Adair Chantbook Project

adair chant book recto page 1

Multispectral Analysis of Missouri

Project Team

Virginia Blanton
Department of English
College of Arts & Sciences

Reza Derakhshani
Department of Computer Science Electrical Engineering
School of Computing and Engineering

Stuart Hinds
Archivist, LaBudde Special Collections
Miller Nichols Library

Nathan Oyler
Department of Chemistry
College of Arts & Sciences

Jeff Rydberg-Cox
Classics Program
Department of English
College of Arts & Sciences
School of Computing and Engineering

Research Assistants

Chainy Folsom
Doctoral Student, Departments of History & English

Jesse Lowe
Undergraduate Researcher and later Doctoral Student
Department of Computer Science Electrical Engineering
School of Computing and Engineering

Annie Liljegren
Undergraduate researcher and later Master's Student
Department of English
College of Arts & Sciences

Dates of Project


Project Abstract

This project has three goals: 1) to use a home-built, multispectral imaging system to perform detailed study of palimpsests in a medieval chant book owned by LaBudde Special Collections at the University of Missouri Kansas City Libraries; 2) to develop an alternative, deep learning model that will allow us to derive visible light multispectral images from normal RGB images; and 3) to apply both direct and indirect methodologies comparatively, testing their efficacy on the UMKC chant book and on two additional heritage documents held by other libraries in the Kansas City region. Should this alternative be viable, it will dramatically reduce the cost and lower the economic barriers for other scholars, archivists, and librarians who would like to use multispectral analysis for their materials. In effect, it would allow humanities centers, libraries, and archives the ability to conduct their own investigations with these techniques using readily available and affordable equipment.

The primary test case for this project is a handwritten codex known as the Adair Chant Book held by the University of Missouri-Kansas City libraries. This Spanish book contains chants inserted from the 15th to the 17th centuries CE. The monks of El Convento de San Pedro Regalado, a monastery located in northern Spain, owned the book in the early twentieth century, but its original and subsequent users are unknown. The numerous repairs, excisions, and additions made during the period of the book’s active use make it an ideal test case for understanding how multispectral imaging can enhance book history. Entire chants, both notation and lyrics, have been scraped away and written over with new ones, creating a series of palimpsests. Many of the changes appear to be responses to liturgical requirements of the Council of Trent (1545-1563). The introduction of an unidentified choral mass associated with the family name Strozzi offers a key text by which we can link these changes in liturgical practice. Multispectral imaging promises to help uncover the mysteries behind the book’s present form.

Student Projects

Annie Liljegren, Master's Thesis: "Fife-Playing Princesses, Female Heirs, and la figliuola elettiva: Compositional Content and Intent in Barbara Strozzi's Sacri musicali affetti"


Annie Liljegren, "Digital Humanities, Digital Autopsy: The CODICES Lab and the Adair Chantbook," Curators' Luncheon (invitation by Faculty Senate), UMKC, September 2019

Virginia Blanton, Nathan Oyler, and Jeff Rydberg-Cox, "Manuscripts Networks, and Human Heritage in the Digital Age," Human in the Digital Age, University of Missouri-Kansas City, September 2018

Virginia Blanton and Nathan Oyler,"Making the Invisible Visible: Analyzing Medieval Texts with Modern Imaging Tools," Guest Lecture at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, April 2016

Virginia Blanton and Nathan Oyler, "Unlocking the Mysteries of a Medieval Chant Book with Multispectral Imaging," Rare Book School Mellon Symposium, funded by Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in Critical Bibliography at Rare Book School, University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, April 2016

Annie Liljegren, "Monastic Mysteries: Further Explorations of the Adair Chantbook," Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol, Jefferson City, MO, March 2016

Annie Liljegren, "Investigating the Adair Chantbook: Five Variations of the Credo," SUROP Undergraduate Research Symposium, UMKC, September 2015

Annie Liljegren, "Developing Skills in Book History and Multispectral Imaging," Summer Undergraduate Research Opportunity (SUROP) Grant, UMKC, April 2015 ($3250 research award)

Funding Agency

Funded by a University of Missouri Interdisciplinary Intercampus grant, the team conducted hyperspectral imaging of the Adair Chantbook, a sixteenth-century liturgical manuscript from Northern Spain. Many of the chants in the book (both music and lyrics) have been scraped and overwritten with new chants, seemingly as a result of the liturgical reforms of the Council of Trent. The manuscript shows affinities with Dominican decoration, but folia added to the manuscript show that the book was subsequently used by members of the Franciscan Order, perhaps Poor Clares, a community of women. Multispectral imaging has allowed us to recover a lost chant. Traditional codicology has revealed an unknown mass inserted in the manuscript over scraped chants.