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  • This early experiment helped pave the way for the Electronic Beowulf project, in which we used fibre optic backlighting to record hundreds of readings in the Beowulf manuscript which had been concealed by conservation work in the nineteenth century.
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    1. 1. Using Images of Medieval Manuscripts: Historical Perspectives and Future Possibilities Andrew Prescott, King’s College London
    2. 2. Experimental image of London, British Library, Cotton MS. Otho B x, f. 54v, taken with a Roche Kontron digital camera under ultra-violet light in 1993. We now have over 21 years of experience of using this type of technology in MS studies, but apart from ‘how to’ guides and works of advocacy, we don’t have any reflective discussion on the implications of these approaches for manuscript studies. Have our approaches so far been the right ones? What type of scholarly dialogue can we / should we be developing with this technology?
    3. 3. Utrecht Psalter, produced in Epernay between 816 and 823
    4. 4. Illustrations from J.O. Westwood, ‘Archaeological Note of a Tour in Denmark, Prussia and Holland’, Archaeological Journal 16 (1859). Westwood had noticed an 1832 discussion of the manuscript by Baron van Tiellandt, and travelled to the Netherlands to see it.
    5. 5. Silver nitrate photographs of the Utrecht Psalter commissioned by the British Foreign Office to assist in dating the manuscript, 1872
    6. 6. Photographs of the Utrecht Psalter made in the British Museum using the autotype process, 1876
    7. 7. Detail from autotype facsimile of the Book of Kells prepared for the New Palaeographical Society under Bond’s supervision
    8. 8. Lessons of the Utrecht Psalter Controversy • Potential of new technologies to explore historical artefacts in new ways • Importance of maintaining scholarly and critical approach • Need to engage with technology, bringing specialist understanding to bear • Need to take opportunities as they present themselves… • …while developing a strategic approach • These are all lessons that resonate in current understanding of digital humanities
    9. 9. ‘And then I once again blush for shame when I remember the librarian from Poitiers in 1948, who treated me with awe because I came from the city of the Utrecht Psalter, the existence of which I was not even aware of’. Hans Freudenthal.
    10. 10. 150 Years of Imaging the Utrecht Psalter • 1859: Westwood sketches • Early tracings and lithographs in British Library, Add. MSS. 22291, 26104 • 1873: British Museum facsimile • E. T. DeWald, Illustrations of the Utrecht Psalter • 1982: full colour facsmile, Codices Selecti, Graz • 1996: CD-ROM presentation, full digital facsimile linked to translation of text • 2000: CD version also made available online • By 2005, the CD version was no longer working on modern machines • By 2011, the online version of the CD also not working, and switched off • Digitisation of facsimile available via Warburg Institure iconographic database and • 2013: new digitisation, financed by alumni of University of Utrecht. Available only as facsimile. • Currently plans to develop full textual apparatus online.
    11. 11. Imaging of the Beowulf manuscript using fibre optic backlighting to reveal letters and words concealed by nineteenth-century conservation work:
    12. 12. Two sets of transcripts made for the Danish antiquary Thorkelin, now in the Royal Library Copenhagen, compared with the original manuscript
    13. 13. Autotypes of Beowulf manuscript prepared by Charles B. Praetorius (1818-1900) in 1880 and published by Julius P. Zupitza for the Early English Text Society. Note how these autotypes were prepared before the current pencil foliation of the manuscript was inserted.
    14. 14. William Kilbride, ‘Whose Beowulf Is it Anyway? ‘, Internet Archaeology 9.
    15. 15. A.S.G. Edwards, ‘Back to the Real’, Times Literary Supplement, 7 June 2013 • Digital surrogates more expensive version of microfilm • Make it difficult to assess material characteristics • Discourage engagement with originals and provide excuse for libraries to restrict access • Expensive activity which diverts resources from more pressing priorities such as training in palaeography and conservation of originals
    16. 16. Edwards: The Codex Sinaiticus is an interesting test case for apologists of digitization. Last year I was told that the Codex Sinaiticus site got about 10,000 hits a month. That might seem a strong justification for digitization. But it seems doubtful whether even a small fraction of that number have the appropriate training – codicological, linguistic and textual – to approach the work in an informed way. If my audience analysis is even broadly correct, the British Library is investing heavily not in scholarship, but in a new branch of the entertainment industry.
    17. 17. Lost leaves from Codex Sinaiticus found in St Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt in 1976
    18. 18. Text of Mark 1:1 in the British Library portion of the Codex Sinaiticus under standard light, showing corrections including insertion of the phrase ‘Son of God’.
    19. 19. The same section of Mark 1:1 under raking light, with transcription and translation
    20. 20. Google Books Isn’t Necessarily the Model • Google Book search has become the pattern of ‘big digitisation’. Manuscript digitisation such as Codex Sinaiticus frequently described as boutique digitisation • But a project such as Sinaiticus Is more complex in its aims and ambitions • With book search, assumption that the primary purpose of digitisation is more quickly to locate information in the book • With manuscripts, we are often as much interested in the physical characteristics of the book as its contents. Images are therefore important. Same applies to many other categories of material in galleries, libraries, archives and museums • Museums, library special collections and archives all share this concern with using digitisation to investigate objects. Google Books paradigm might not be best approach for manuscript studies
    21. 21. A Different Approach? • Have we been too preoccupied with creating allembracing interfaces to simplify online access? • Are we simply replicating the ‘flat’ information offered by print facsimiles and editions I an online environment? • Should we instead be assembling archives of information about manuscripts? • As we start to use digital technologies as tools to explore manuscripts, we will have multiplicity of representations and information • We will want to establish multi-faceted networks of information about particular manuscripts
    22. 22. William Schipper, 'Dry-Point Compilation Notes in the Benedictional of St Æthelwold', British Library Journal, 20 (1994), 17-34
    23. 23. The dry point note ‘In’ is not readily visible in this ‘vanilla’ digitisation of f. 27v of the Benedictional of St Æthelwold. Ideally we need a series of images exploring different aspects of this folio.
    24. 24. The words ‘Item alia’ under ‘thesauros’ on f. 63v are barely noticeable on the ‘vanilla’ digitisation Some very simple image processing would make the dry point note clearer, if only the image was downloadable (it isn’t)
    25. 25. Dr Adrian Wisnicki of Birkbeck College, University of London, working in blue light at the National Library of Scotland. Dr Wisnicki and other members of the Livingstone diary project spent 2 weeks at NLS taking images of David Livingstone's diary and letters
    26. 26. RTI Scanning by University of Southampton team at the Louvre, 2011
    27. 27. Kathryn Rudy, ' Dirty books : Quantifying patterns of use in medieval manuscripts using a densitometer ' Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art , vol 2 (2010) , no. 1-2 , pp. 1-26
    28. 28. Using the Diamond Light Source to Recover Palimpsest Text
    29. 29. _revealing_the_lost_codex_of_archime des.html
    30. 30.
    31. 31. Future Approaches • We need to break away from fixed silo presentations and rethink our view of facsimiles and editions • Use digital technologies as a tool to explore manuscripts • Archives and networks of information about MSS rather than online facsimiles and editions • Forget about the interface; concentrate on storing and sharing our data openly • The future edition might be simply a SPARQL endpoint
    32. 32. We also need to think about ways in which we can deal with very large quantities of data. This site ( contains over 8,000,000 images of medieval legal and administrative records from England with virtually no metadata. How do we best explore it, recording and sharing our explorations?