscripts         Reply with quote

While reading Christian Tobler's announcement of his upcoming book, In Service of the Duke: The 15th century fighting treatise of Paulus Kal, I took note of a post that mentioned the ghosted images bleeding through from the back of the page.

Having been a professional retoucher since 1991, I wondered about the feasibility of restoring such manuscripts to their original state. Several questions emerge with such a discussion, not the least of which is budgetary concerns given the small audience for such things. This brings forth the issue of ROI, as the unrestored images show just as much context to they would have in their original form. In other words, the core audience of martial arts practitioners would earn very little value from restored images, making such an investment questionable.

Aside from that, some may ask if it is appropriate to alter these images, even if to attempt to restore them to their original form. Such work would leave the actual manuscripts in-tact and untouched and would be limited only to digital scans of them. But still, is it best to leave these things as the elements and aging has left them?

Below is the result of a quick (5 minutes) test with the low-resolution version from the Chivalry Bookshelf product page.

Beyond any core interest in such books and manuscripts, I have an interest in the history and art of the subject matter. Careful restoration is close to my own heart. Just as much as I value the restoration of the information and art of the craft being discussed within these manuscripts, I personally value the manuscripts themselves.

This exercise brought this stuff to my mind and I was curious if others within this community value the actual manuscripts themselves or if the value is merely on their contents.

Any thoughts are welcome.



 Attachment: 23.28 KB
Kal06.jpg
Original Image
From "In Service of the Duke"
The 15th Century Fighting Treatise of Paulus Kal
by Christian Henry Tobler, published by Chivalry Bookshelf


 Attachment: 25.81 KB
Kal06_v2.jpg
Sample Image showing partial restoration
From "In Service of the Duke"
The 15th Century Fighting Treatise of Paulus Kal
by Christian Henry Tobler, published by Chivalry Bookshelf


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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Fri 25 Aug, 2006 7:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I guess the objectives might vary depending on the state of an original and to what degree the bleedthrough is interfering with understanding the content.

I could see using sophisticated cleanup filters to delete only the bleed through from each side of a document: The scan from one side being used to delete it's bleed through on the other side. I imagine some sort of math/programming wizardry could do 99% of the job in a reliable and repeatable way.

The artistic approach can produce an equally or superior job aesthetically but I'm thinking more of a forensic and scientific restoration of hidden information that wouldn't risk being an arbitrary imagining of the restorer.

Since all of the above is not destructive of the original one could make versions going from light clean ups of distracting elements to full restoration i.e. As if new!

One could even present the original image on one page and the restored version next to it to give the " complete picture ".
( Pun intended. ) In any case I would imagine that one would want to see the originals.

I see very little of an ethics issue, only aesthetic, economic or quality of information ones.

Oh, nice job for only a 5 minute job.

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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Fri 25 Aug, 2006 7:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
I could see using sophisticated cleanup filters to delete only the bleed through from each side of a document: The scan from one side being used to delete it's bleed through on the other side. I imagine some sort of math/programming wizardry could do 99% of the job in a reliable and repeatable way.

What you're describing is a retouching technique called "difference masking". It's something I used in video production (motion graphics) long ago and, occasionally, in image processing. It can be accomplished well within Photoshop and other tools, assuming one can scan with registration markers and have some accuracy in doing so. (a big "if")

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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Fri 25 Aug, 2006 8:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would like to see more of the content translated. I have been trying to find an inexpensive copy of G. Ruxner's Thurnier Buch. Going price seems to be around $8000, untranslated!
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Christian Henry Tobler
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PostPosted: Fri 25 Aug, 2006 8:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello Nathan!

This is an excellent subject for discussion. I too have an inclination, as someone seeking the greatest clarity in the information, to want to "clean up" the images.

However, the appearance of the untampered with images has nothing to do with budget, and everything to do with the constraints placed by institutions on the use of their images. And, I should add, I think this is a reasonable constraint. In cleaning up the pictures, might we not, in our ignorance, also loose valuable information? This is surely the concern guiding the museums and libraries holding these treasures.

An excellent example of this is the Maciejowski Bible. If one were to view the unadulterated 13th c. product, one would have to obliterate the Arabic script later added to it. You'll note though that any depiction of its plates, whether in printed volume or online image includes them.

Great discussion.

All the best,

Christian

PS. The deep orangey-yellow haloing you see in the backgrounds is an artifact of outputing the CMYK stuff for the printers into PDF format for editing and promotional stuff - you shouldn't see that in the finished book.

Christian Henry Tobler
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Craig Johnson
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PostPosted: Fri 25 Aug, 2006 9:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Evenin All

I see good value in both conditions. The wages of time on a piece are its exsistance and that can teach us things about what it was intended for and was it used or ignored. The story of itself has value not only as an object of art to be appreciated but as a document that contains knowledge.

