The Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies at Penn brings manuscript culture, modern technology and people together.

Digital Editing and the Medieval Manuscript Roll @ Penn

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SIMS was delighted that a group of graduate students from across the country were here at the Penn Libraries last week to make the most of one of our medieval manuscripts and our digital resources.  Judith Weston, one of the graduate student organizers, reported on their experience.

UPenn Ms. Roll 1563, verso (detail)

You don’t have to be an engineer to learn to encode a medieval roll! Penn’s Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, with the generosity of Penn’s Price Lab for Digital Humanities and the Delaware Valley Medieval Association, hosted a workshop on Digital Editing and the Medieval Manuscript Roll this past weekend, March 30-31, 2018.  This two-day graduate workshop is part of an initiative by Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Nine graduate students in a variety of disciplines from institutions near (Rutgers) and far (University of Washington) convened to create a digital facsimile of a medieval manuscript roll, complete with searchable transcription and commentary. Graduate students lead and organize the workshops as well, with guest lecturers offering additional expertise. Penn graduate students Judith Weston and Aylin Malcolm organized the Penn iteration of the workshop with the help of Yale graduate students Gina Hurley and Eric Ensley. Over the two-day period, participants acquire the skills to edit digital editions and learn the process of TEI markup by encoding a medieval roll in the collection of the host institution, in this case Ms. Roll 1563, a 15th-century devotional roll written in Latin and Middle English. The workshop kicked off with a session on transcription and cataloguing, lead by Penn graduate students Nathalie Lacarrière and Matt Aiello, with an introduction to Penn’s collection of manuscript rolls by Manuscripts Cataloging Librarian Amey Hutchins. The afternoon consisted of an introduction to text encoding and markup language and the TEI, led by Penn graduate student Mariah Min, Aylin, Eric, and Gina. Day 2 began with Beiler doughnuts and continued with further teaching of the TEI as well as a discussion of the challenge of linking images with texts in non-standard digital editions, taught by Mariah, Aylin, Eric, and Gina. The final portion of the workshop was devoted to the implementation of the material covered in the previous sessions, as participants transcribed and encoded the devotional roll, creating a digital edition of the 15th-century manuscript.  This digital edition should be available later this year on a website hosted by the Beinecke Library, together with digital editions of other manuscript rolls produced by previous workshop participants at other institutions.

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