The project comprises three principal outcomes: a general framework for online delivery which can apply to any script; a database of content specific to English Vernacular minuscule of the Eleventh century, and publications presenting the results of these applied to palaeographical research.
The first deliverable is a freely-available generalised framework for the online presentation of palaeographical content which allows scholars to search for, view, and organise detailed characteristics of handwriting in both verbal and visual form. Users will therefore be able to search for material such as ‘show me images of the letter a in charters issued from Canterbury during the mid-eleventh century’, ‘plot the frequency of a given form of t relative to all other forms of t’, or ‘show me images of the letter g in manuscripts of Old English homilies arranged on an interactive timeline’. Examples of these are illustrated below. Although applied to English Vernacular minuscule of the Eleventh century (see ‘The Database’, below), the design is applicable to any script, and plans are already underway to use it for the study of Latin, Hebrew and (potentially) Cuneiform. Such close integration of date, place, manuscript context and handwriting would be an unprecedented resource for the study of medieval writing and will enable new methods in quantitative and digital palaeography which have been discussed in the literature but which have proven very difficult to apply in practice. The resulting framework is the website which you are looking at now.
The Web-based Framework, although valuable, is no use on its own but must have content, and so it will be populated with a new relational database containing records for all extant scribal hands writing English Vernacular minuscule and dated to the eleventh century. This amounts to approximately 470 manuscripts, 200 documents, and six inscriptions, containing about 1200 scribal hands and over thirty-five thousand scribal features. At a minimum, each one of the manuscripts, documents and inscriptions will contain basic information about the content and structure; this in- formation is already available from existing content. As well as this context, information on the scribal hands will include descriptions of the idiographs for each scribal hand presented as ‘hand-allograph-feature’ triples (for example ‘Eadwig Basan habitually wrote Insular g with a closed tail‘. Similarly, images of the letters (graphs) will be provided for as many scribal hands as time and image-rights allow, and these in turn will be described according to the same system. The images will be of vernacular script of the eleventh century, but will also include any Latin script which is also in those same images or can be identified with certainty as the work of the same scribes. As well as building a new database of previously unpublished palaeographical material on several hundred scribal hands, the resource will also incorporate the data from four existing projects to reuse their material in new and innovative ways (specifically eSawyer, EM1060–1220 and ManCASS C11). When complete, the resource will provide detailed information about the codicology, content, and scribal hands of the manuscripts and charters, and will allow complex searches of both visual and verbal information. For the database as it stands today, see Search and Manuscript Images.
One of the major objectives of the project is not simply to present data in new ways but also demonstrate how it can be used in practice to derive new understanding of the palaeographical questions. The project will therefore produce some ‘traditional’ palaeographical publications, including a monograph on eleventh-century script, and proceedings of the four project Colloquia. Other articles will be written by all members of the project team and submitted to journals and collected volumes as appropriate; likely examples of these include palae- ographical journals such as Scriptorium and Manuscripta, and digital humanities journals such as Literary and Linguistic Computing and Digital Humanities Quarterly. Further dissemination will be achieved by papers at significant conferences, particularly the Conference of the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists (ISAS); the Colloquium of the Comité international de paléographie latine; the Members’ Meeting of the Text Encoding Initiative; and Digital Humanities, the annual international conference for digital scholarship in the humanities; as well as the two annual Medieval Congresses at Leeds and Kalamazoo. For a full list of publications resulting from this project see Publications.