Uppsala University Library

The Facsimile Edition of 1927

View the Facsimile Edition of 1927

The[odor] Svedberg was Professor of Chemistry at Uppsala University, and in 1926 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. He was, among other things, very fascinated by the problems of detecting, revealing and restoring lost and invisible text passages in manuscripts with the help of photographic techniques.

Together with Dr. Ivar Nordlund he performed photographic experiments on some leaves of the Codex Argenteus in 1917. This experimentation was a pilot study to prepare a great facsimile edition of the Codex where the most important aspect was to be the legibility of the text. The edition was planned as – and became – a jubilee manifestation for the 450th anniversary of Uppsala University in 1927. Svedberg and Nordlund carried out photographic experiments using four different techniques. Two of these techniques were later used for the edition. One of them was to show the page exposed in ultraviolet reflected radiation, which made the text appear light on a dark background. The other one was to use a fluorescent technique, which made the text appear dark on a light background. However, none of these techniques made the golden parts of the text show up very well. Consequently the difficult-to-decipher pages in golden ink were also presented as supplementary images on a reduced scale. These were made by using three different techniques: using a yellow filter, using X-rays, and using oblique lighting.

For the photography work of the 1927 edition, a special workshop was established in the basement of Carolina Rediviva, the main building of Uppsala University Library. A specially constructed camera for the purpose was bought from A.W. Penrose & Co. in London. The X-ray work was done at the radiotherapy department of Uppsala University Hospital. The research assistant Hugo Andersson was the photographer during the project.

In addition to the images of the pages in the Codex Argenteus, the 1927 edition also contains an exhaustive introduction in Latin by Otto von Friesen, Professor of the Swedish Language at Uppsala University, and Anders Grape, later on the Chief Librarian of Uppsala University. Hugo Andersson wrote an appendix in English concerning the photographic procedure. The facsimile edition of 1927 was printed by Malmö Ljustrycksanstalt.