On the Way to the Future of Digital Manuscript Studies


1. On the Usability of Available Digital Tools for Reconstructive TextualEditing

Philipp Roelli.
This article reviews some of the digital tools currently available for reconstructive textual editing. First the main idea of reconstructive textual editing is summarised, then its steps amenable to algorithmic description are compared to similar ones in evolutionary biology. The the unequal ability of its variants to be relationship revealing is an important difference between the two fields. Two Latin texts with a complicated transmission are then introduced and used as data to illustrate some available tools in praxi. The main focus is on stemma reconstruction. Some steps of the process can already be largely automated, especially collating texts. On the whole it is found that tree-constructing software is of little help in the case of the medical text Liber Aurelii, whereas it is somewhat more helpful for Plato of Tivoli’s translation of the Centiloquium. In a concluding part, the main problems for algorithmic approaches to the stemma are discussed: incomplete witnesses leading to only partly overlapping text samples, contamination in some witnesses, and rooting the automatically generated trees.

2. New Technologies, Training Initiatives and the Future of Manuscript Studies

Eyal Poleg.
We are standing at the edge of a major transformation in manuscript studies. Digital surrogates, Digital Humanities analyses and the rise of new scientific analytical technologies proliferate across universities, libraries and museums. They change the way we consult, research and disseminate historical manuscripts to reveal hitherto unknown, and unknowable, information. This article looks at how the field can best integrate these transformations. Concentrating on training programmes for advanced students as a way of reimagining the field, it provides concrete advice for the future of manuscript studies, arguing that the existence of manuscript studies as removed from Digital Humanities and heritage science is becoming more and more artificial and detrimental to the future of the field.

3. The Database of Byzantine Book Epigrams Project: Principles, Challenges, Opportunities

Rachele Ricceri ; Klaas Bentein ; Floris Bernard ; Antoon Bronselaer ; Els De Paermentier ; Pieterjan De Potter ; Guy De Tré ; Ilse De Vos ; Maxime Deforche ; Kristoffel Demoen et al.
This paper presents an overview of the history, conceptualization, and development of the Database of Byzantine Book Epigrams, an ongoing research project hosted at Ghent University. It also offers a glimpse into current and future research threads carried out within the project, with an eye on long-term sustainability. The first part of the paper pinpoints the position of DBBE within the broad field of Digital Humanities and addresses the question of how and why Byzantine metrical paratexts have been collected in an open-access online database. In the second part of the article, we describe the main features of the relational database currently available, both from the perspective of its users and from a technical point of view. The third section of the paper includes the description of four subprojects connected to DBBE, which at present involve the development of a graph database complementary to the relational one, the implementation of natural language pre-processing applied to the DBBE corpus, the linguistic analysis of formulaicity in book epigrams, and the exploration of the broad implications of the study of book epigrams for a better understanding of Byzantine book culture.
Section: Project presentations

4. Transparency and Discovery: Using a Text-Image Network to Study Manuscripts and Text Transmission

Jeffrey Witt.
This article describes desired use cases of manuscript-text interactions that could positively influence future scholarship. These examples illustrate the potential for greater transparency between critical editions and their data sources (i.e., manuscript witnesses). Further, these use cases demonstrate how the possibility of a connected environment could facilitate the automated discovery of related manuscripts at granular levels (i.e. identifying connections at precise coordinates regions) through the discovery of related texts. In the second section, the article walks through the data modelling and engineering steps required to achieve these uses cases. Finally, the third section provides examples to illustrate how this future is already a fledging reality.

5. From exemplar to copy: the scribal appropriation of a Hadewijch manuscript computationally explored

Wouter Haverals ; Mike Kestemont.
This study is devoted to two of the oldest known manuscripts in which the oeuvre of the medieval mystical author Hadewijch has been preserved: Brussels, KBR, 2879-2880 (ms. A) and Brussels, KBR, 2877-2878 (ms. B). On the basis of codicological and contextual arguments, it is assumed that the scribe who produced B used A as an exemplar. While the similarities in both layout and content between the two manuscripts are striking, the present article seeks to identify the differences. After all, regardless of the intention to produce a copy that closely follows the exemplar, subtle linguistic variation is apparent. Divergences relate to spelling conventions, but also to the way in which words are abbreviated (and the extent to which abbreviations occur). The present study investigates the spelling profiles of the scribes who produced mss. A and B in a computational way. In the first part of this study, we will present both manuscripts in more detail, after which we will consider prior research carried out on scribal profiling. The current study both builds and expands on Kestemont (2015). Next, we outline the methodology used to analyse and measure the degree of scribal appropriation that took place when ms. B was copied off the exemplar ms. A. After this, we will discuss the results obtained, focusing on the scribal variation that can be found both at the level of individual words and n-grams. To this end, we use machine learning to identify the most distinctive features that […]

6. New Digital Strategies for Creating and Comparing the Content Structure of Biblical Manuscripts

Patrick Andrist ; Tobias Englmeier ; Saskia Dirkse.
In an era when more and more manuscript scholarship is taking place on the internet, through digital manuscripts, databases and electronic publishing, there is a corresponding and growing need among scholars for flexible and creative ways to create clear and coherent online manuscript descriptions. This article presents a prototype of a tool, currently under development at the Ludwig-Maximilian Universität, Munich, which aims to streamline the description process from the perspective of facilitating comparisons between manuscripts from different cultural areas. Presently, the tool is being developed for use with biblical manuscripts and the article outlines the challenges that come with creating and comparing this kind of material, which is often similar in terms of content but very diverse as to its structure. It then offers solutions that allow users to describe and compare the manuscripts at differing levels of granularity. Lastly, the article sets forth a pattern of use that could be transposed onto areas of manuscript studies beyond biblical manuscripts and offers perspectives for the tool’s wider application.