Manuscripts as Fossils | Science News



Science News is a nonprofit.

Help us keep you informed.


Manuscripts as Fossils

Population-biology equations estimate medieval texts' likelihood of survival

11:18am, April 5, 2005

Through the ages, innumerable texts have been consumed by fire, war, theft, and other disasters. Each ancient or medieval manuscript in existence today has its own story of survival against the odds, whether the document was tucked away in an obscure monastery for a millennium or stolen by Vikings and passed from collector to collector. Manuscript experts have long puzzled over the question, what fraction of ancient works has survived?

Paleontologist John Cisne of Cornell University brings a fresh approach to this problem. He regards handwritten medieval manuscripts as fossils from an extinct population. Using equations from population biology, he h

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now. Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content