I'm aquequate at best using Gimp, so for all I know this may be something easy to do.
I'm dealing with really old church documents that were photographed in black and white, then scanned. I cannot improve the source material by taking a color photo, etc. But I've found that by playing with the filters in Gimp, I can often improve the readability.
And then there's these really problematic documents. There's 20+ pages from the end of the 1500s where it looks like they used a technique common at the time for stretching ink - adding water to it. This made the ink last longer, but the text also tended to bleed quite badly as time went on. So instead of this:
We instead get this:
The text leeched through the page a little more than when water was not added, but much more problematic, the lines themselves spread out over time, blurring into nearly unreadable messes. Here's an example of the bottom and top of two consecutive pages that had this problem:
Playing with the highlights in Gimp, there definitely seems to be some useable info here to play with:
This specific example is the marriage record of my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents. Unfortunately, while I can read the groom's name, I cannot read the name of his bride, and it's the only document on which her name would have been written. With a good deal of difficulty, the rest has been able to be read:
"Item Emerich Braunschweigs und ____ ____... ...____ zusammen gegeben den 13 decembris"
Can anyone suggest anything that might be done to help get documents like this into any more of a readable shape? In my perfect world, I imagine that I could somehow reduce the blurred lines entirely back down to just the lines made by the nib of the pen at the time, though I know that's asking far too much.