Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Wormholes and the Science of Print

Please join us on March 14 at 4:00 in the Mann Assembly Room for a presentation by Blair Hedges, Department of Biology at Penn State, who will discuss his research on worm-holes in old woodblock prints as part of Material Texts Workshop series.


By examining art printed from woodblocks spanning five centuries, Hedges has identified the species responsible for making the ever-present wormholes in European printed art since the Renaissance. The hole-makers, two species of wood-boring beetles, are widely distributed today, but the "wormhole record," as Hedges calls it, reveals a different pattern in the past, where the two species met along a zone across central Europe like a battle line of two armies. The research, which is the first of its kind to use printed art as a "trace fossil" to precisely date species and to identify their locations, was published in the journal *Biology Letters* in November.

Hedges’ method has relevance not just to biology, but also to art history. "There are some situations in which a book or print's origin is unknown because a printing location was never added to the text," Hedges said. "Now that we know that different species of beetles existed in different locations in Europe, art historians can determine whether a book was from northern or southern Europe simply by measuring the wormholes."

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