Restoring John Sadler's Partbooks

Are you interested in early music, historical manuscripts, or using Photoshop to improve digital images? If any of these applies to you, then you might enjoy volunteering with our project to reconstruct John Sadler's music partbooks.

We're creating a digitally reconstructed facsimile of the music partbooks copied by John Sadler during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. John Sadler's partbooks have been left virtually illegible in places because the ink he copied with was often too acidic. The Bodleian library have taken high quality images of the partbooks (now available on DIAMM) and we're using tools from Adobe Photoshop to digitally remove the effects of the acidic ink and return the manuscripts to easy readability. The results will be used by performers, scholars and music lovers around the world.

We have now made initial attempts at reconstructing all of the c.600 images with the help of our volunteers, but we still have work to do to edit and check the results. To find out more about the digitial reconstruction process take a look at these videos:


The videos bwere created to train our volunteer restorers. (The videos currently show the process via Adobe Photoshop CS6, however, the same techniques are possible with Adobe Photoshop Elements).

 First an introduction to some basic Photoshop tools and the settings you'll need to enable for digital reconstruction:


Now you're ready to have a go at the technique of cloning:



So once you've mastered the cloning technique, the next step is to learn how to judge what to clone out and what to leave in:



Finally, we want to make sure that the end results of our reconstruction leave the manuscript looking like a 400-year-old manuscript, just one without the burn-through from the acidic ink. This final video explains how to achieve this effect:



P.S. If you're using Photoshop Elements this video will help you to get it set up for digital reconstruction and explain a few differences from Photoshop CS6, as used in the previous videos:



Finally this time-lapse video shows the whole reconstruction process, from the pattern fills that are initially applied by the Tudor Partbooks team to the careful cloning that our volunteers assist with.



(If you are struggling to view the videos on this page, they can also be found on the Tudor Partbooks YouTube channel)