Archive for the ‘Digital projects’ Category

The Parker Library is pleased to invite you to a symposium celebrating the launch of its newly redesigned digital platform. The conference will be an occasion to reflect on the impact of the digital humanities on manuscript studies, bringing together graduate students, researchers, and library professionals who work with or on manuscript books.

Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors, attendance at the conference is free of charge. The complete programme is available for download here. To register, please email us directly at parker-library@corpus.cam.ac.uk.

Parker 2.0 programme

We look forward to seeing you there!


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MS 161, f. 1r (JPEG)

Corpus Christi College Cambridge MS 161, f. 1r.

The Parker Library is pleased to invite contributions to a symposium celebrating the launch of its newly redesigned online platform. It will be an occasion to reflect on the impact of the digital humanities on manuscript studies, bringing together graduate students, researchers, and library professionals who work with or on manuscript books.


Thanks to a collaboration with Stanford University, Parker Library on the Web 2.0 will be live in January 2018, presenting new features such as IIIF compatibility, user-based transcription bubbles, a Mirador interface allowing comparison with other digitised resources, and an updated Zotero-linked bibliography accompanying each manuscript. The website will also be released under a Creative-Commons Non-Commercial Licence, meaning that all of the images provided on Parker Library on the Web 2.0 will be free for download and personal study.


MS 20, f. 16v (detail, JPEG)

Corpus Christi College Cambridge MS 20, f. 16v.

To weigh the potential and the implications of such a platform, the symposium will address questions about the methodologies used in the study of medieval manuscripts,how digitised surrogates and online tools influence our understanding of material objects, book circulation, and textual transmission, and how digital initiatives assist in the curation and preservation of physical collections. Whilst we encourage papers focusing on Parker manuscripts, we warmly welcome proposals discussing material hosted on similar platforms, such as (but not limited to) the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Biblissima, and the Digital Bodleian.

The symposium will take place in the Parker Library itself on 16th March 2018, and will feature an exhibition on some of its most famous treasures. Proposals of a maximum of 500 words for 20-minute papers should be submitted to Carlotta Barranu (cb841@cam.ac.uk) by 15th January 2018.



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Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to be focusing on various digital projects and resources both old and new which incorporate data concerning one or more manuscripts from the Parker Library collection.

Image from CCCC MS 389, f.1v

Image from CCCC MS 389, f.1v

The DigiPal Project is one of the most exciting digital medieval projects around  – and it uses lots of images from our manuscripts. In fact, you can see one on the header of their website.

It’s based at the Department of Digital Humanities in King’s College London and the Project Director is Dr Peter Stokes who has worked extensively on many of the Anglo-Saxon manuscripts in the Parker Library. DigiPal is a palaeographical resource based on digital images of manuscripts or documents but incorporating many types of annotation and detailed description of the hands, texts and manuscripts and (when it’s complete) several different ways of interrogating, organising and displaying the information.

The test case is eleventh-century Anglo-Saxon vernacular script but there are other projects working with DigiPal to apply its tools and methodologies to documents far removed from this in time and place, including cuneiform tablets and Hebrew manuscripts.

The project runs to autumn 2014 but the web resource has just been updated and it’s definitely worth having a look at their progress.

You can run a search to show all the manuscripts from the Parker Library in their database (and there are a lot of them!).

Several folios have been intensively annotated. Here’s f. 29v of CCCC MS 173 (the entry for 993 in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle):

CCC MS 173, f. 29v annotated by DigiPal

CCC MS 173, f. 29v annotated by DigiPal

As the yellow squares indicate, the annotations are applied at the level of individual allographs (particular forms of individual letters or symbols). It’s possible to select an individual highlighted allograph and see its detailed description:

Annotation of individual letter 'f'

Annotation of individual letter ‘f’

Here you can see that three components are identified and described for the insular ‘f’ of ‘forhergedon’ – the descender, the hook and the tongue.

Annotated examples of 'f'

Annotated examples of ‘f’

Selecting ‘Annotations by allograph’ allows you to see all the annotated examples of ‘f’  by that particular hand. Eventually it will be possible to do both visual and verbal searches and compare allographs across the whole corpus or selected portions of it. It will also be possible to plot the frequency of particular letter forms or display them on a timeline.

For more on the current status of the DigiPal Project, follow their blog or take a look at Research Associate Dr Stewart Brookesrecent presentation at the launch of British Library Labs.

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Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to be focusing on various digital projects and resources both old and new which incorporate data concerning one or more manuscripts from the Parker Library collection.

The first project is one that’s just gone live, Cyfraith Hywel (the Laws of Hywel Dda), a resource for the study of medieval Welsh law created by Dr Sara Elin Roberts and Bryn Jones. The system of Welsh law was distinct from English common law and from canon law. According to tradition, it was first codified in the reign of Hywel Dda (Hywel the Good) (ca. 880-950), described as ‘king of all Wales’ since he came to rule a large area of the country through conquest and marriage. In fact, although the law codes bear his name, there’s no real evidence to connect any particular text or section of Welsh law with Hywel Dda and none of the extant manuscript date from his reign.

