13 April 2023

Digitized Archival Treasures: The Letters of Lucrezia Borgia

The correspondence of the Renaissance Duchess is now online.

ASMO campagna digitalizzazione lettere Lucrezia Borgia a cura di Haltadefinizione 2

Haltadefinizione has recently digitized the letters of Lucrezia Borgia, which are held at the State Archives of Modena. The collection is a fundamental source of information to understand the daily life and political relationships of one of the most famous noblewomen of the Italian Renaissance.


Although accused of revenge, intrigue and incest, Lucrezia Borgia was also a great supporter of the arts. Her letters date from the time of her marriage to Alfonso I d'Este, or immediately prior. They provide important evidence of the political issues that the Duchy of Este was facing at the beginning of the sixteenth century. The letters also give us the point of view of a woman during the Renaissance, a time when women’s voices often remained in the background. Haltadefinizione has completed the digitization of a vast corpus of Lucrezia Borgia’s letters and registers held at the State Archives of Modena, to support research into this important member of the court of the Este.

The digitization campaign conducted by Haltadefinizione included more than 290 letters and 15 registers, and was done in two ways. In addition to digitizing the letters in ultra-high definition Gigapixel format, in the particular case of the correspondence, the back lighting technique was also used, in which the object is illuminated from the opposite direction of the viewer.

ASMO campagna digitalizzazione lettere Lucrezia Borgia a cura di Haltadefinizione 7Digitization set-up at the State Archives of Modena

First, the digitization of the front and the back in ultra-high resolution has yielded images with an optical resolution of 500 dpi and a perfect color match to the originals. The digitized letters can then be enlarged to the tiniest detail without any loss of quality and allow the user to perform an extremely thorough analysis of the object as captured and displayed digitally.

Secondly, the back lighting technique yielded more information hidden within the document, which is clearly visible only when the sheet is exposed to light in a specific way. With this method, we can identify the precise details of the shapes and designs of the watermarks, which are important evidence for dating and identification of documents.

Finally, it should be noted that the digitization of the letters was completed after the restoration laboratory of the State Archives of Modena did the work of securing their conservation status. The digital acquisition of these documents offers a complete and very detailed view of the post-restoration conditions of these precious documents, and serves as a benchmark for future analysis.



Following digital acquisition, the images were processed by Haltadefinizione technicians, who perfected the files and prepared the documents for digital use of all kinds.

Scholars and researchers can now easily explore online digital reproductions of Lucrezian documents, along with an extensive informational support, on the Lodovico Media Library, the digital library developed by the Interdepartmental Research Center on Digital Humanities of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia (DHMoRe).

This viewing platform is built to provide easy access to Modena and Emilia-Romgana’s vast heritage of archival documents, allowing users to view and study these priceless items from the comfort of home.
With Lodovico and Haltadefinizione’s digitized content, scholars, students and enthusiasts can explore these letters, down to the finest details, including watermarks.

Screenshot 2023 04 13 at 14 39 09 Lettera di Lucrezia Borgia Lucrezia Este Borgia duchessa di Ferrara5Gigapixel viewer of the "Lodovico Media Library"

The digitization of Lucrezia’s letters is part of ambitious project called "Applying Digital Humanities to the study of the letters of Lucrezia Borgia d'Este," with reorganization, new security measures, descriptions and digitization, promoted by the State Archives with support from the Modena Foundation and Art Bonus.

Within this project, Haltadefinizione’s contribution of digitization shows how ultra-high definition Gigapixel technology can be used to preserve and enhance our archival heritage.


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