Recalling a medieval scribe laboring to preserve humankind's rarest writings, Edith Young gently places each fraying page of a 400-year-old Chinese manuscript on a special cradle before she lowers a glass plate to flatten it for a digital snapshot.

Young, a technician in Harvard University's digital imaging laboratory, will repeat the step close to 100 times to create a digital record of "Story of Red Plum Blossom," a Chinese drama written in the early 1600s that for the most part had been rarely seen except by a handful of museum curators and researchers.

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