The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) is a world leader in digitizing ancient manuscripts. Standing out from many other digitizing agencies, CSNTM concentrates specifically on Greek New Testament manuscripts. This narrow focus allows the team to concentrate on the best digital preservation and presentation for study. We use specialized equipment and an exacting image quality protocol to digitize the entire codex.


WHILE DIGITIZING, CSNTM HAS THREE PRIORITIES:

Photograph the entire page.

Maintain the condition of the codex.

Produce aesthetically-pleasing images.

EQUIPMENT

For standard digitization, CSNTM primarily uses 50-megapixel Canon cameras mounted on a customized conservation copy stand. This equipment is specially designed for digitally preserving fragile materials that require careful handling on location. CSNTM also utilizes a Multispectral Imaging (MSI) system and has adapted the portable copy stand to make this technology mobile as well.

METHOD

Digitization—standard and MSI—involve a two-step process: manuscript examination and manuscript capture. Before photographing, the “vital statistics” of each manuscript are recorded. This information includes the manuscript’s shelf number, physical dimensions, material (papyrus, parchment, or paper), estimated date, and other significant data. Manuscript examination provides the digitization team with precise measurements to align their work to. Later these records serve as helpful information for researchers who examine the manuscript images.

The manuscript capture process is completed by two-person teams. One team member supports the manuscript and places it in the right position for proper support and digitization. The second person operates the computer and camera. The computer operator ensures that the images meet CSNTM’s image quality standards. The teams minimize the physical movement of the manuscript by digitizing the front of each leaf before turning the manuscript once to digitize the back of each leaf.

STANDARDS

In the short history of CSNTM, our technique, protocols, and standards have evolved. Upgrades in equipment and technology, as well as increased experience in manuscript digitization, have enhanced our ability to create higher quality images than were originally possible. For example: While our first images included both visible pages simultaneously, since 2004 CSNTM has digitized each page individually.

Greater attention is paid to uniform margins, more parallel edges, and closer cropping.

A 3:2 top-to-bottom ratio is used to contrast the typical 2:3 ratio of the text to the page. This creates a consistent, balanced alignment for each image. (See left image above.)

Black (or in the case of papryi, both black and white backgrounds) are utilized. (See center & right image above.)

All manuscripts are digitized completely including every page, spine, cover, additional matter, etc.—creating a full archival copy.