BIBLION. A DATA PROCESSING SYSTEM FOR THE ANALYSIS OF MEDIEVAL MANUSCRIPTS
An important issue when studying humanities is to supply students with a large and straightforward access to original materials from the related periods that they can freely examine, browse, search and analyse. This is even more crucial when studying medieval manuscripts. However, offering students with a direct access to original manuscripts is impossible for a lot of reasons. Digitized copies of manuscripts are nowadays widely available in various formats and offer a preliminary solution to the problem. Our purpose is to devise a system to collect and annotate medieval manuscripts data that goes further than simply providing access to digitized copies of the manuscripts’ sheets or even to the cataloguing of manuscripts with available formats such as the Text Encoding Initiative.
BIBLION permits entering, researching and consulting any kind of data about Italian Giant Bibles and Manuscripts. Moreover, the system allows comparative analysis between manuscripts. They are described and annotated at various levels of details from the most global to the most local. BIBLION is setup as a social network in order to aggregate in a single and common place all the efforts from the experts worldwide.
The Italian Giant Bibles constitute a distinctive manuscripts family in format, text and decoration, produced in the centre of Italy in 11th and 12th centuries. Researches have identified more than 140 complete or fragmentary specimens, which are preserved in libraries worldwide.
BIBLION seeks two main purposes: first, it aims at collecting in a systematic and organised way descriptive data and images about palaeographical, ornamental and textual characteristics of this type of giant manuscripts; second, it is built to organize and manage these data on the entire manuscripts family, or on a specific group of them, and to allow information queries and comparative analysis of geographically distant copies.
The system consists of a database and software for entering, consulting and researching data and images. Data is stored in a relational database, which uses the standard cataloguing parameters: identification, dating, origin, dimensions, structure, quire, sheet, layout, scribes, ornamentation, content, marginal notes, bibliography etc.
Through the authentication process, the data entered in the database are certified by the cataloguers. Nevertheless, the general public is allowed to consult generic information, in order to avoid that the knowledge of medieval literature, preserved into libraries, remains secluded.
The users can make a plain text or faceted search, which allows querying the database based on different criteria defined in advance. Predefined queries have been defined to provide answers to the most common questions researchers typically face. For more advanced and power users it is also possible to create their own queries and make them available to the community.
With BIBLION, we plan to build a specialized network of Universities and research centres focused on Giant Bibles and Manuscripts studies. By BIBLION Network, researchers can share and disseminate their study results at an international scale. They can thereby collect, view and compare data and images on manuscripts preserved worldwide, access to which is often difficult. It will therefore provide an invaluable repository for medieval manuscripts studies.