Modelling a Catalogue: Bilingual texts in Tuscan Middle Ages (1260-1430)

poster / demo / art installation
  1. 1. Tiziana Mancinelli

    Università  Ca' Foscari

  2. 2. Antonio Montefusco

    Università  Ca' Foscari

  3. 3. Sara Bischetti

    Università  Ca' Foscari

  4. 4. Maria Conte

    Università  Ca' Foscari

  5. 5. Agnese Macchiarelli

    Università  Ca' Foscari

  6. 6. Marcello Bolognari

    Università  Ca' Foscari

Work text
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This poster introduces a domain-specific ontology built for a catalogue conceived for the study of multilingualism in a medieval context. The catalogue is a final outcome of a systematic investigation from a five-years project of various literary documents which circulated simultaneously in more than one language in Tuscany, and especially Florence, between the mid-13
th century and the beginning of the 15
th century. The conceptual model for this catalogue may serve as a model for the study of similar processes in other language regions.

How to make a model for social history of medieval translations?
“At no time in the history of the West has translation played a more vital role than in the Middle Ages” (Jeanette Beer, 1989). Translation of texts was an important cultural universe in Italy and throughout Europe. Translation from Latin to the vernacular (“volgarizzamento”) – Italian, French, etc. – was only one possible way to enlarge the audience for an important selection of texts. At the same time, a number of texts were transferred from the vernacular to Latin (“latinizzazione”), and finally, a smaller group of works were conceived and written in two languages (such as rhetorical manuals and exceptional literary works like Francesco da Barberino’s
Documenta Amoris). The multilingual landscape of Tuscany and Florence in particular, presents an ideal corpus for a case study to understand both the social role of translation in a Medieval context and the development of Humanism. Consequently, thanks to a huge amount of data about translation, circulation of texts and cultural actors in such a unique context, this project instigates new questions about the intellectual history of the Late Middle Ages: What is the social role of translation? Who are the translators? In what way have bilingual texts been conceived, and disseminated?

The challenge of data modeling of translations and their manuscripts in the Middle Ages
The so-called Biflow ontology models the intellectual approach taken by the researchers investigating this corpus of bilingual texts. It will contribute to a better understanding of the circulation of texts and the evolution and the transmission of knowledge in Italy and in Europe. The Biflow ontology maps out two main realms that are clearly distinct from each other: firstly, the linguistic and literary aspects (including language, genre, authorship, etc.); secondly, the material and historical characteristics of the manuscripts in which the texts are present. Built in RDF/OWL, this tool can also be expanded to all standards of Semantic Web. In order to handle the heterogeneity of all these features, we define classes and properties that extends other formal ontologies already in existence such as FRBR, FOAF and CIDOC-CRM. The model also defines further specific classes and properties related to manuscripts inspired by the manuscript model of
Biblissima project.

The Biflow ontology allows us to model important aspects of traditions of text and manuscript production and their interrelationships, as well as the prosopography of the people involved as authors, translators or copyists. Within the catalogue entries, there are many possible interpretations of the use of geographical place names and dates - phenomena covered by CIDOC-CRM. The modeling begins with the dossiers compiled by the researchers. Each dossier concerns a text and its tradition of translation and dissemination in various manuscripts. The ontology models this by defining a work class with two main subclasses:
manuscript and
subwork – corresponding to the two realms. Subwork is defined by a language, translator, etc. and, most importantly, with a property called derivedFrom which maps out a genealogy of
subworks. As in the
Biblissima model, the class manuscript, which comprises a variety of elements, is a single instance of a subclass of
frbroo:F4 manifestation singleton. This defines unique physical objects and is connected to the
subwork class. The poster will not only present the Biflow ontology and catalogue (incl. API) but also examples of the dossiers that have already been completed.


Bischetti S., Lodone, M., Lorenzi, C., Montefusco A. (eds) (in press).
Toscana bilingue. Per una storia sociale del tradurre medievale, Berlin: De Gruyter.

Pasin, M., Bradley, J. (2015). Factoid-based prosopography and computer ontologies: towards an integrated approach
. Literary and Linguistic Computing, 30, 1, pp. 86–97,

Lourdi, I., Papatheodorou, C., Doerr, M. (2009).
Semantic Integration of Collection Description: Combining CIDOC/CRM and Dublin Core Collections Application Profile,

Bonicel, M., Gehrke, S. (2015). Biblissima and Data Modelling. EuropeanaTech Insight, 2.

Charbonnier, P., Frunzeanu, E., Gehrke, S., Muffat, M. (2015).
Biblissima's Prototype on Medieval Manuscript Illuminations and their Context.

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Conference Info

In review

ADHO - 2019

Hosted at Utrecht University

Utrecht, Netherlands

July 9, 2019 - July 12, 2019

436 works by 1162 authors indexed

Series: ADHO (14)

Organizers: ADHO