Image Analysis as a Tool for Automating the Integration of Editorial Hypertext with Facsimile-based Digital Editions: the Experience of the Electronic Edition of Ruskin's Modern Painters I

  1. 1. Lawrence Woof

    University of Lancaster

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Since 1997, the Ruskin Programme at Lancaster University have been exploring various technical options in order to create a facsimile-based edition of John Ruskin's Modern Painters vol I. Editorially, we were above all interested in showing the history of the writing process and the context of the many revisions Ruskin made to this work over a twenty year period. We wanted to allow the user to choose, and toggle between, all the important editions of this work in facsimile, at the same time as bringing the editorial commentary to his or her attention. We wanted to do this in a way that did not impinge on the historical veracity of these facsimiles; we wished to find an unobtrusive way of displaying hyperlinks that did not result in a visually-compromised facsimile-based edition. At the same time the feature of central importance for any potential technical solution for our project was that it should allow us to automate the creation of this environment. There are around 500 pages in this work and as we are using five different editions (plus some manuscripts) there are over 2,500 images of pages, all of which will need to display editorial information to the user. After looking into commercially-available software options, we decided that the best solution was to build our own tools. With the help of computer scientists, we have now designed a suite of tools that allow us to analyse images of text in a variety of ways. We are now in a position to automate the production of our edition. This paper details what we required of these tools, looks at how we went about creating them, demonstrates their use in a high-volume processing environment and finally suggests further potential developments that could come out of this research, such as the possibility of enhancing searches of digitised resources that use facsimile images, and the possibility of automating mark-up of spatial textual features, such as paragraphs, indented verse, footnotes etc..

The Interface

In order to preserve the authenticity of the facsimile texts, the interface that suited our needs was one that did not impose hypertext links directly onto these images, but rather placed the hyperlinks beside the text, on the right-hand side of the screen, parallel to the pertinent word or phrase. These editorial links are not displayed as text; rather, in the interests of concision, an icon indicates which type of hypertext note (e.g. whether it concerns People, Places or Works) is available to the user, with a 'mouse-over' facility to display the title of the note should there be any uncertainty about the destination of these links (e.g. if there were more than one of a given category of note in a given line).

Creation of Resources

To adapt the facsimiles of the various editions of the printed book into this format, we needed three types of information: first, electronic versions of the texts containing mark-up indicating page and line breaks; second, the desired location and type of each note (which edition, page and line it belongs to) and which kind of note it is (e.g. People, Places or Works); finally we need to know the pixel co-ordinates of each individual line of text in each image (for 2,500 pages, that is around 100,000 sets of co-ordinates).

The electronic text

The electronic text is being produced by hand-checking OCR-generated versions of specific editions. A manually-generated collation of all editions is also being produced. This has been entered into a database, and this information is automatically compared with the various OCR-generated electronic versions. Mismatches between the various versions/collations and lists of note titles are then investigated and resolved manually.

Note identification

The identification of the location and type of hypertext links is achieved through codes associated with each note that contributors to the edition integrate into their submissions. These codes were established before any notes were written, but as the sequence of the notes is of importance within the automation process, we built into the code enough flexibility to allow us to add additional notes later while still maintaining the relationship between the linear succession of notes and the alphanumeric sequence of the codes.

Locating the pixel references within the images

We found Java the most suitable language for analysing images. First we wrote a program to straighten and crop the scans automatically. Once correctly aligned, the program then analyses the average colour values of horizontal lines of pixels to distinguish one line of text from the white space that follows it. The co-ordinates of each line of text are identified in this way and recorded in a database. Other procedures extend this paradigm.

Constructing the interface

The program loads in a page of facsimile, and ascertains whether there are any hyperlinking icons required for that page. By combining the information from the note identification codes and the electronic texts, the program can paste the appropriate icon(s) next to the appropriate lines of text and give them the desired functionality. A similar process allows context-specific information about collation to be pasted onto the right-hand side of the facsimile.


These tools are fairly flexible, and could be adapted to most printed material where appropriate (several projects have expressed an interest in utilising some of the tools we are developing). As this kind of procedure becomes increasingly straightforward, it can be envisaged that the pixel co-ordinates of any line (or word, or even letter) of a text could become a generally accepted aspect of mark-up for the digital scholarly edition (using the <MILESTONE> tag, for instance, and/or extended pointers). Certainly through automating and formalising the linking of the word to its original physical image, it will become possible to historicise electronic texts in an immediate and unambiguous way. Through integrating this analysis with mark up, we can facilitate a host of bibliographic analyses of texts that place 'traditional' modalities of scholarly work right at the centre of humanities computing.

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Conference Info

In review


Hosted at University of Glasgow

Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom

July 21, 2000 - July 25, 2000

104 works by 187 authors indexed

Affiliations need to be double-checked.

Conference website:

Series: ALLC/EADH (27), ACH/ICCH (20), ACH/ALLC (12)

Organizers: ACH, ALLC

  • Keywords: None
  • Language: English
  • Topics: None