Monday, September 15, 2008

The Days When Script Was King

New fun site to play with: Digital Scriptorium, hosted by Columbia University. As M.K. Hurley says over at In the Middle, the real value of the online database of manuscript images may be for teachers and students:

it is possible to work on manuscripts in an entirely different way now, even at the student level. Actually teaching graduate students how to read and work with manuscripts is far easier (and, from what it sounds, more pleasant) with the digital technology available on the web, replacing the far more difficult work of transcribing from fax or from a photocopy of the original MS.
But it's also not firewalled, which makes it available to anyone.
It fosters public viewing of materials otherwise available only within libraries. Because it is web-based, it encourages interaction between the knowledge of scholars and the holdings of libraries to build a reciprocal flow of information. Digital Scriptorium looks to the needs of a very diverse community of medievalists, classicists, musicologists, paleographers, diplomatists and art historians. At the same time Digital Scriptorium recognizes the limited resources of libraries; it bridges the gap between needs and resources by means of extensive rather than intensive cataloguing, often based on legacy data, and sample imaging.
Some of the MS scans are a little wonky, but others are mighty good. I was surprised by the detail in Albrecht Durer's "The Resurrection":

I also love this, because (at least I think) it is Francesco Petrarca's handwriting:

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