Posted on February 22, 2022 at 10:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek

Given all the disasters that could befall any historic artifact, let alone something as fragile as parchment or paper, we're lucky to have — and have the knowledge of — as much medieval literature as we do.

But just how lucky are we, for those who want to quantify it?

Well, there's a research method for that.

It's called the unseen species model, and it's been used in a number of applications (including, yes, animals).

Essentially, researcher Folgert Karsdorp told Science magazine, it's a "very general method of bias correction.”

Karsdorp and other researchers used that method to guess at how much medieval literature has survived.

After studying materials in Dutch, French, Icelandic, Irish, English, and German from 600 to 1450 AD, they concluded that we're aware of just 9 percent.

But check out Science's writeup (which includes a link to the full study) to see how that proportion shifts based on which language/region you look at.

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Categories: Today in Books

Tagged As: History, Memorabilia

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