Transcribathon!: Noon to Midnight Reading Old Handwriting and Making Digital Texts

Provenance Online Project

photoLast Thursday staff from Penn’s Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts and the Folger Shakespeare Library were joined by students and scholars from the Penn community for a world premiere event. This was (as far as we know) the world’s first ever Transcribathon: twelve hours from noon to midnight of intently examining Renaissance manuscripts and transcribing them using the beta version of an exciting new transcription software called Dromio that the Folger is developing as a part of its Early Modern Manuscript Online (EMMO) project to help make it easier for experts and newbies alike to help make digital transcriptions of centuries old manuscripts.  Transcribathon participants were fortified with both pizza and slices of the manuscript cake (created by hand by yours truly) shown above.

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Palaeography Group Holiday Party

Penn Ph.D student Alex Devine has been a regular at meetings of the Manuscript Collective. As organizer of the Penn Palaeography Group, he leads a monthly gathering of graduate students that share about current research, discuss new texts acquired by the Kislak Center, and work together on transcriptions.

Alex Devine Alex Devine

After attending meetings of the Manuscript Collective, he generously invited the Penn Manuscript Collective to join the Paleography Group’s holiday party. Plenty of food and drink were on hand as the group read through medieval manuscripts of carols and Christmas recipes.

edible Paleography flair, courtesy Anne Dutlinger edible gingerbread Palaeography flair, courtesy Anne Dutlinger

We began with a reading of “Now ys the tyme of crystymas” from a 16th century commonplace book (find the entire book here). This jaunty rhyme calls for a festive celebration—those who can bring no sport to the hall should be sent to the stocks!

Make we mery bothe more and lasse / For now ys t[h]e tyme of CrystymasMake we mery bothe more and…

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DigiPal Project

Parker Library

Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to be focusing on various digital projects and resources both old and new which incorporate data concerning one or more manuscripts from the Parker Library collection.

Image from CCCC MS 389, f.1v Image from CCCC MS 389, f.1v

The DigiPal Project is one of the most exciting digital medieval projects around  – and it uses lots of images from our manuscripts. In fact, you can see one on the header of their website.

It’s based at the Department of Digital Humanities in King’s College London and the Project Director is Dr Peter Stokes who has worked extensively on many of the Anglo-Saxon manuscripts in the Parker Library. DigiPal is a palaeographical resource based on digital images of manuscripts or documents but incorporating many types of annotation and detailed description of the hands, texts and manuscripts and (when it’s complete) several different ways of interrogating, organising and displaying…

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Manuscript Road Trip: The Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies

Manuscript Road Trip

The Flight into Egypt, Walters Art Museum, MS W.188, f.112r The Flight into Egypt, Walters Art Museum, MS W.188, f.112r

As we head north out of Baltimore on I-95, we’ll cross the Delaware River and head into Wilmington, where there are manuscripts to be found at the University of Delaware.

The pre-1600 manuscripts at the University are part of a collection with the shelfmark “MSS 095.” There’s a list of the relevant records here and some highlights are described here. Of particular interest to me is a relatively recent acquisition, U. Delaware MSS 095 no. 31, a Book of Hours for the use of Noyon. There aren’t any images on the Special Collections website, but there are a few on this blogpost written by a Special Collections staff member, as well as a little information about the manuscript’s history. But I’d like to know more…how did it get to Delaware, and what can be gleaned about its history before…

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Size Matters (Part 2): Giant Medieval Manuscripts!


By Jenny Weston

In last week’s blogpost, Irene O’Daly explored the world of portable books — manuscripts that are small enough (and light enough) to be carried around by the user. In today’s post we shift our attention to the opposite end of the ‘size-spectrum’ and examine some of the largest manuscripts ever produced in the Middle Ages.

Book1 Late-Medieval Choir Books

While most medieval manuscripts are of a size that could be easily picked up and carried, there are some books that are so large and so heavy that it would take two (or more) people to move them.

Among these are volumes known as ‘Giant Bibles’. These books typically contain a complete collection of the Old and New Testaments and present huge dimensions. One particularly famous large-format Bible is an early thirteenth-century pandect known as the Codex Gigas, which measures (a whopping) 890 x 490 mm and weighs over 165 pounds. In addition to…

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Size Matters: Portable Medieval Manuscripts


By Irene O’Daly

Medieval books were often expensive to produce, and usually the property of institutions. But some manuscripts were copied specifically for individuals, and designed to be carried on the person. Portable manuscripts come in many different forms and each is a witness to a different context of use – a valuable insight into medieval culture. Size is a major factor influencing the portability of an object, indeed, it can be a defining characteristic in evaluating the potential use-context of a manuscript, as discussed here in another blog entry. But size does not always tell the full story.

Take, for example, the production of one-volume Bibles in the thirteenth century. These Bibles (often termed ‘Paris Bibles’, as Paris was the major, though not only, centre of their production) represented a dramatic departure from previous practices. Bibles were traditionally large, often copied in separate volumes, but Paris Bibles were…

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