From Medieval to Millennial in One Week

By Julie Somers

During a very rainy week in April, I was lucky enough to participate in a training workshop on Medieval Manuscripts in the Digital Age. MMSDA is sponsored by The Institute of English Studies, funded jointly by COST and the AHRC, and run in collaboration with King’s College London, the Warburg Institute, and the University of Cambridge. The experience was amazing, inspiring and exhausting. In one week we covered everything from manuscript production to digital representation.

Guided by Peter Stokes, the program began in Cambridge where for two days we were welcomed into the libraries at Corpus Christi College, Trinity College and St. John’s College. Specialists Andrea Worm, Charles Burnett and Hanna Vorholt, among other amazing librarians, showed us a number of remarkable manuscripts from the library collections, such as the Bury Bible, connecting the morning lectures on palaeography and codicology to the physical object.

Please note that all photos of the Bury Bible are Copyright of the Master and Fellows of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

As we moved from Cambridge to London, our topic focus also changed from the archeology of the book to the planning of digital projects. Simon Tanner led an evening lecture on the importance of communication and collaboration between all participants in a project so that digital access to manuscripts can lead to new and efficient research.

In London, we began at the Warburg Institute where Elena Pierazzo and Agostino Paravicini discussed the principles and practices of transcribing and editing manuscripts which led nicely into the next few days of text encoding with TEI and XML held at King’s College London. Since our training consisted of 20 scholars, we had to break into two groups and choose either a visit to the Wellcome Library or Lambeth Palace Library. It was a tough decision, but I chose the Lambeth Library and after a very soggy journey there, we were welcomed by Michelle Brown and a beautiful 9th century gospel book.

As the week came to a close, we spent a lot of time learning the basics of text encoding for medieval manuscripts with Raffaele Viglianti, and how we can apply these techniques to our own PhD research. We came across problems such as how to encode decorations and glosses and tried to solve them by using a new tool called T-Pen. The types of questions we all had illustrated our various interests and really added to the learning experience.

The training ended with a great presentation by Tim Bolton of Sotheby’s, whose enthusiasm for his work is infectious. His main focus was on provenance, bringing us back full circle to the beginning of the week.

Often, the moments where we had to find our way across London and on to the next library felt like the “Amazing Race”, but it was worth every minute. It was a week filled with medieval manuscripts, beautiful libraries and most importantly, new friends.

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