>I am very grateful for any advice anyone would care to offer!!!


As already mentioned, there are several ways to correct such things. To equalize
the brightness levels you could use my tutorial here:

After that you'll get something similar to the attachment: "equalize".
Apply contrast now using the levels tool (Color / Levels) and move the
rectangles as seen in the image: "levels".
The final result will be an image with mostly white background and well readable

Hope that helps!

* http://www.gimpusers.com/system/attachments/56/original/equalized.jpg
* http://www.gimpusers.com/system/attachments/57/original/levels.jpg
* http://www.gimpusers.com/system/attachments/58/original/final.jpg

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