Cyfraith Hywel lists 41 manuscripts, most in Welsh and some in Latin, the oldest of which date to the early or mid 13th century. Most of them are housed in the National Library of Wales, including one that was bought at auction last year, but one copy is held in the Parker Library. The manuscript history is a complex one with various redactions and sections, all of which are set out in the digital resource. Although the Statute of Rhuddlan in 1284 declared that English law was to be used instead of Welsh in criminal cases in Wales, Welsh law continued to be used in civil cases until the 1530s. The section illustrated below discusses the value of wild and tame animals for compensation purposes. The text carried on being copied and used, as the Parker Library copy of the Laws of Hywel Dda attests.

Laws of Hywel Dda (CCCC MS 454, f. 24v)

Laws of Hywel Dda (CCCC MS 454, f. 24v)

CCCC MS 454 is a Latin version of the text (Latin E) produced in the early fifteenth century in North Wales, probably in Denbighshire. It’s a small pocket-sized volume (17.5cm tall) and it seems likely that it was the working copy of a legal professional. Its flyleaves contain notes in Welsh and Latin about various cases including robbery and the circumstances for dissolving a marriage.

It might seem strange that a copy of a medieval Welsh law book would end up in the possession of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker, in the 1560s. However, it must be remembered that Parker and his circle were extremely interested in Anglo-Saxon law, not just as antiquarians but in order to seek evidence of precedents for Reformation policies. It seems a similar intent fueled some of the sixteenth-century interest in the Laws of Hywel Dda, as Parker’s copy of the text makes clear.

Titlepage of Ban wedy i dynny (CCCC MS 4544, f. 1ar)

Titlepage of Ban wedy i dynny (CCCC MS 4544, f. 1ar)

Bound in at the front of the manuscript is a pamphlet printed in 1550 and entitled Ban wedy i dynny. This remarkable document is the one of the earliest Welsh publications of any kind, the first pamphlet to be printed in Welsh and the first bilingual Welsh-English publication. And its subject? An argument in favour of married priests, drawing on precedents that it claims are laid down in the Laws of Hywel Dda, with extensive quotation from the medieval text. Although the pamphlet is anonymous, it’s generally believed to have been written by William Salesbury, the great translator and Welsh Protestant humanist, editor of the first printed English-Welsh dictionary and Welsh New Testament. It’s been suggested that Salesbury himself might have sent the manuscript and the pamphlet to Parker. A volume of Parker’s correspondence in the library includes a letter from Salesbury dated 19 March 1565 which discusses the issue of clerical marriage and quotes a passage in Latin on the topic from another medieval Welsh source.

Letter from William Salesbury to Matthew Parker (CCCC MS 114, p. 491)

Letter from William Salesbury to Matthew Parker (CCCC MS 114, p. 491)


Robin Flower, ‘William Salesbury, Richard Davies and Archbishop Parker’, National Library of Wales Journal 2 (1941-42), 7-14.

Christine James ‘Ban wedy i dynny: Medieval Welsh Law and Early Protestant Propaganda’, Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies 27 (1994), 61-86.

For a popular introduction to medieval Welsh law, see this BBC website article.

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It’s well-known that Matthew Parker did more than just collect books and manuscripts. He lent and borrowed, read and studied, had them copied, collated and edited, disbound and rebound. And of course, there’s plentiful physical evidence for all these practices in the books themselves.

Perhaps the clearest evidence of the ways in which Parker’s books were used and read lies in the numerous annotations, underlinings and pointing hands added to the manuscripts by Parker himself and by other members of his circle. Writing about the annotations in 1953, C. E. Wright suggested that ‘a careful and exhaustive study of these is long overdue’.

Flyleaf of CCCC MS 389

Flyleaf of CCCC MS 389

Here’s the flyleaf of CCCC MS 389, a late tenth-century copy of the Lives of St Paul the hermit and of St Guthlac. A fourteenth-century hand has added a note of ownership, ‘Liber sancti Augustini Cant.’, that is, St Augustine’s Abbey in Canterbury. Below that, in his distinctive red chalk, Parker has correctly observed, ‘Hic liber scriptus ante conquestum’ (‘This book was written before the Conquest’).

Much work has been done in the sixty years since Wright, in particular by the former Fellow Librarian, R. I. Page and by Professor Timothy Graham, both of whom had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time in the Parker Library. But now, the availability of digital images of all the manuscripts makes it possible for scholars around the world to conduct such research.

