ABOUT THE ARCHIMEDES PALIMPSEST
The Archimedes Palimpsest is a medieval parchment manuscript, now consisting of 174 parchment folios. While it contains no less than seven treatises by Archimedes, calling it the Archimedes Palimpsest is a little confusing. As it is now, the manuscript is a Byzantine prayerbook, written in Greek, and technically called a euchologion. This euchologion was completed by April 1229, and was probably made in Jerusalem.
The prayer book, or Euchologion, is itself of some interest, and further information on its contents can be discovered in this website. However, to make their prayer book, the scribes used parchment that had already been used for the writings of other books. The books they took parchment from were as follows.
THE BOOK'S CONTENTS
Firstly, and most importantly, they used a book containing at least seven treatises by Archimedes. These treatises are The Equilibrium of Planes, Spiral Lines, The Measurement of the Circle, Sphere and Cylinder, On Floating Bodies, The Method of Mechanical Theorems, and the Stomachion. Of these treatises, the last three are of the greatest significance to our understanding of Archimedes. While the other treatises had survived through other manuscripts, there is no other surviving copy of On Floating Bodies in Greek – the language in which Archimedes wrote, and there is no version in any language of The Method of Mechanical Theorems and of the Stomachion. The Archimedes manuscript was used for the majority of the pages of the prayer book. The Archimedes manuscript was written in the second half of the tenth century, almost certainly in Constantinople.
In this short video clip Abigail Quandt, Senior Conservator of Manuscripts and Rare Books at The Walters Art Museum, turns some pages of the book. It might surprise some people that Abigail is not wearing gloves. Actually it makes conservation sense. Her clean hands do no damage to the parchment and she can be more sensitive to the fragile...