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Stanford Global Currents Research Team: Ben Albritton, Mark Algee-Hewitt, Celena Allen, Elaine Treharne

Stanford Global Currents is an NEH-funded Project in allegiance with McGill University and ETS in Montreal, and Groningen University in the Netherlands. Stanford's specific project focuses on British manuscripts from the long twelfth century in the Parker on the Web repository to determine how manuscript producers assisted audiences in finding their way around the folio. This project website contains information about our work and our anticipated results. Preliminary findings are available in 'Discovery' and 'Research', where we show the components of a manuscript's mise-en-page that are being investigated by the team.

Project Context

The Stanford Team is led by Professor Elaine Treharne, with investigators Professor Mark Algee-Hewitt and Dr Benjamin Albritton. Celena Allen manages the project and its undergraduate Research Assistants in the collaborative Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis, directed by Professor Zephyr Frank. The overall PI for the multi-institutional 'Global Currents: Literary Networks, c. 1090-1900' team is Professor Andrew Piper at McGill University. He has brought together teams working on Chinese books, European journals, and British manuscripts to determine how various computer programs can assist scholars interested in specific facets of book production through the centuries. Early results are very promising.

In the first year of the grant, Stanford RAs worked on lexical recognition with Professor Lambert Schomaker at Groningen University. His Monk program is designed to identify individual lexical forms, samples of which were extrapolated from a variety of twelfth-century English and Latin manuscripts. After running the samples through the program, Monk was able to automatically discover and isolate particular words, which might subsequently, in theory, allow manuscripts to be machine-read. A by-product of this work has been the realisation that certain scribal characteristics are identifiable across manuscripts; and that specific forms of practice (abbreviations, for example) can be rapidly determined between scribes in the same and widely differing codices, and perhaps indicate datable features.

In this second year of the grant, Stanford RAs have isolated features of mise-en-page for Professor Mohammed Cheriet's lab at ETS in Montreal to analyse. The preliminary results of test-cases are thrilling. The program can identify litterae notabiliores, rubrics, and other major medieval information retrieval practices. These are displayed through Stanford's IIIF gallery, a combination of tools which promises to make a major contribution to the future of manuscript studies.