Science Reveals Unseen Passages And Early Versions Of Classics
If you write your manuscripts by hand and plan to be a big deal in the literary world after you're dead, don't put anything stupid in those first drafts. Scientist Ian Christie-Miller, a former visiting research fellow at London University, has developed a technology that allows us to see beyond the scribbles and cross-outs to determine how a given piece of prose was shaped and reshaped from start to finish.
It works by separating layers of text using frontlit and backlit images of pages then digitally subtracting one from the other until unseen passages and the author's original words emerge. Charles Dickens is the first to have his screw-ups, revisions, and deletions revealed to the world, but the technique could potentially be used on all sorts of texts.
The pilot study took place at London's Victoria & Albert Museum using Dickens' Christmas story "The Chimes." While it didn't reveal any gasp-inducing plot changes, it did prove the technology and find minor differences such as a change from the original sentence "Years...are like men in one respect" to the published "Years...are like Christians in that respect."
It's a pretty nifty new tool for literary scholars. Which author's drafts would you like to snoop on?
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