Dirty books reveal secret lives of people living in mediaeval times


Dirty books reveal secret lives of people living in mediaeval times
For the first time a new scientific technique has allowed us into the minds and motivations of mediaeval people – through their dirty books.

A new technique invented by Dr. Kathryn Rudy, lecturer in the School of Art History at the University of St Andrews, can measure which pages in mediaeval manuscripts are the dirtiest, and therefore, the most read.

A machine called a densitometer allows the dirt contained within the pages of books centuries old to reveal the inner thoughts of our ancestors.


When I worked in a medical library in Saudi Arabia, many of the Western magazines would come through the government censors, who would use a magic marker to blot out unveiled women or images of a crucifix over the beds of patients in Catholic hospitals, and the like.

Like the densitometers mentioned in the article, you could tell how the magazines were used by the censors when they came into the country.

Usually the censors started at the back of the magazines and worked toward the front, and you can tell when they broke for tea or lunch because the magic marker blot outs would stop about the middle or near the begining of the western journals. Medical journals on breast reconstructive surgery would often not come in at all, and I always wondered if they were destroyed because of the images of a naked woman's breast, or were taken home for further study by the self-appointed censors.

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