An Introduction to Digital Manuscript Studies

workshop / tutorial
  1. 1. Elena Pierazzo

    Université Stendhal Grenoble III (Stendhal University)

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An Introduction to Digital Manuscript Studies


Université Stendhal Grenoble III, France

Peter Anthony

King's College London


Paul Arthur, University of Western Sidney

Locked Bag 1797
Penrith NSW 2751
Paul Arthur

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Pre-Conference Workshop and Tutorial (Round 2)

manuscript studies
digital editing

encoding - theory and practice
medieval studies
scholarly editing
digitisation - theory and practice

Description and Rationale
This workshop will teach both the theory and practice of working with manuscripts in the Digital Age. The purpose is to provide a taster of core DH theories and practice which have been tailored specifically to people working with manuscripts. Theoretical discussions will focus on the impact of digital technology on manuscript studies, and practical sessions will address the use of TEI XML to prepare editions of texts and catalogues of manuscripts, also providing a brief introduction to the digital imaging of books and documents. The programme thereby presents a condensed version of the highly successful ‘Medieval and Modern Manuscript Studies in the Digital Age’, which is a five­day intensive course that has been run in the United Kingdom since 2009 (


As noted above, the teaching method will combine both theoretical and practical components. This principle – that theory and practice are interdependent and that neither can be taught without the other – is fundamental to the design of MMSDA (and, indeed, of Digital Humanities more generally) and will be included here as well. The workshop will therefore consists of approximately one third theoretical lectures on the impact of the digital on manuscript studies, one third XML practice, and one third theory and practice of digital images. This pedagogical approach is unusual but has proved to be highly successful and has been discussed in peer­reviewed publications (Stokes 2011; Mahony and Pierazzo 2012).
The workshop will address the requirements of people working with material from the medieval through contemporary periods, and examples will therefore be drawn from the early and ‘high’ Middle Ages, the Renaissance, Reformation and Counter­Reformation, through to the twentieth century. It is therefore suitable to a wide range of participants and also enables comparative discussion of different types of manuscript material from different dates. Such a range of material is covered by the expertise of the instructors and has proven to be a very successful mix in MMSDA, a programme which to our knowledge is the only one to present this content for those working with modern manuscripts.
Experience has demonstrated a very substantial need for training in manuscript studies in a digital context. This is manifested in numerous existing programmes in Europe: examples include not only MMSDA but also DiXiT, SCRIPTO, Quadrivium, the Digital Scholarly Editions for Medievalists workshops in Leeds, the Autumn Schools run at the University of Ghent, and workshops run by COST Action IS1005 (‘Medioevo Europeo: Medieval Cultures and Technological Resources’). MMSDA alone receives well over 100 applicants every year, including many enquiries from outside Europe which we have not been able to support because of restrictions imposed by the funding body. Indeed, we are aware of very few
training programmes of this sort outside Europe. Although training in TEI is now relatively widespread, it is much rarer to find this tailored to the specific needs of manuscript studies, particularly in digital editing and cataloguing, and especially for such a chronological range. The famously extensive TEI Guidelines cover these topics in some detail, but their size means that specific training is also needed alongside general introductions to the principles. Furthermore, the combination of both theory and practice that this workshop provides has proven unusual and extremely popular, particularly in a format that is tuned specifically to the needs of those working with manuscripts. The target audience is students in the Humanities, for which theory is necessary and welcome, but the emphasis is also on providing the practical skills that they need and want in order to complete their work and to prepare them for the digital scholarly environment in which they will inevitably work.
The workshop will start with a theoretical introduction to the impact of digital technologies in disciplines connected to manuscripts such as editing, codicology and paleography. A particular emphasis will be placed on evaluating the impact of digital facsimiles on teaching and research, and the methodological shifts that these have induced. We will then introduce participants to the principles and then practice of XML and TEI. It is beyond the scope of the workshop to provide a thorough overview of such technologies; we will therefore concentrate on those aspects that will enable the participants to transcribe, describe and encode a manuscript. The teaching will cover documentary aspects such as corrections, substitutions and page layout, as well as an introduction to the building of a critical apparatus. Toward the end of the first day we will start to introduce the TEI model for manuscript description and cataloguing, a topic that participants can continue on their own in the evening and which will be discussed again on the second day. Here again we will cover only the most important features for manuscript studies, providing the starting point for further investigations that the participants will be able to undertake by themselves after the end of the workshop. We will conclude with an introduction to principles of digital images and image manipulation, in order to help participants learn basic principles such as capture, resolution and colour depth, and to use these in techniques such as enhancement, revealing faded writing and helping to identify differences in inks and pigments. The workshop will therefore provide the participants with a basic toolkit that enables them to engage in active work with manuscripts and, if appropriate, to proceed to more in­depth techniques either by studying themselves or through further training events.
This workshop is sponsored by DiXiT, the ‘Digital Scholarly Editions Initial Training Network’, which is a Marie Curie International Training Network with ten Full and eighteen Associated partner institutions (

