Experimental Fragmentology

As fragmentologists, we have a collection of techniques that we use to work on our fragments. Some of the most common involve estimating the size of a leaf (or the written area on a leaf) from the partial fragment that survives. While many of us make such estimates all the time, a nagging question remains: how good are our guesses? Can our methodology be tested?

I think it can. Using the vast collection of manuscripts available at e-codices, I created five simulated fragments that can be printed or studied online. These ‘fragments’ are designed to mimic the appearance and content of actual manuscript fragments, and each one contains text from a recto and matching verso of an entire manuscript. Therefore, using these test cards, one can estimate the size of the original, and then check the results against the surviving original.

Image of Fragment Test Card
These images are from fragments-to-be

The test card is available as a PDF, which, if printed out as Actual Size, and duplex (flip on long edge), can even be cut into fragments. It is also available as front and back images. To aid in the work, excerpts from edited sources are also available.

This is part of an experiment that we’re conducting, for which we’d like your help. If you’d like to take part, please follow the test instructions. In effect, we’re asking you to take the test and send us your estimates. We will then compile the anonymous results to answer the question: how good are these guesses, anyway?

Regardless of whether you take the test, we will provide the answer key (and source information) on request.

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