It was raining when we reached Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) on a small cruise ship that made a regular run through the North Sea between Leningrad and the Scandinavian countries. The Soviet Union was still intact in May 1990; it was the glasnost era.

Our luggage, all 52 pieces of it, was loaded on a small school bus sent by the Russian National Library. For some reason we never understood, customs could not inspect our boxes and equipment that day, but we didn’t find that out until we had sat on the bus, in the rain, for several hours. However, we were allowed to take everything to the library as long as we didn’t actually use it.

The library has a firm rule—you can take nothing with you past the front desk except a pad of paper and a pen: no briefcases, backpacks or even purses. That rule was enforced to the letter on our first day. After a while, however, the guards got so used to us that all we had to do was point to our shoulder bags and briefcases, murmur “photographia” and walk on through.

In the center of the room where we did the photography was a tall, arched gallery. Underneath the gallery was a large conference table and a tall column mounted with a bust of Lenin. You might say that Lenin oversaw all that we did, which added a delightful touch of irony to our work.

We had to photograph 1,000 pages in three weeks, six photographs of each page, all in large format 4-by-5-inch film: one Polaroid test shot, three color transparencies and two high-resolution black-and-white negatives. The shooting itself was tedious and repetitive, but we could not afford to let our concentration slip.

We found that the only way to prevent mistakes was for Marilyn to call out the setting of every shot and for Bruce to repeat it. This we did for ten hours a day, six days a week, while Ken loaded and unloaded the thousands of sheets of film, and Garth Moller, the fourth member of the team, wrote down conservation notes for every page of the codex.

Bruce had to crouch to focus each picture, then step up on a platform to shoot, step back down to readjust the exposure, and then step back up to take the next picture. After a while he learned to use alternate legs for each successive step. By the time the 1,000 pages were done, he had lost some 15 pounds.

Food was not easy to obtain in those days. On numerous occasions we walked into empty restaurants only to be refused service because we “didn’t have a reservation” or because we were not part of a tour group. We were fed one night only because we were willing to eat a meal already prepared for customers who hadn’t shown up. Finally, Viktor Lebedev, the former director of the ancient biblical manuscript collection at the library, and his wife very graciously invited us to eat with them every night.

Nor did our hotel rooms have dependable hot water. Soon we discovered that the best time to get both hot and cold water was around 2:00 a.m. We adjusted our bathing habits accordingly.

It was not an easy project. Each of us got sick at least once during the trip. But we left Leningrad not only with a sense of sadness but with a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. We wouldn’t have missed the experience for the world.