Multispectral Recovery of a Fragment of Richard FitzRalph’s Summa de Questionibus Armenorum from University of Rochester, D.460 1000-03
Multispectral imaging—the process of obtaining image data from a range of both visible and invisible wavelengths—is a new frontier in medieval studies, raising the possibility of recovering damaged or palimpsested texts that have been illegible for centuries. In this paper we show the remarkable results of applying this technology to University of X, MS D.460 1000-003, a previously unidentified single-folio fragment that was gifted to the university in 1968. Formerly used as a limp vellum binding for a seventeenth-century volume, the text has become so worn that it is all but completely unreadable to the naked eye. The fragment has consequently received little scholarly attention prior to our investigation. Our team recovered nearly all of the lost text and identified the fragment as an excerpt from Richard FitzRalph’s Summa de Questionibus Armenorum. Although this text survives in 45 other manuscripts and fragments, our discovery is highly significant because the Rochester fragment is the only copy of any of FitzRalph’s works in a non-European collection. Moreover, the fragment, whose handwriting dates to no later than 1370, may be the oldest extant copy of the Summa by at least half a decade. We present the process of this discovery, our conclusions about the text, and the potential for multispectral imaging to unlock new information hidden in known but understudied fragments held in archival collections around the world.