palimpsest

Definition of palimpsest

pal´imp`sest   Pronunciation: păl´ĭmp`sĕst
n.1.A parchment which has been written upon twice, the first writing having been erased to make place for the second. The erasures of ancient writings were usually carried on in monasteries, to allow the production of ecclesiastical texts, such as copies of church services and lives of the saints. The difficulty of recovering the original text varied with the process used to prepare the parchment for a fresh writing; the original texts on parchments which had been washed with lime-water and dried were easily recovered by a chemical process, but those erased by scraping the parchment and bleaching are difficult to interpret. Most of the manuscripts underlying the palimpsests that have been revived are fragmentary, but some are of great historical value. One Syriac version of the Four Gospels was discovered in 1895 in St. Catherine's Monastery at Mount Sinai by Mrs. Agnes Smith Lewis. See also the notes below.

Related Words

holograph, manuscript
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