Raiders of the Lost Writings – Investigating Ancient Manuscripts

Status: available
Supervisor: Simon Brenner

Before continuing to read we strongly recommend to let this play in the background:


Uncountable ancient manuscripts lie in archives, libraries, monastaries and haunted tombs around the world. Unfortunately, the centuries took their toll: due to unsuitable storage conditions, fire- or water damage, clumsy librarians or the recycling of parchment (“palimpsests”) many writings are now lost forever.. or are they??

Multispectral Imaging (MSI) has proven a powerful method to recover such lost texts. For the last 10 years, the Computer Vision Lab has participated in a series of interdisciplinary research projects on the analysis of ancient manuscripts, where we have been imaging manuscripts around Europe and on Mount Sinai and worked on image processing and computer vision methods for text enhancement.

Fig. 1: Multispectral Imaging: In this example, a palimpsest (a text which has been erased to recycle the parchment) is revealed.


Now that you are totally excited about the secrets of ancient manuscripts, here are some possible topics for practica, bachelor- and diploma thesis:

1. A study on the contribution of individual wavelebands to text reconstruction performance

The question is: can Multispectral Imaging be simplified by omitting certain wavebands that do not significantly enhance the restoration result?
This would enable a faster acquisition process (which is important as manuscripts typically have to be imaged on-site), more efficient processing and cheaper hardware.
Based on data acquired in past research projects, a systematic study must be carried out, testing the contribution of individual wavelengths to the final enhancement results. The study should be evaluated on different types of manuscripts and different enhancement methods.

2. Visualization

A common way to post-process multispectral image is to perform a statistical decomposition of some sort (e.g. PCA). Then you can select some components that visualize certain properties of the data and combine them to expressive pseudocolor images (like the right side of Fig. 1 for example). Currently, this is mostly done by hand. This topic is about establishing guidelines or automated procedures for the creation of visually pleasing pseudocolor images.

3. A viewer/editor for multispectral images and material analysis data

While we at the CVL were concerned with the enhancement of degraded text based on MSI, our colleagues at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna performed chemical meterial analysis of the same manuscripts via X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF), Fourier Transform Infra Red Spectroscopy (FTIR) or Raman Spectroscopy. Now the plan is to build a common database that is connecting the two worlds. This would require a nice front-end enabling the viewing and editing of MSI and specriscopic measurements in a common coordinate frame.
Desired features:
– navigating through spectral layers
– intuitive composition of pseudocolor images
– inserting/editing of material-analysis sample points
– adding/displaying spectroscopy data
The tool can be implemented as a web application (e.g. with React JS) and/or as a plugin for the awesome nomacs image viewer (C++).




If you are interested in one of the topics, write to