The library recently hosted a workshop for an ongoing research project called Parker’s Scribes led by Professor Alexandra Gillespie of the University of Toronto and Professor Simon Horobin of the University of Oxford. The project aims to create an index of all the sixteenth-century annotations in Parker’s manuscripts in the library. They hope to identify the individual hands, both well-known members of Parker’s circle such as John Joscelyn, Stephen Bateman and John Stow and scribes whose names are now lost. The digital images of these scribal hands in Parker Library manuscripts will later serve as useful reference points in attempting to trace these scholars’ annotations in other manuscripts and printed books.

Here’s Simon Horobin (left) and Alex Gillespie (seated) together with members of the project’s Advisory Board (Paul Patterson, Lawrence Warner, Michelle Warren, Jeffrey Todd Knight ) looking at some annotations in a Parker Library book.

Parker's Scribes project visit

Parker’s Scribes project visit

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We had a visit this week from various early medievalists from the University of Leicester who came to see some of our Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, as well as the early medieval coins in the Fitzwilliam Museum.

Leicester medievalists

Leicester medievalists

Several of the group were part of the ground-breaking interdisciplinary project, The Impact of Diasporas on the Making of Britain: evidence, memories, inventions. Although some of them are scholars of early medieval history or historical linguistics and thus very familiar with our manuscripts, other members of the team have backgrounds in population genetics, social psychology and archaeology. Looking at our manuscripts and understanding the context in which they were made, written, read and circulated plays a part in their wider investigations into British history and identity in the first millennium AD.

Leicester medievalists examining a Wulfstan manuscript

Leicester medievalists examining a Wulfstan manuscript

The project started in January 2011 and runs for 5 years.

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On Friday 9 September we hosted a very successful conference on ‘Text, image and the digital environment’ organised by Dr Satoko Tokunaga of the Faculty of Letters at Keio University who has also been a Visiting Fellow at Corpus this year. Satoko put together a really interesting programme and I thought it might be helpful to record a few notes about the papers on the blog.

The opening papers by Giles Bergel and Kiyoko Myojo addressed theoretical questions concerning the materiality of the text, distinctions between a text and a document, the process of copying, the nature of authorship, and the relationships between print and handwriting and between digital reproductions and original artefacts. Giles Bergel, whose research focuses on the long eighteenth century, illustrated his arguments with examples of lettering printed from engraved plates, including elaborately inscribed frontispieces and writing manuals which presented a scribal exemplar for students to copy. Kiyoko Myojo examined the textual history of the works of Franz Kafka, whose manuscripts were heavily edited by his literary executor Max Brod, and the potential benefits of digital editions.

In the next session, Satoko and Takako Kato described a new project that they are launching called ‘Caxton and Beyond’ which will provide a new census of individual copies of texts printed by William Caxton. They already have some interesting work on the rubrication of the various copies and plan to use the TEI Manuscript Description module, drawing upon Takako’s experience of using it for the Production and Use of English Manuscripts 1060-1220 project. James Cummings, a member of the TEI Technical Council, alluded to this in his Prezi talk concerning some upcoming developments in TEI. Since many people are using the Manuscript Description module to describe items that are not (or not wholly) manuscripts, a new TypeDesc tag is being added to the module, among other new features.

In the afternoon sessions, two ongoing projects and two libraries reported on their digital activities. Ben Albritton and Rob Sanderson talked about their Mellon-funded project which focuses on the development of interoperable tools which can be used to interact with texts and images held in various manuscript digitization projects, including Parker on the Web. These tools, using the Shared Canvas model, allow users to work with images from different collections side by side, including cool tools for working with medieval maps and transcription and annotation tools. Take a look at T-PEN on YouTube.

Peter Stokes talked about what palaeographers might want to do with digital images of manuscript pages and his Digital Palaeography project which is working with images of eleventh-century Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, including many from the Parker Library manuscripts.

DigiPal Project Homepage

(Note the image of St Jerome receiving inspiration on their homepage from CCCC MS 389.)

In the final session of the day, Joanna  Fronska of the British Library talked about the Royal Manuscripts project and the ongoing work to integrate data from the Digital Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts with the Digitised Manuscripts. The Royal project is both a cataloguing project and the opportunity to research and present an exhibition. Joanna gave us some tantalising details about what looks like being a sumptuous exhibition: Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination. It opens at the BL on 11 Nov and runs until 13 March 2012. No less exciting, particularly for those of us in Cambridge, Grant Young and Huw Jones laid out some of the treats in store with the launch of Cambridge University Library‘s Digital Library Initative. This will offer all sorts of new ways of displaying and interacting with digital versions of many of the library’s treasures. More about this when it launches in a few weeks’ time.

All in all, a great conference. Looking round the room, it seemed that almost everyone was wearing at least two hats – librarians, textual scholars, medievalists, (early) modernists and technical types – which made for a very informed and fruitful discussion.

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