Hello everyone! This week I’ve continued to work hard on processing the Nag Hammadi Codices Project collection. That is to say, I’ve spent a great deal of time organizing photographs of the Nag Hammadi texts, as well as photocopies of these photographs.
One of the things that has made an impression on me as I’ve moved through this collection is how difficult and laborious a process editing images was in a pre-Photoshop world. The phrase “cut and paste” is ubiquitous in our society, and of course it refers to the process of removing a phrase or image from one part of a document and placing it somewhere else. But in a BC (before computer 🙂 world, to “cut and paste” was no digital metaphor! It was what authors and editors literally had to do in order to create a book of images.
As you can imagine, there was a huge amount of cutting and pasting to be done for the Nag Hammadi Facsimile Edition. The gnostic texts had in many cases crumbled to fragments. Where pages still existed, they had often come loose from the binding and were incomplete. Thus, a significant portion of the job performed by Dr. James Robinson (to whom, as you may recall, this collection belonged) and his fellow editors was to try and piece together which fragments and pages went where.
Fast forward approximately forty years, to the point where I am organizing the drafts and edited images they came up with during this process. Many times I will come across something like this:
(Disclaimer: I recognize this photo is a little fuzzy, but in order to stay on the right side of copyright law, I need to make sure that none of the text in the image is identifiable! Still, it’s clear enough to provide an interesting example.) If you examine this image closely, you can see multiple layers of images that have been cut out and glued, one on top of another. This is what an actual “photoshop” job looked like back then!
With this in mind, I’ll leave you with a great blog post from the website petapixel.com – http://petapixel.com/2013/05/08/how-photographers-photoshopped-their-pictures-back-in-1946/. Check it out! The author, Michael Zang, has images and advice from an actual “how to” book on photographic retouching published in the 1940s. My favorite part is the chart of what tools the photo re-touchers would have used when doing this by hand (hint: rubber cement is on the list!).
I hope you have fun learning a little more about this!