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'Roll Chronicle' arrives at ISAAC

Researchers at NTU will use pioneering scientific imaging techniques to examine, digitise and analyse this precious genealogical roll.

In a pioneering new study, History and Heritage Science researchers at NTU will use the cutting-edge scientific imaging available in the ISAAC Lab to examine, digitise and analyse the Roll Chronicle.

The Roll, MS 501 which is located at Burlington House with the London Society of Antiquaries, was made between 1447 and 1455 in the crucial period of the Wars of the Roses leading up to the Battle of St Albans, when Henry VI’s favourites were toppled from power. It contains a series of beautiful images thought to have been created by William Abell, a well-known fifteenth-century manuscript illuminator based in London. It has not been seen publicly for over 20 years.

This is one of the rare occasions that a museum object is brought over to the ISAAC Lab; normally our ISAAC mobile lab would visit the museum to analyse objects in situ. However, at over 12m long, the Roll presents unique challenges for analysis and digitisation, and needed a special support to be constructed by ISAAC Lab technicians, in order to safely hang the scroll and facilitate imaging. It is being imaged with our PRISMS spectral imaging system to produce not only high resolution colour images but also capture ink and paint information and any 'hidden' writings and drawings.

Since 2017, a research team in NTU History led by Dr. Natasha Hodgson have been investigating a number of genealogical rolls which appear to have been mass-produced during the reign of Henry VI to better understand their cultural significance. This project has involved close collaboration with the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand, around the digitisation of another example, the Canterbury Roll. Many more of these objects lie in archives and libraries across the UK, but they tend to be fragile, and at around 5-6m long, they require considerable space to display.

“This is a fascinating document which still holds secrets after hundreds of years,” said Dr Hodgson, of the School of Arts and Humanities, leading the research on the history of genealogy rolls.

“There are a large number of genealogical rolls produced and edited during the Wars of the Roses as different sides of the political spectrum sought to legitimise their claims to power, but this one is particularly unique in terms of its size and detail.”

“The team are thrilled to help conserve this beautiful object and make it more accessible. In addition, by comparing the scientific and historical data gleaned from this roll with other contemporary examples, we will understand much more about who made it and why, and how roll-makers used the historical past to rationalise and justify conflicts over leadership during this period.”

Notes to editors: • Press enquiries please contact Chris Birkle, PR Manager, on telephone +44 (0)115 848 2310, or via email

About Nottingham Trent University Nottingham Trent University (NTU) received the Queens Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2021 for advancing cultural heritage science research. It is the second time that NTU has been bestowed the honour of receiving a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its research, the first being in 2015 for leading-edge research on the safety and security of global citizens.

The Research Excellence Framework (2021) classed 83% of NTU’s research activity as either world-leading or internationally excellent. 86% of NTU’s research impact was assessed to be either world-leading or internationally excellent.

NTU was awarded The Times and The Sunday Times Modern University of the Year 2023 and ranked second best university in the UK in the Uni Compare Top 100 rankings (2021/2022). It was awarded Outstanding Support for Students 2020 (Times Higher Education Awards), University of the Year 2019 (Guardian University Awards, UK Social Mobility Awards), Modern University of the Year 2018 (Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide) and University of the Year 2017 (Times Higher Education Awards).

NTU is the 5th largest UK institution by student numbers, with nearly 39,000 students and more than 4,400 staff located across five campuses. It has an international student population of 7,000 and an NTU community representing over 160 countries.

Since 2000, NTU has invested £570 million in tools, technology, buildings and facilities.

NTU is in the UK’s top 10 for number of applications and ranked first for accepted offers (2021 UCAS UG acceptance data). It is also among the UK’s top five recruiters of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and was the first UK university to sign the Social Mobility Pledge.

NTU is ranked 4th most sustainable university in the world and 1st in the UK for sustainability-themed Education and Research in the 2021 UI Green Metric University World Rankings (out of more than 900 participating universities)


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