Monday, April 20, 2015

A Clean Copy of the Bill of Rights, Finally

For the past several months, I have been working on cleaning and enhancing an image of a copy of the "Bill of Rights" of the United States.  The original image, which I found on the website of the Library of Congress, is itself a fairly high-resolution image.  Unfortunately, the original document -- the hard copy that was created over 220 years ago and which was scanned in order to create the digital image now found on the Library of Congress website -- is faded, stained, and barely legible.  It looks as though it had spent many of its years folded and stored in somebody's glove compartment (taken out only whenever the owner was eating lunch in the car and needed to use it as a napkin).
I noticed this late last year when I decided to compose a cleaner-looking version of the background image for this website.  In order to create that new background image, I returned to the sources of the phrases seen in the background in order to make higher-quality versions of those phrases to take place of the rough and difficult-to-read versions that I had used in earlier versions of the background. Since many of those phrases were taken from the Bill of Rights, I thought (incorrectly) that I could save myself time and effort by cleaning up that entire document at once instead of working on the areas that I needed one-at-a-time. I quickly realized that cleaning up the entire document would take longer than I had initially thought, but by that time, I had a new reason to finish the work: We deserve to have a presentable reproduction of that early, engrossed copy of the Bill of Rights, and (unless I simply overlooked it when I was searching for one) no one had yet created one.

I am writing all of this now because my work on this enhanced copy of the Bill of Rights is finally finished. There is room for improvement, of course, but I have realized that this kind of project can never really reach a point at which it would be objectively correct and complete (particularly considering that my project involved altering a digital copy, not cleaning or restoring a hard copy). However, I am satisfied with the way that it looks at this point; I consider it complete.