I just read an article this morning in the local newspaper (online CBC version) about a recent discovery of a sketch in a Leonardo da Vinci manuscript. It is believed, by those who discovered it, that it is a sketch of a young da Vinci. Previously there has only been the famous chalk sketch of him as an old man. When you see the drawings side by side there are some very clear resemblances.
The interesting thing about this discovery was the way in which it was investigated. They digitized the manuscript page and then starting removing the lettering that obscured the sketch by digitally fading the letters to white. When that was completed the entire ghostly image was visible. Then they took that image and used current criminal investigation techniques (anyone watch CSI?) to age it. Once that was done they were able to compare it with the chalk drawing. Apparently it was like looking at a twin. Then they reversed the aging and the image was returned to almost an exact replica of the newly discovered sketch. How cool is that? They still have some work to do on it – trying to bring out more detail – but for now its good enough to call it a young da Vinci.
So this started me thinking. With the advent of the computer and so many of us spending so much time writing online, what are we leaving for future generations? Now, I realize that we’re not all da Vinci, and the discovery of our faces in a manuscript wouldn’t be that big a deal, but who knows right? We can all dream! And now with digital cameras and the like, our photos are everywhere – no mystery to how we looked at any point in our lives. But my point is, there is a limit to what you can do digitally. There’s something splendidly mysterious and thrilling about old manuscripts, notebooks, and sketchbooks. When was the last time you took out a pad and scribbled something down instead of using your Blackberry, or sketched a picture instead of whipping out your phone-cam?
I have a notebook, as I don’t have a Blackberry or any digital equivalent, and bring it with me when I’m not near my computer. I can never be sure when I’ll have a Eureka moment and need to write it down right away. But there are no fancy sketches in it…no ghostly images of my face. (just the thought makes me smirk) But think about the longevity of books. Granted many have been lost, or heavily damaged, but so many remain. What happens if, down the road, resources become scarce and the current availability of digital is greatly reduced? Will people living 500 years from now still be able to access the current information that is flying through cyberspace? I have no idea but I’m not betting on it. What do you think?