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Seeing the Invisible: Medieval Hidden Heritage Revealed

23 Jan 2020

Meet the most influential community you may never have heard of - the expert Syriac translators of the medieval Middle East

At the John Rylands Library until 8 March 2020.

About the exhibition

Our story begins with mysterious writing on an ancient manuscript, over a thousand years old. Around 900 years ago, it was erased, recycled and overwritten, creating a palimpsest.

As researchers using advanced imaging techniques began deciphering traces of the original text, they got a surprise. The hidden writing was not religious, but scientific.

The translations by the Syriac Christians, like this palimpsest, created a link through which the great thinkers of the medieval Arabic speaking world could access the ancient wisdom of classical Greece.

Items on display

For the first time in the UK, visitors can view the Syriac Galen Palimpsest, a unique manuscript lent to the Library for this exhibition. The palimpsest and cutting edge multi-spectral images of its hidden undertext can be seen side by side.

From mysterious occult books and talismanic objects through to medical textbooks from Renaissance Europe, the display traces the surprising roots of modern medicine.         

More information