Digitization and libraries, the future of the past: conference in Rome

ROME – Between 2012 and 2017 the Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford and the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican Library) joined efforts in a landmark digitization project with the aim of opening up their repositories of ancient texts. More than 1.5 million pages from their remarkable collections have been made freely available online to researchers and to the general public. The initiative was made possible by a £2 million award from The Polonsky Foundation. Dr Leonard Polonsky, who is committed to democratizing access to information, sees the increase of digital access to these two library collections — among the greatest in the world — as a significant step in sharing intellectual resources on a global scale.

To mark the end of the project, a ground-breaking conference on digitization and libraries is being held in Rome on 30 May 2018. The venue is the Conference Centre at the Augustinian Patristic Institute, which is situated just off St Peter’s Square. In the context of the Polonsky project this free conference will look at the future of digitized collections and their funding, with prominent speakers from different libraries and funding bodies across Europe.

The conference will be in English, with simultaneous translation into Italian.

Conference programme

9.15-9.30am
Welcome from Msgr. Cesare Pasini, Prefect, Vatican Apostolic Library

9.30-10.15am
Opening plenary: From Mabillon to Munich Digital: access, technology and scholarship
Anthony Grafton, Princeton University

10.15-10.45am
Coffee

10.45am-12.05pm
Session one: Oxford, the Vatican and the Polonsky Project
Speakers:

  • Timothy Janz, Director, Printed Books Dept, Vatican Apostolic Library
  • Paola Manoni, Responsible for the Coordination of IT Services, Vatican Apostolic Library
  • César Merchan-Hamann, Hebraica and Judaica Curator, Bodleian Libraries
  • Emma Stanford, Digital Curator, Bodleian Libraries

12.05-12.25pm
Questions

12.25-1.30pm
Lunch

1.30-2.30pm
Session two: The future of digital libraries
Speakers will include:

  • Dr Kristian Jensen, Head of Arts and Humanities, British Library
  • Jill Cousins, Director, Hunt Museum, Limerick
  • Dr Cristina Dondi, University of Oxford

2.30-3pm
Questions

3-3.30pm
Tea break

3.30-4.15pm
Roundtable discussion: funding digitization

  • Marc Polonsky, The Polonsky Foundation
  • Charles Henry, Council on Library and Information Resources
  • Maja Kominko, Arcadia Foundation

4.15-4.30pm
Closing remarks

  • Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian, Bodleian Libraries

The Bodleian Libraries and Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana are grateful to Antonio and Patricia Bonchristiano for their generous support of this conference.

 

DATE AND TIME

Wed 30 May 2018

09:15 – 16:30 CEST

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LOCATION

Conference Centre, Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum

25 Via Paolo VI

00193 Roma

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Via Eventbrite

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NEWS/ Bibliotheca Palatina Digitally Reunited

HEIDELBERG (GERMANY) – After centuries of separation, one of the most valuable collections of manuscripts from the Middle Ages and Early Modern Age – the Bibliotheca Palatina – has been virtually reunited. Heidelberg University Library digitised not only the German manuscripts in its own holdings but also the Latin codices of this “mother of all libraries”, housed in Rome for nearly 400 years within the walls of the Vatican Library, the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana. The Manfred Lautenschläger Foundation provided the long-term financing that made possible this landmark project in scholarly research. A ceremony has been held on 15 February 2018 at Heidelberg University to commemorate the completion of the digitisation. Project is sponsored by Honorary Senator of Ruperto Carola, Dr. h.c. Manfred Lautenschläger.

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Photo: University Library Heidelberg Illustrated Latin magnificent codex from the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana in Rome.

The technical capabilities of digitisation and the Internet gave the University Library the opportunity to reunite this “treasure of Western culture”, now split between Rome and Heidelberg, into a single virtual library. To this end, Heidelberg University and the Vatican established a cooperation extending over several years. “We are extremely grateful to our Honorary Senator for funding this ambitious idea,” says Heidelberg University President Prof. Dr Bernhard Eitel. The Manfred Lautenschläger Foundation supported not only the digitisation of the German-language manuscripts in Heidelberg. Thanks to the Foundation’s financial support, a University Library digitisation studio was set up in the Vatican to capture the Latin codices. “For us, the virtual reunification of the German and Latin Palatina manuscripts is a dream come true,” emphasises Dr Veit Probst, Director of the Heidelberg University Library.

The Bibliotheca Palatina had a long history even before Pope Gregory XV confiscated it in the Thirty Years’ War and transferred it to the Vatican in 1623. For nearly 250 years, it had grown from two sources – the royal collections of the Heidelberg Castle and the libraries of Heidelberg University founded in 1386. With the exception of the German-language codices, which were permitted to return to Heidelberg in 1816, the Palatina remains a foundation of the Vatican Library in Rome. At the beginning of the 17th century, it was known as “the greatest treasure of Germany’s learned”. As a universal library, it contains not only theological, philological, philosophical, and historical works but also medical, natural history, and astronomical texts. It therefore remains of great interest for a number of academic disciplines. The digitised core inventory of approximately 3,000 manuscripts is now available to everyone over the Internet.

