Science: 1, Dickens: 0

dickens manuscript.jpgIn news more exciting to scholars than to authors, new technology pioneered by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London allows researchers to see beneath a writer’s blacked-out sections and corrections in their original manuscripts.  The digital technology, invented by Ian Christie-Miller, was taken for a test-drive with the Charles Dickens story “The Chimes.”  By comparing two digital images of text, one front-lit, the other back-lit, the technology separates layers of text, revealing the author’s original word choice.

For example, in the original version of “The Chimes,” Dickens wrote “Years... are like men in one respect.”  The published version reads “Years... are like Christians in that respect.”  The reason for the change gives Dickens scholars something new to ponder.

Researchers are heralding the technology’s potential to see how an author thinks, how they shape and re-shape their prose.  Florian Schweizer, director of the Charles Dickens Museum in London, was quoted in The Independent: “We’re talking of tens of thousands of manuscript pages that could potentially be unlocked.”

Now here’s hoping a similar technology isn’t invented for Microsoft Office documents.  This writer is happy that all of his deletions appear to be permanently excised.  For the moment. 

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