The Archimedes Palimpsest


William Noel, Walters Art Gallery

Document Type





Archimedes, palimpsest, codicology, book conservation




Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque Art and Architecture | Archival Science | Art and Materials Conservation | Book and Paper | Library and Information Science


The Archimedes Palimpsest, a tenth century manuscript, is the unique source for two of Archimedes treatises, The Method and Stomachion, and it is the unique source for the Greek text of On Floating Bodies. Discovered in 1906 by J.L. Heiberg, it plays a prominent role in his 1910-15 edition of the works of Archimedes, upon which all subsequent work on Archimedes has been based.

In private hands throughout much of the twentieth century, it was sold at auction to a private collector in 1998, and subsequently deposited at The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland by the owner a few months later. Since that date the manuscript has been the subject of conservation, imaging, and scholarship.

This lecture will describe the history of the Palimpsest, its conservation treatment, and continuing research. Due to problems with Syracuse University Library's recording of the video we are linking to a version of the talk given to C-Span Video Library on December 14, 2007.

Dr. William Noel is Director of the Archimedes Palimpsest Project and has been Curator of Manuscripts and Rare Books at The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore since 1997. Prior to that, he was Assistant Curator of Manuscripts at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and Director of Studies in the History of Art at Downing College, Cambridge University. Long dedicated to the study of early and medieval manuscripts, his life changed in January of 1999 when the Archimedes Palimpsest arrived on his desk, and he became the director of an integrated program of conservation, imaging, and scholarship on the world's most important palimpsest. His book on the Archimedes Palimpsest, co-authored by Professor Reviel Netz, will be published in late October of this year. The project is online at http://www.archimedespalimpsest.org/.

See more on the Brodsky Series Page at: https://library.syr.edu/scrc/programs/brodsky.php