Students discover a mysterious message hidden in a 15th century manuscript

The youth used ultraviolet and fluorescent lights to see the text in the manuscript. What hidden message did it have?

Technology at the service of History, for the umpteenth opportunity: a group of students discovered a hidden message in a 15th century manuscript.

In order to see it, they used ultraviolet and fluorescent lights, observing what had been erased by ancient writers.

It happened in the UK: the students belong to the Rochester Institute of Technology. The manuscript was part of the university’s art collection.

When evaluating it, they tried reading it under ultraviolet and fluorescent lights: there they were surprised with what they found.

But what did the message say? Were they top-secret words for posterity, or did they seek to overcome censorship?


They were simply the previous writings that had been erased from the parchment for reuse. In fact, it is really unknown what it said.

The manuscript and its curious name

The parchment was too expensive to use another, so they decided to recycle it. These types of documents are called palimpsests.

Its name comes from ancient Greek and means « engraved again. » It is a manuscript that preserves traces of other earlier writing on the same surface.

« This was amazing, because this document has been in the Cary Collection for almost a decade and nobody noticed, » said Zoo LaLena, one of the students.

The young people belong to the chair of Image Sciences.

« It is really fascinating, because we can continue investigating other scrolls from more collections, » he stressed.

Steven Galbraith is curator of the Cary Graphic Arts Collection. He noted: « The students have provided incredibly important information on at least two of our handwritten sheets. »

« In a sense they have discovered two texts that we did not know were in the collection, » said the curator, according to the Daily Mail.