While on holiday in Cluj, Romania, I embarked on a small digitisation project. My girlfriend, Ruxandra, is from Cluj, and her family still lives here. Within their library, her parents have kept this manuscript for about 60 years. The book was found in Făgăraş, a mountain town near the Carpathians between Sibiu and Braşov. Ruxandra’s grandfather was an orthodox priest in Făgăraş. Sometime in the 1950’s he found the book hidden on top of a beam of an old wooden house about to be demolished.
The spine is falling apart.
The manuscript is not in terrible condition, but it does have some problems. The spine is falling apart, and the cover is almost loose.
Damaged page detail
Some of the pages are eaten by moths. I was told that the manuscript was sprayed with Formol in order to stop the banquet.
Romanian writing in cyrillic alphabet
I am not an expert in the subject, so I cannot tell how old this manuscript is. There are some facts that might indicate that it is at least a few hundred years old. The text is written by hand, on two colour inks, red and black. It is written on paper, not animal skin. Also, even though it is in Romanian, the text is in cyrillic alphabet. Romania has used the cyrillic alphabet in the past, but they write in the Roman alphabet since the middle of the XIX century. The content of the manuscript appears to be religious.
Ruxandra’s mother, Mariana, speaks both Romanian and Russian. More than academic interest, the book has some sentimental value to her, it was her father who gave her this book. She wants to transcribe the manuscript. I have offered her to find (or build) a simple tool to help her do this.
A page from the new digital fagarasian manuscript
I spent the day imaging every page of the manuscript. I only had a camera and a window as a source of light. I used a polystyrene board as a table. I didn’t have a tripod, or a colour calibration target. In short, it was a very amateur digitisation project. But I got good high resolution images of every page. And I must say it is very pretty.
I have some more shots of the book in a flickr set.