All digitized manuscripts can be found here.

Source: Official press release

NEWS/ 100 Pre-1200 Manuscripts From The British Library & BNF Are Now Online

The first 100 manuscripts  in the “Polonsky Foundation England and France Project” are now available for online viewing.  A full list of the digitised manuscripts with links to the viewer can be found on the British Library’s Manuscripts blog here:  100 MSS Online.

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Canon table with Evangelist surrounded by dragons and overgrown vines. The Préaux Gospels, Add MS 11850 f. 10v (photo: British Library)

The project is a joint effort between the British Library and the Bibliothèque nationale de France to make available over 800 manuscripts decorated before the year 1200. These manuscripts cover a wide variety of topics and images from the Project’s focus of AD 700–1200 (you can read more about the Project or listen to the French interview of Matthieu Bonicel, Head of Innovation at the BnF). Some of the highlights include lavishly illuminated Gospels, like the Préaux Gospels from early 12th-century Normandy, with its amazing miniatures of the Evangelists and luxurious canon tables.

Full news: click here.

Via

Fac-simile editions & manuscript digitization project launched in Guarneriana, Italy

guarnerianaOne of the oldest and most beautiful surviving copies of Dante’s “Inferno” is preserved in Italy in San Daniele del Friuli, near Udine. It is part of the astonishing collection of over 12,000 manuscripts  owned by the Biblioteca Guarneriana, one of Europe’s most ancient public libraries, founded in 1466 by scholar ad humanist  Guarnerio d’Artegna.

The manuscript – catalogued  as “ms. Fontaniano 200” – was copied in the XIVth century. It is fully illustrated  with high quality miniatures, and containes two commentaries of Dante Alighieri’s masterpiece: one, written in Latin,  by Graziolo de’ Bambaglioli, the other composed in Italian “volgare” between 1324 and 1334 by an anonymous but very intriguing author.

Guarneriana’s Codex 200 has been studied by several scholars and is now available in a very accurate fac-simile edition by Italian publisher Roberto Vattori which will be presented,  together with two important fac-simile editions of Longobard manuscripts  by  Capsa Ars Scriptoria (Codice Cividalese XXVIII, Paolus Diaconus’s “Historia Langobardorum”, and Codex Cavensis 4, “Leges Langobardorum), during the  “MEDIOEVALIA: Medioevo e Medioevi in Guarneriana”  Conference on October 22, 2016.

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Guarneriana has also launched the brand new manuscript digitization project “TECA DIGITALE”, which gives full online access to 13 of the most important codices  which are part of the collection: among them, Ms. Fontaniniano 200, Peter Lombard’s Liber Sententiarum (ms 42 ), the “Bizantine Bible” (ms 3), Augustin’s De Civitate Dei (ms 8), Brunetto Latini’s Tresor (ms 238), Cicero’s Orationes (ms 59), and works by Seneca (ms 7).

Info: www.guarneriana.it, info@guarneriana.it

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1,000-Year-Old Manuscript of Beowulf Digitized and Now Online

1,000-Year-Old Manuscript of Beowulf has been digitized by the British Library and is now online. It is the oldest surviving manuscript of the longest epic poem in Old English.

Beowulf is the longest epic poem in Old English, the language spoken in Anglo-Saxon England before the Norman Conquest. More than 3,000 lines long, Beowulf relates the exploits of its eponymous hero, and his successive battles with a monster named Grendel, with Grendel’s revengeful mother, and with a dragon which was guarding a hoard of treasure.

The story of Beowulf

Beowulf is a classic tale of the triumph of good over evil, and divides neatly into three acts. The poem opens in Denmark, where Grendel is terrorising the kingdom. The Geatish prince Beowulf hears of his neighbours’ plight, and sails to their aid with a band of warriors. Beowulf encounters Grendel in unarmed combat, and deals the monster its death-blow by ripping off its arm.

There is much rejoicing among the Danes; but Grendel’s loathsome mother takes her revenge, and makes a brutal attack upon the king’s hall. Beowulf seeks out the hag in her underwater lair, and slays her after an almighty struggle. Once more there is much rejoicing, and Beowulf is rewarded with many gifts. The poem culminates 50 years later, in Beowulf’s old age. Now king of the Geats, his own realm is faced with a rampaging dragon, which had been guarding a treasure-hoard. Beowulf enters the dragon’s mound and kills his foe, but not before he himself has been fatally wounded.

Beowulf closes with the king’s funeral, and a lament for the dead hero.

When was Beowulf composed?

Nobody knows for certain when the poem was first composed. Beowulf is set in the pagan world of sixth-century Scandinavia, but it also contains echoes of Christian tradition. The poem must have been passed down orally over many generations, and modified by each successive bard, until the existing copy was made at an unknown location in Anglo-Saxon England.