To realy appreciate the artistic endeavour of some of the works one may need to restore or deage the image as Nathan has done. It may not be crucial to the understanding of what the document is describing but then again a careful and thoughtful adjustment to a blured or bleeding image may illustarte some key point missed. I think it would be difficult to say one is better than the other but they both have distinct value.

In the terms Nathan outlined the economics of such work may not be profitable but how many of us are in to this to get rich? Happy
I would love to have the tomb of all fight books with the art as is on each full open followed by a nicely restored of the same when one turns the page. Could I afford such a thing, probably not at the moment but I would still want it, alot.

Best
Craig

Ps if anyone has figured out how to get rich in this field please drop me a PM would you. Exclamation
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Jason Elrod




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PostPosted: Fri 25 Aug, 2006 9:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just like any cleaning or restoration work done on a painting, the question becomes; what do you keep and what do you loose?

Just a quick look at Nathan's clean up, it seems that we've lost a plume on the knight's helmet.

From an art history stand point the "bleeding" itself could be an interesting and important indicator of the types of ink/paint/techniques that were used in the manuscript. Some people might want to see the "bleed".

I guess I'm with Craig on this one. I want to see both the uncleaned and cleaned up images.

Funny. People don't seem to have this type of discussing when talking about digitally cleaning up movies, where as I've had a very similar discussion about the benefits and hazards of digitally restoring music.
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Fri 25 Aug, 2006 11:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jason Elrod wrote:
Just a quick look at Nathan's clean up, it seems that we've lost a plume on the knight's helmet.

Excellent! I did that on purpose in hopes this issue would arise Big Grin

Jason Elrod wrote:
Funny. People don't seem to have this type of discussing when talking about digitally cleaning up movies, where as I've had a very similar discussion about the benefits and hazards of digitally restoring music.

I'm also a die-hard music and movie fan and have discussed both the process of digitizing such things as well as restoring them. I have strong, strong opinions about both these processes, just as I do about restoring artwork. It's a super interesting conversation for me, for sure. Happy

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Keith Culbertson




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PostPosted: Sat 26 Aug, 2006 10:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, I am very interested in the MSS themselves---I just graduated OSU with my MA in Art History and Medieval Studies with a specialization in MSS. I appreciate seeing original objects so that all the clues can be found about the total history and events it experienced, what was added or removed....But the clean up work for clarity in actually utilizing a specific part as demonstrated here has great potential.

By the way, any leads on actual work/research in paleography or similar line would be greatly appreciated, it seems very difficult to get into things...

best

Keith
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Christian Henry Tobler
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PostPosted: Sat 26 Aug, 2006 10:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nathan Robinson wrote:
Jason Elrod wrote:
Just a quick look at Nathan's clean up, it seems that we've lost a plume on the knight's helmet.

Excellent! I did that on purpose in hopes this issue would arise Big Grin


Actually, that plume is a ghost: it's on the sallet on the reverse of this folio: 7v. The ghosting can also be tricky, as sometimes you're seeing through to the other side of the page, but in other instances, you might be seeing a faint image left by contact with the previous page.

All the best,

Christian

Christian Henry Tobler
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Glen A Cleeton




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PostPosted: Sat 26 Aug, 2006 10:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Higgins has an upcoming exhibition that is to include recently acquired editions of Joachim Meyer and Giacomo di Grassi.

It will be interesting to see how they present these and what they offer as to what steps will be taken to conserve them. As they do have quite a library, I'm hoping the exhibition will go into a bit of detail on the maintenance of these books and other documents.

With modern imaging and manipulation, I would think it fine to do work on facsimile but probably better to simply conserve the originals.

Cheers

GC
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Sat 26 Aug, 2006 12:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Christian Henry Tobler wrote:
Actually, that plume is a ghost: it's on the sallet on the reverse of this folio: 7v. The ghosting can also be tricky, as sometimes you're seeing through to the other side of the page, but in other instances, you might be seeing a faint image left by contact with the previous page.

Haha, and there you go. And so the pitfalls of such an exercise emerge!

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Herbert Schmidt




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PostPosted: Mon 28 Aug, 2006 12:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I for my part see only three different roads:

1) a faksimile production which this book surely isn't
2) a book intended for the use as a fencing manual. In this case there should be maximum clarity which means enhanced pictures, deleted ghosts, better contrast etc. Everything to aid the interpretation.
3) take it as it is and what ever will come out. This was abviously the road taken here. Wether this was done because of money issues, restrictions from museum (although this sounds strange because you cropped the pictures in a rather willful manner and I am sure the printing isn't color proof), lack of time is another issue.

