A New Form of Data Mining

This past week, Johns Hopkins University hosted an international colloquium “Philology, History, Theory: Rethinking the New Medievalism” in honor of Stephen G. Nichols. The French Embassy, The Fritz Thyssen Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation also provided support for the colloquium. Over the course of three days, I had the stimulating opportunity to interact with several scholars, some of whom are experts on the Roman de la Rose. During a rare opportunity to view a few of the treasures from the Walters Art Museum’s manuscript collection, I overhead Will Noel and Howard Bloch discussing digital manuscripts. They mentioned that digital images allow us to examine details that are not otherwise discernible. Bloch mentioned that there are details in facial expressions that “must have been painted with a brush of a single hair”. Noel noted that these artistic expressions must have been personal in nature, rather than intended for viewers of the manuscript. Bloch cited artwork on the top of cathedrals as another example.

I find it thoroughly exciting that now we might view these personal artistics expressions that have been hidden for so long. Through the Roman de la Rose Digital Library, we have an unprecedented opportunity to figuratively climb to the top of the cathedral.

Foliation errors in Senshu 3 and BnF, fr. 12595

Two foliation errors have been found in the current display.

Sylvia Huot observed that Senshu University, MS 3, is numbered incorrectly from folio 76r to about folio 146r. The current site displays folio 75r twice (once following 74v and once again following 75v). After this repeated image all verso folios are correct but recto folios are off by one. Sylvia Huot has generously offered to solve this problem during her coming visit to Senshu University.

While finalizing the codicological description of BnF, fr. 12595, Timothy Stinson observed that folio 30 is missing in the original exemplar. The current folio 30r in the Rose Digital Library is actually folio 31r in the codex. All foliation afterwards is therefore off by one.

These problems will be solved as soon as possible.

Roman de la Rose launch celebration

To celebrate the launch of the new Roman de la Rose Digital Library, the production team held a small party in the offices of the Library Digital Programs in the Milton S. Eisenhower Library on the Johns Hopkins University campus in Baltimore. After brief remarks from project leaders Stephen Nichols and Sayeed Choudhury, everyone enjoyed cake and champagne.

The new digital library includes more content and many new features not available on the previous Roman de la Rose site. Subscribe to this blog for more information on expanded content and new services.

Welcome – Bienvenue

Welcome to the official Roman de la Rose Digital Library blog. The development of the Roman de la Rose poem begins with Guillaume de Lorris around 1230 and continues with Jean de Meun approximately forty years later. During the next few centuries, the poem was written, re-written, annotated, illustrated, and interpretated by a distributed community of individuals. While web-based technologies may be heralding a new movement of collaboration and sharing, we sometimes forget that there are prominent examples of such interaction from history. The Roman de la Rose was pre-Web 2.0.

In a fundamental way, everything old is new again. Our guiding force and leading scholar, Stephen G. Nichols, has observed how the development of this Digital Library emulated the creation of physical manuscripts in the medieval scriptorium. He has also noted that while the production process may seem familiar, the similarities end at that point. The Roman de la Rose Digital Library offers an unprecedented opportunity to interact with these rich treasures. The Digital Library offers additional content, a new design, and enhanced functionality. More importantly, it represents a major shift from viewing digitized manuscripts as surrogates toward a data-centric view. The Library offers interaction that is possible only in the digital realm. We have not attempted to build a structure, but rather scaffolding that offers enough of an environment to navigate without constraining or inhibiting potential use. Jean de Meun, Guillaume de Lorris, and anyone else who contributed to the poem may have never realized the long-term impact of their efforts. We hope that we are embarking on a similar journey with the launch of the Roman de la Rose Digital Library.

While we note the exciting possibilities, we are also reminded of the importance of tradition. At one of our planning meetings, Howard Bloch rightly mentioned his concerns that scholarship and investigation of these manuscripts may become completely lexcial. Based on this type of feedback, we developed the page turning functionality and other features that allow one to emulate–and augment–the reading room experience. This combination of content and tools that both excite human senses and provide a foundation for machine processing represent the hallmarks of the Digital Library. We invite you to join the community and become part of the story that will unfold.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to the individual and organizations that have contributed to this resource. Several scholars and advisers have offered guidance that has been critical toward the development of the Digital Library. During the first phase of the project, the Ameritech Library Services, the Getty Grant Program, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, and the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation provided funding. Only with the generosity and expertise of curators at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, the Morgan Library & Museum in New York, and the Bodleian Library in Oxford, as well as the valuable input of the scholarly community, was the first phase site made possible.

Most recently, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation provided the funding to develop the Roman de la Rose Digital Library and the Bibliothèque nationale de France offered access to all 126 publicly held Roman de la Rose manuscripts in France. Finally, the digital library team at the Sheridan Libraries at Johns Hopkins University deserves tremendous credit for bringing this vision into reality. Their technological creation is a poetic act. All of these individuals’ and organizations’ contributions have made this Digital Library possible.

Your contributions will sustain and develop it over time.