Diamond Sutra in 3D

“You don’t often get the chance to work with woodblocks, but as I was planning a class trip to UCLA Library Special Collections to look at Manchu materials, Heather Briston, the wonderful university archivist, and Octavio Olvera, visual arts specialist, put four boxes of woodblocks onto my request,” said UCLA instructor Devin Fitzgerald.

Those boxes contained blocks for the Diamond Sutra, which captured Fitzgerald’s attention and inspired a UCLA Library digital project.

Although the students in Fitzgerald’s course on Manchu sources for Qing history could look at and handle the woodblocks, these rare items could no longer be used for printing. However, Briston connected the instructor with the Library’s Lux Lab, which will make 3D scans and 3D facsimiles of all thirty-six blocks.

The scans and facsimiles will provide broader scholarly and public access and will also enable students to gain deeper insights than from the original items. For example, 3D scanning renders clearly any repairs made to the blocks, which may indicate edits.

“This project has been one of the great outgrowths of our work with Devin,” concluded Briston. “What started as an instructional consultation has become a collaboration that will benefit many more students and scholars.”