Preserved Leaves Found in 500 Year Old Bible

Information about the climate five centuries ago has come to light from leaves found in an old Bible. Susana Melo de Howard was returning the 1540 Great Bible back into its humidity-controlled room when she saw the preserved leaves. The book is kept at the University of Western Australia. It came from the monastery of Ely Cathedral in England and was the first English translation of the Bible. William Tyndale was executed in Belgium for this "crime".

The West Australian university got the book at the bargain price of $500 in 1977. No one had viewed the Bible in the last twenty years. Detective work began on the leaves as soon as they were found.

By sending photographs of the leaves to academic centers all around the world, they were identified as Wych elm which was common in England 500 years ago. Carbon dating showed the leaves were placed in the Bible in the 1560s. Nitrogen was high on wetland farms in those days. Mercury, chromium and arsenic pollution was also present. Selenium was there which indicated that coal was not in general use. Lead probably from the cathedral roof was in the leaves, as well as gold and silver, common ingredients of ink at that time.
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