How old is the manuscript?

Beowulf survives in a single medieval manuscript, housed at the British Library in London. The manuscript bears no date, and so its age has to be calculated by analysing the scribes’ handwriting. Some scholars have suggested that the manuscript was made at the end of the 10th century, others in the early decades of the 11th, perhaps as late as the reign of King Cnut, who ruled England from 1016 until 1035.

The most likely time for Beowulf to have been copied is the early 11th century, which makes the manuscript approximately 1,000 years old.

The contents of the manuscript

Apart from Beowulf, the manuscript contains several other medieval texts. These comprise a homily on St Christopher; the ‘Marvels of the East’, illustrated with wondrous beasts and deformed monsters; the ‘Letter of Alexander to Aristotle’; and an imperfect copy of another Old English poem, ‘Judith’.

Beowulf is the penultimate item in this collection, the whole of which was copied by two Anglo-Saxon scribes, working in collaboration.

Who owned the Beowulf-manuscript?

The first-recorded owner of Beowulf is Laurence Nowell (died c.1570), a pioneer of the study of Old English, who inscribed his name (dated 1563) at the top of the manuscript’s first page. Beowulf then entered the famous collection of Sir Robert Cotton (died 1631) – who also owned the Lindisfarne Gospels and the British Library’s two copies of Magna Carta – before passing into the hands of his son Sir Thomas Cotton (died 1662), and grandson Sir John Cotton (died 1702), who bequeathed the manuscript to the nation. The Cotton library formed one of the foundation collections of the British Museum in 1753, before being incorporated as part of the British Library in 1973.

Why is the manuscript damaged?

During the 18th century, the Cotton manuscripts were moved for safekeeping to Ashburnham House at Westminster. On the night of 23 October 1731 a fire broke out and many manuscripts were damaged, and a few completely destroyed.

Beowulf escaped the fire relatively intact but it suffered greater loss by handling in the following years, with letters crumbling away from the outer portions of its pages. Placed in paper frames in 1845, the manuscript remains incredibly fragile, and can be handled only with the utmost care.

Modern versions of Beowulf

Despite being composed in the Anglo-Saxon era, Beowulf continues to captivate modern audiences. The poem has provided the catalyst for films, plays, operas, graphic novels and computer games. Among the more notable recent versions are the films The 13th Warrior (1999), adapted from the novel Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton (d. 2008); the Icelandic-Canadian co-production Beowulf & Grendel (2005); and Beowulf (2007), starring Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins and Angelina Jolie.

Beowulf has also been translated into numerous languages, including modern English, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Telugu (a Dravidian language spoken in India).

Perhaps the most famous modern translation is that by Seamus Heaney, Nobel Laureate in Literature, which won the Whitbread Book of Year Award in 1999. A children’s version by Michael Morpurgo, illustrated by Michael Foreman, was published in 2006.

See a full set of images on our Beowulf Digitised Manuscript or view the Electronic Beowulf, a collaboration between British Library and Kentucky University.

Via The British Library

Digital projects / Canadian researchers collect data from Gregorian chants in the Convent of St. Gall, Switzerland

Digital projects / Canadian researchers collect data from Gregorian chants in the Convent of St. Gall, Switzerland

Perceval Archeostoria (english site)

A new Canadian research project is collecting big data from medieval melodies chanted by monks more than 1,000 years ago. And it’s all searchable. But to what end?

Kate Helsen, an assistant musicology professor at Western University’s Don Wright Faculty of Music, is part of the Optical Neume Recognition Project and explains that this study is the most technologically advanced method of investigating what was previously a completely oral culture – a time and place, when and where people didn’t conceive of writing music down at all – and through greater understanding of these 11th century monks, researchers can now study how the human brain constructs, comprehends and reconstructs everything from language and literature to math and music.

The Optical Neume Recognition Project uses modified optical character recognition (OCR) technology to study medieval musical notation called neumes. This unique computing initiative identifies each neume on a digital…

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Manuscriptorium, a digital library for manuscript resources and virtual research

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Manuscriptorium is a freely accessible digital library which enables ready access to concentrated information on historical resources via sophisticated search tools. The aim is creating a virtual research environment providing access to all existing digital documents in the sphere of historic book resources (manuscripts, incunabula, early printed books, maps, charters and other types of documents). These historical resources, otherwise scattered in various digital libraries around the world, are now available under a single digital library interface.

Access is provided to more than 5 million images. Registered users have access to a set of tools that allow them to add favourite items, organize documents into collections, create virtual documents from the digital images aggregated in the Manuscriptorium, and save both simple and complex queries as well as query sequences and repeat them by a single click.

A blog, a guide and several tutorials also provide help and support to users.

The Manuscriptorium services are provided by National Library of the Czech Republic. Site is a Europeana sub-aggregator for the sphere of historical resources. Check it out here.