UCLA Library > Digital Collections > David Livingstone > Letter from Bambarre            

Livingstone's Letter from Bambarre

A Multispectral Critical Edition

All letter images and text published by permission of Peter and Nejma Beard. Licensed for use under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License. ©2010

*Beta Edition, 2010
*First Edition, 2011

The publication of Livingstone’s Letter from Bambarre is of great interest to scholars of the British Empire, Victorian literature, African history, the history of medicine, and the digital humanities. This previously unpublished letter of 5 February 1871 to Livingstone’s friend and future editor, Horace Waller, is the first nineteenth-century British literary work to be captured and enhanced with the multispectral imaging process. 
Multispectral imaging, when used for the study of cultural objects, involves illuminating an object with successive wavelengths of light – starting with ultraviolet, working through the visible spectrum, and concluding with infrared – then digitally capturing and processing the resulting images in order to enhance select features of the object (read more about spectral imaging here). 
Livingstone’s Letter from Bambarre sets a new standard for the range of data that a digital edition of a nineteenth-century manuscript can contain. The edition includes a full textual apparatus and bibliography, alongside natural light images and multispectral images processed to enhance text and topography.
Figures 1 and 2. Detail from page 2v of Livingstone’s letter to Waller in natural light and processed.image (pseudoratio 0505-0780) versions.
Livingstone’s Letter from Bambarre represents the first stage of an eighteen-month digitization project funded by the U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities and the British Academy. The project, known as the Livingstone Spectral Imaging Project, is a venture between two Victorian literature scholars, Adrian S. Wisnicki (Project Director) and Debbie Harrison, and an imaging team led by program manager Mike Toth and including imaging scientists Keith Knox, Roger L. Easton, Jr., and William Christens-Barry as well as camera engineer Ken Boydston and data manager Doug Emery. 
The project will be developed in close collaboration with the David Livingstone Centre in Blantyre, Scotland and the National Library of Scotland. Livingstone Online in collaboration with the UCLA Digital Library Program will publish all project results, with grant administration supervised by The Early Manuscripts Electronic Library and Birkbeck, University of London. Ultimately, we will produce a critical edition and multispectral image database of a unique diary Livingstone kept in 1870-71. The diary documents the months leading up to Livingstone’s famous encounter with Henry Morton Stanley. Out of paper, Livingstone composed the diary by writing over book and newspaper pages, and used pigment drawn from the seeds of a local plant when he ran out of ink. 
Today, 140 years later, Livingstone’s writing has faded, the printed text remains prominent, and the diary is now nearly illegible. Multispectral imaging offers the potential to recover the text of the diary in a way that has never been before possible – a point demonstrated by the team’s success in enhancing the text of Livingstone’s letter, which was composed by the same method and during the same period as the diary.
The members of the research team would like to express their warmest gratitude to the following individuals, all of whom helped make this critical edition possible:
Peter and Nejma Beard
Elizabeth Upper
Will Noel
Christopher Lawrence
Michael Phelps
Stephen Davison
Elizabeth Maxwell
The team is also grateful to Gustavo Fermin, Marion Lowman, Joseph Miller, and Felix Schuermann for assisting with research for the critical edition, and to Kristin Jensen of Between the Lines Editing for her expert editorial work. Finally, the team wishes to thank Lisa Macaulay and Sarina Sinick for all their hard work in the technical development of the site.