In the year before Stanley finally made contact with explorer and missionary Dr. David Livingstone, Livingstone had worn himself and his supplies almost completely out. Yet he never stopped documenting the landscape, geography and people of what was hitherto a region of Africa barely known by Europeans.
Unfortunately, given his dire lack of supplies, these letters and notes were written on whatever he had left, mainly an 1869 issue of the Standard newspaper but also the cut off edges of book pages. He had very little ink and so was forced to make an ink out of a local berry which stained a dark red when crushed. These materials mean that today his diary is almost completely indecipherable: not only are the pages crumbling and the ink barely legible but the problem is compounded by the prominence of the newsprint. Livingstone’s diary has degraded to such a degree that it was considered highly unlikely that it would be possible to recover any of the information on the documents. The following images document the process by which Livingstone’s 1871 field diary was able to be read for the first time in over 140 years.
The process—multispectral digital imaging—involves taking 14 photographs of each page of the diary. Each image was taken whilst the page was being exposed to a specific wavelength of light from ultra-violet through the visible spectrum to infrared. This process was achieved using a high resolution small aperture camera and LED light sources.
This innovative project, the first time spectral imaging has been used with a nineteenth century artefact, encompasses many important areas of the humanities, and provides a visceral link to history as well as showcasing the exciting technology available to modern scholars.
24th of September 1869 London Standard Newspaper
about 24th of September 1869 London Standard Newspaper
Neil Imray Livingstone Wilson and Ian Livingstone kindly granted permission on behalf of, respectively, the Livingstone family and the David Livingstone Centre trustees to transport, spectrally image, and digitally publish the manuscript pages of the 1871 Field diary, and related materials at the National Library of Scotland. Page shown DLC297b, held at the David Livingstone Centre, Blantyre, Scotland.
Testing spectral imaging processing
about Testing spectral imaging processing
Onsite processing in Scotland relied primarily on applying principal component analysis (PCA) to the raw image sets. Experimentation began with this technique from the earliest initial imaging phase. The image is from October 2009, and shows the low-resolution, "raw" and processed PCA spectral images. The PCA technique uses combinations of an original set of images to construct an equivalent set of images ordered by statistical variance. Images from diary page DLC 297b/160, held at the David Livingstone Centre, Blantyre, Scotland.
Examining and preparing the diary
about Examining and preparing the diary
The National Trust for Scotland arranged for Conservator Kate Kidd, to prepare the materials for imaging. Kate is shown with Ken Boydston and Mike Toth of the Spectral imaging team. Work included stabilizing documents for handling, repairing all edge tears and tears along central fold lines, reattaching a detached page, and supporting manuscript weaknesses using very light-weight Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste. Page shown DLC297d, held at the David Livingstone Centre, Blantyre, Scotland.
EurekaVision multi-spectral imaging system
about EurekaVision multi-spectral imaging system
The team transported the system from the U.S. MegaVision E6, 39 megapixel camera back (7216 X 5412 pixels; 16-bit data with approximately 12 bits of dynamic range) mounted in a technical view camera with a 60mm UV-VIS-IR lens and a colour filter wheel installed for UV fluorescence studies. Ken Boydston sets up imaging system in the reprographics department of the National Library of Scotland. The LED illumination array and diffuser can be seen in the background.
Capturing the images
about Capturing the images
Each LED panel contained seven banks of LEDs that emit in the ultraviolet and visible regions of the spectrum and five additional clusters of LEDs that emit in the infrared region. A primary advantage of the system is that LEDs do not generate heat that can damage fragile pages. The EurekaVision system illuminated each Livingstone folio, while the monochrome camera automatically photographed the folio under each illumination.
Livingstone’s diary image stages
about Livingstone’s diary image stages
The spectral imaging of the 1871 Field Diary and associated documents produced raw image sets of 202 Livingstone folia in total. In other words, the spectral imaging of Livingstone’s diary resulted in the creation of 3,032 digital image files totalling, roughly, 750 GB of data. This data required processing by the team’s imaging scientists in order to make Livingstone’s handwritten text readable.
Spectral image processing uses tailored mathematical algorithms in order to manipulate and enhance raw spectral image data
about Spectral image processing uses tailored mathematical algorithms in order to manipulate and enhance raw spectral image data
In the case of Livingstone’s manuscripts, such processing relies on the fact that different ink types on a given page (for instance, Livingstone’s ink, the ink of the newsprint, etc.) behave differently under different bands of wavelengths of light. Page shown, MS. 10703 f.21, held at the National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.
Spectral image processing uses tailored mathematical algorithms in order to manipulate and enhance raw spectral image data, in the process creating beautiful images in their own right
about Spectral image processing uses tailored mathematical algorithms in order to manipulate and enhance raw spectral image data, in the process creating beautiful images in their own right
Page shown, MS. 10703 f.21, held at the National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.
A page from the diary
about A page from the diary
This is a very accurate colour image of a page of the diary, created by combining a series of monochrome images taken under visible light bands. Page shown DLC297b, held at the David Livingstone Centre, Blantyre, Scotland.
Identifying the spectral profile of the inks
about Identifying the spectral profile of the inks
The ink Livingstone used for much of his diary he made himself using a local berry, it faded so quickly it was barely legible when the diary was returned to the UK by H. M. Stanley in late 1871. Roger Easton (centre) collects the reflectance spectra of the inks used while team members Bill Christens-Barry, Kate Simpson and Karen Carruthers from the David Livingstone Centre assist. Image courtesy of R. B. Toth Associates.
Once the PC images are produced, the scientists examine the images to identify those that show different inks and insert these images into the red, green, and blue channels (RGB) of a "pseudocolour" (false colour) image. If the handwritten ink appears as "light" in one of the PC images and "dark" in another, then the corresponding pixels may exhibit a colour tone in the pseudocolour image that allows easier differentiation between the handwritten and printed texts. Page shown DLC297b, held at the David Livingstone Centre, Blantyre, Scotland.
XML transcription & Digital Publication. In February 2011 the imaging scientists systematically began to produce the processed spectral images
about XML transcription & Digital Publication. In February 2011 the imaging scientists systematically began to produce the processed spectral images
We transcribed and encoded the text of the 1871 Field Diary into XML. The site allows users to download and view all the XML files, raw and processed images produced by the project. Three Versions of the Text enables users to study the evolution of Livingstone’s text; the 1871 Field Diary, the 1872 Journal, and finally the 1874 published text.
The 1871 field diary
about The 1871 field diary
Digitally manipulated image superimposing the processed spectral image on the reproduction natural light image, allowing David Livingstone’s 1871 field diary to be read for the first time in over 140 years. Image created by Adrian Wisnicki. Page shown DLC297b, held at the David Livingstone Centre, Blantyre, Scotland.