Digitizing the Past for the Future
The ancient books that have preserved the medical wisdom of the past are fading away. With their loss, a whole body of patiently assembled knowledge will also disappear. To prevent this irreparable loss, the Institute has started its program of digitization of the most ancient of such books: manuals written by hand (manuscripts).
From the intention to digitize manuscripts to their publication on the Web, the way is long, however. Nevertheless, tenacious and hard work, with a bit of serendipity, surely helps. Last Spring, the CEO of the Institute, Emanuela Appetiti, and the Scientific Director, Alain Touwaide, were offered to publish on the site of the Institute the images of a unique Greek manuscript now preserved in Padua (Italy): a mid 14th century illustrated copy of the most important encyclopedia of natural substances used for the preparation of medicines ever written in Antiquity: De materia medica by the 1st century Greek healer Dioscorides.
Reproducing manuscripts is not all, however. These books are difficult to read and require an expert eye to decipher their texts. This is why the Institute will offer both the images of manuscripts and a transcription of their texts in a readable format. A prototype of such future e-publications will be available.
Aside an archaeological analysis of the manuscript of Padua made on the basis of repeated examination of the volume over the years, the publication makes it possible, in one option, to view the pages of the manuscript and, in the other option, to read a transcription of its text, chapter by chapter. Negotiations are underway to obtain the permission to publish manuscripts from other repositories on the Web site of the Institute. To be continued.