A MITH Digital Dialogue

Tuesday, February 24, 12:30-1:45

MITH Conference Room, McKeldin Library B0135

The Archimedes Palimpsest is a

manuscript of extraordinary importance to the history of science. This

thirteenth century prayer book contains erased texts that were written

several centuries earlier still. These erased texts include two

treatises by Archimedes that can be found nowhere else, The Method and

Stomachion. The manuscript sold at auction to a private collector on

the 29th October 1998. The owner deposited the manuscript at The

Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, a few months later. Since

that date the manuscript has been the subject of conservation, imaging

and scholarship, in order to better read the texts. The Archimedes

Palimpsest project, as it is called, has shed new light on Archimedes

and revealed new texts from the ancient world. It has also generated a

great deal of public curiosity, as well as the interest of scholars

throughout the world.

On 29th October 2008, we celebrated the ten year anniversary of the

project. What was erased text, in terrible condition, impossible to

access, and yet foundational to the history and science of the West,

is now legible, and instantly available for free on the Web. This talk

will cover the evolution of the project as well as its future


WILLIAM NOEL, Curator of Manuscripts and Rare Books at the Walters Art

Museum, received his Ph.D. from Cambridge University in England in

1993. He has served as director of studies in the history of art at

Downing College, Cambridge University, and as Assistant Curator of

Manuscripts at The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. Noel is the

author of The Harley Psalter (1995), an in-depth investigation into

the making of an illustrated 11th-century Psalter. He is also

co-editor and contributor of the exhibition catalogue The Utrecht

Psalter in Medieval Art: Picturing the Psalms of David (1996). In

2002, together with Prof. Daniel Weiss and Dr. Griffith Mann, he

curated the exhibition The Book of Kings: Art, War, and the Morgan

Library’s Medieval Picture Bible. His recent book, The Oxford Bible

Pictures (2004), concerns a series of English miniatures of the

13th-century at the Walters. Since January 1999, Noel has directed an

international program to conserve, image, and study the Archimedes

Palimpsest, the unique source for three treatises by the ancient Greek

mathematician Archimedes (www.archimedespalimpsest.org). He has

co-written with Prof. Reviel Netz a popular account of the project

entitled The Archimedes Codex (2007). Will has taught and lectured

widely. He is on the faculty of the Rare Book School, University of

Virginia, and is an Adjunct Professor at Johns Hopkins University.

Coming up @MITH 3/3:

Sayeed Choudhury (Johns Hopkins), “An Abundant Humanities Library”

View MITH’s complete Digital Dialogues schedule here:


All talks free and open to the public!

Contact: Neil Fraistat, Director, MITH (www.mith.umd.edu, mith@umd.edu, 5-8927).