Russian Marine Archaeologists Recovered an Intact 327-Year-Old Psalter from a Sunken Ship

Archangel Raphael was a German trade ship that was sunken by the ice near Vyborgin 1724. The archaeological works started several years ago and are continued every season. Archaeologists have already recovered many artifacts, but the new object was unique in many ways.

It was one the first days of the sixth year of archaeological works on the sunken ship when one of the marine archaeologists shifted some silt and saw something looking like a book’s spine. After they took away the full layer of sea dirt to the surface and cleaned it, researchers discovered it was a fully intact book.

It isn’t the first bookish find at this excavation location. More than a year ago, the archaeologists found fragments of a Bible. The previous book had around 500 numbered pages but was larger in format. However, only 50 pages of that book survived three centuries underwater. Pages were successfully restored by the conservators of the Grabar Conservation Center in Moscow. The video below is in Russian, but it has much to offer, even if you don’t understand the language. You can also turn on the automatically translated subtitles. They aren’t perfect but will help to understand more.

The newly retrieved book has its cover, fasteners, book clock, sewing, and other elements almost intact. However, the cover is separated from the book block due to extended exposure to water, and several pages were loose and since removed from the book for separate restoration. Conservators decided not to take the book apart but to work on it as it is. However, the treatment protocol is yet to be determined.

The book consists of approximately 50 sections. It was printed in Germany in 1692. The title misses a word or two but probably should read as Der Psalter Des Königlichen Propheten Davids.

The book is permeated with silt and was exposed to seawater for centuries. It also has some mild contamination by the tar that was kept close to its finding location on the ship. If held outside the water box, it starts to curl swiftly, so for the time being, conservators decided to keep it in fresh water and introduce the new conditions gradually.

There were already some concerns from professionals on the use of the gloves in this video. There may be a reason do have them, but what made me cringe was that moment:

Below is the full video. Once again, it is in Russian, but there is the auto-translation option available for the subtitles.

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