First Encounters: Students Meet Manuscripts

As we have worked with the manuscripts in our corpus, we have documented our initial encounters with what is often a very unfamiliar set of materials. The questions asked and the observations we've made form an invaluable test-case for audience reception of online, digitized manuscripts. Here, is a very brief summary of what we sought from our colleagues at ETS, whose feature modeling foci were determined by the following:

1. Rubrics

Usually written in red ink, rubrics form, effectively, the title of the sermon or saint’s life or chapter. This title is often little more than a pericope. Can rubrics be detected?

2. Litterae Notabiliores

Litterae notabiliores are enlarged initials that are often decorated with simple flourishes and that act as visual cues for the beginning of a new textual item (very large initials) or a new ‘paragraph’ or section (smaller, pen-drawn initials). Can these be detected and somehow represented in the resulting data in terms of their proportional size?

3. Minor flourishes and decoration

Many initials and individual graphs are decorated with red in-fill (tipped in using red ink) throughout the text. These often denote what we’d regard as new sentences or major sense units. They’re another means of finding one’s way through the block of text. Can these be detected?

4. Marginal information

Catchwords (denoting the beginning of new quires) and run-overs, indicating that encapsulation of text that has run-over the manuscript line are interesting features. Can these be detected?

5. How are these elements of the mise-en-page linked conceptually and how will the feature modeling program permit us to assess this?