); it is funded by the European Union


Framework Programme (FP7)

grant agreement n° 317436
. As well as providing financial support, DiXiT also provides a substantial body of expertise and experience which will be drawn upon in the design and implementation of this workshop.

S. Mahony and E. Pierazzo. 2012 'Teaching skills or teaching methodology'.
Digital humanities pedagogy: practices, principles and politics. Brett D. Hirsch (ed.), Cambridge: OpenBook Publishers, pp. 215­225.

P.A. Stokes. 2011. ‘Teaching Manuscripts in the “Digital Age”’.
Kodikologie und Paläographie im Digitalen Zeitalter 2 — Codicology and Palaeography in the Digital Age 2. F. Fischer et al. (ed). Norderstedt: Books on Demand, pp. 229–45.


29 June
9:30­10:30 Introduction:
● The impact of the digital on manuscript studies
● The impact of the digital on codicology and paleography;
● The impact of the digital on editing
● Introduction to XML
● Introduction to TEI
● Text editing in practice
● Manuscript description and cataloguing
30 June
● Continuation: Manuscript description and cataloguing (discussion of homework problems)
● Introduction to imaging; image enhancement and virtual restoration
Elena Pierazzo: Professor of Italian Studies and Digital Humanities, University ‘Stendhal’ Grenoble III; Visiting Senior Research Fellow, Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London.
email: elena.pierazzo@u­
Research interests: My research interests rotate around editing and digital editing, with a focus on modern draft manuscripts. I also research on text encoding in general and in particular as a tool for textual scholarship. My interests include italian studies, and in particular Renaissance and Modern Italian Philology.
Peter Stokes: Senior Lecturer, Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London.

Research interests: My research interests rotate around Palaeography and manuscript studies, but they extend to include Digital Humanities, particularly the application of digital tools and techniques to palaeography and manuscript studies; Medieval studies, early medieval history; Old English, Latin language and literature.
Target audience and expected number of participants:
The workshop is aimed at PhD students and Early Career researchers whose current or planned future work involves manuscript studies and who are curious about the impact of digital technologies on this area of research. No previous computing knowledge is required apart from general IT literacy (browsing, emailing, word processing etc.). Applications will be particularly welcome from those who do not have the resources to attend MMSDA or equivalent courses in Europe or North America. We aim at a maximum of 20 participants since the hand­on approach often requires close support from instructors.

Special requirements for technical support:

A data projector; internet access for all participants; participants are required to bring their own laptops. Participants will have to pre­install the following software onto their laptops:
­ oXygen (
): a multiplatform XML editor which comes with a

30­days free trial licence
­ GIMP (
): free multiplatform software for image manipulation

Intended length:
One and a half days.
Depending on the cost of the rooms and any other extra costs required by the Local Organisers, we may be able to hold it for free, or ask for a small fee from the participants. DiXiT will cover the costs of the instructors and can also provide up about to $700 AUD for additional local costs.
Participation and Selection Process
We will have an open call for participation to open as soon as we receive notification that the workshop has been successful (expected to be 28th of February). The call will close on the
10th of April; applicants will be notified by the 15th of April in order to benefit from the ‘early bird’ registration fee. In case of further availability after that date, we will then re­open applications to latecomers. In this way we intend to fill all the slots, but also accommodate those who wish to take full advantage of early registration.
The Program Committee to choose the participants are:
● Elena Pierazzo
● Peter Stokes
● James Cummings (University of Oxford)
● Marjorie Burghart (École des Haute Études en Sciences Sociales, Lyon)
● Franz Fischer (University of Cologne)

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Conference Info


ADHO - 2015
"Global Digital Humanities"

Hosted at Western Sydney University

Sydney, Australia

June 29, 2015 - July 3, 2015

280 works by 609 authors indexed

Series: ADHO (10)

Organizers: ADHO