The Research ProjectIII. Methodology and objectives

1. One of the most puzzling problems of Herculanean papyrology is the reconstruction of the original sequence of papyrus fragments. Unfortunately, the methods so far utilised to this aim revealed often to be inaccurate. Basing on the scientific results of the most recent studies on this subject 1. I and my team are going to develop a new system combining the mathematical proprieties of Archimedes’ spiral with other mechanical criteria. In this way, it will be possible to reconstruct with precision the absolute sequence of fragments and, in most cases, the total length and number of columns of the original roll.

2. The second step will be transcribing column by column all the preserved papyrus pieces of each planned work (see ch. 2). As the specialists know, this kind of papyri can successfully be read only by means of technical instruments such as illuminated stereomicroscopes. Today the most advanced technology permits to read much more and better than in the past decades. A last-generation microscope will be used to this end. This first transcription will be compared with the recent multispectral images realised by the Institute for the Study and Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts of the Brigham Young University (USA). These images, appropriately enhanced through Adobe Photoshop, have made it much easier to distinguish the writing from the papyrus surface and must therefore be taken into account as a primary witness in any future edition of Herculanean texts.

3. The third step will be making a textual constitution of each column which results from the collation of our personal transcription of the papyrus with the Neapolitan and Oxonian apographs (whenever they exist). A new editorial system with facing pages will be introduced with a real diplomatic transcription on the verso and a definitive transcription on the recto. A special graphical system will be used for marking in the critical text sovrapposti and sottoposti and the readings of the old drawings. A papyrological and philological apparatus and an Italian translation will accompany the definitive transcription on the right-hand page with the addition of short exegetical footnotes.

4. Each one of the planned three editions will be issued in a new series of Herculanean studies in two different formats: i) in the traditional way as central part of an independent book preceded by an introduction and followed by a commentary; ii) in an innovative format as DVD containing the entire critical edition and all the relevant papyrological documentation (MSI, old apographs and transcriptions, etc.). This documentation will be accessible in an interactive way. One of the advantages of this new editorial system is the possibility of reuniting in one glimpse all the materials utilised for the textual constitution currently dispersed in different places (Naples, Oxford). The aim is encouraging other papyrologists to check at home againts the primary sources to what extent the critical text is correct and to advance their own proposals and emendations. Another key tool of the DVD will be a technically advanced virtual reconstruction of the original book roll.

1 See H. Essler, Rekonstruktion von Papyrusrollen auf mathematischer Grundlage, «CErc» 38 (2008),  273-307.