So for me - being interested in a fencing treaty I would have greatly appreciated to have seen restored images.
I personally strongly dislike the cropping of the images here as it just isn't pleasing and seeing parts of the edges doesn't help at all in interpreting this text fencing wise. So all in all I would make a few things different. But I also know it is easy to critizice after the work is done.

Herbert

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Christian Henry Tobler
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PostPosted: Mon 28 Aug, 2006 8:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello Herbert!

We, and the museum, do consider this to be a facsimile, within certain constraints. The pages don't lay flat here, and there was no way for the library to produce images that would've been rectangular such that a perfect facsimile could've been achieved. It's a 500 year old manuscript, and they were understandably reticent about unbinding it.

However, the images should indeed be color proofed, as the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek shot a test image for us, which was provided to our printer. Part of the reason for the high price tag is the enormous amount of money the publisher needed to spend on the pre-press portion of the printing job for this project. As I said earlier, the colors of the preview images do not reflect the final image quality or color correction.

Really, restoration of manuscripts is something that generally, for the reasons debated in this thread, is very much frowned upon by institutions. We were not given liberty to tamper with the images in such a fashion; the only exception being a couple of images where a curator's gloved finger (needed to keep the page even close to flat) was slightly visible in a corner where nothing is drawn; in that case, the library provided flat and non-flat images such that we could reconstruct the portion covered by the finger.

The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek has seen the book and is quite happy that its production is fulfilling our contract with them regarding its presentation.

Take care,

Christian

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Herbert Schmidt




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PostPosted: Mon 28 Aug, 2006 9:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Obviously some care went into the production of the book. However I still would not call it a faksimile. Besides one shot is not enough to ensure color proof. After more than 10 years in the prepress business with a heavy emphasis on book production (also faksimiles) I have done enough work in the field to know that this is far from color proof. However this is not what the book claims to be and rightly so. It is mainly a reproduction of a fencing treaty for us enthusiasts to learn from and to work with. I'd say, I wait till I get a copy and then, after having seen and handled the book I am entitled to an opinion as most now is guesswork from small screenshots.

Thanks anyway for your work and this production.

Herbert

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Christian Henry Tobler
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PostPosted: Mon 28 Aug, 2006 10:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello again Herbert -

I think my language may have been a bit misleading...by 'test shot', I mean they sent us an image with an industry standard color scale along it so that the pre-press technicians could correct the color accordingly. As the same lighting and camera were used throughout, this should be adequate, provided the pre-press folks do their job right.

I suspect we're arguing semantics regarding what qualifies as a facsimile, but I own several at home where some degree of compromise is made on the edges of the folio to ensure the image fits on a modern, perfectly cut page. To be completely pure, in many cases a completely faithful facsimile would be impossible without rough edged pages.

However, I imagine that this doesn't qualify as a facsimile by your standards because the pages are inset with the transcription and translation, which removes the feeling that one is scanning through the original manuscript. In that regard, yes, by the most strict definition, it is not a facsimile. Nevertheless, part of the contractual stipulation is that the book include a facsimile, and I can only tell you that the BSB seems comfortable with the level to which that was fulfilled.

All the best,

Christian

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Herbert Schmidt




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PostPosted: Mon 28 Aug, 2006 11:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As said before it doesn't make sense to continue the discussion here.
First it is not meant as a faksimile, at least not as I see it.
Second I haven't seen it since I have just ordered it
Third wether I (or you for that matter) consider it a faksimile or not is irrevelant as this book is not directed for the kind of bibliophile who normally spends 2.000,- or 5.000,- or more on a faksimile (which are the usual prices for the faksimilies that I know of - as published by Insel, Adeva, Faksimile and others)

So let us wait until the book is delivered and then we will see. Putting the quality of the reproduction aside it is good to know that there is another book on the market with this topic - although there are only 1000 copies.

best wishes

Herbert

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Christian Henry Tobler
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PostPosted: Mon 28 Aug, 2006 11:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Herbert Schmidt wrote:

So let us wait until the book is delivered and then we will see. Putting the quality of the reproduction aside it is good to know that there is another book on the market with this topic - although there are only 1000 copies.


Fair enough Herbert!

Take care,

Christian

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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Mon 28 Aug, 2006 2:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Personally, if I were serious enough about the subject to invest at a slightly higher level--say $200--I'd want two volumes--one a true facsimile and the other containing the introduction, modern translation, clarified images as needed, bibliography, etc. These volumes would be in a single cloth slipcase, of course. Big Grin And, if the publisher is feeling generous, I'd welcome a bleed/transfer-free print of one of the most compelling images (acid-free for archival mounting, if you please).

OK. So make that $400.

-Sean

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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Mon 28 Aug, 2006 2:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you for making this an interesting conversation.
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