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X-Ray Technology Reveals Marie Antoinette's Censored Secret Correspondence


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The original letter with redactions.

A combination of the chemical analysis and advanced data processing used could reveal many more lost writings or drawings.

Credit: Centre de Recherche sur la Conservation, French National Museum of Natural History

Scientists have used modern technology to retrieve secret correspondence from French queen Marie-Antoinette to Swedish count Axel von Fersen, that a censor blotted out with dark ink.

Anne Michelin and colleagues at the French National Museum of Natural History used X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy to generate fluorescent fingerprints of the inks, and mapped the distribution and ratios of different components in the inks of the original letter writers and of the censor; this made the redacted words more readable.

The researchers also used data processing to decipher more difficult sections, and trained algorithms to produce images that maximized the inks' chemical differences, to enhance the text's legibility.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison's Uwe Bergmann said this research "will have an impact on people who use all kinds of imaging techniques and can learn from the application of these approaches to get exceptional results."

From Smithsonian Magazine
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Abstracts Copyright © 2021 SmithBucklin, Washington, DC, USA


 

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