Easy Tools for Difficult Texts

The Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands and the COST Action IS1005 “Medieval Europe” on 18 and 19 april 2013 organized a two-day workshop gathering a number of experts in methodologies and tool creation around the complex issue of transferring medieval manuscripts to a digital medium.

“Easy Tools for Difficult Texts?”

Medieval manuscripts and codices are notoriously difficult to convince to become well behaved inhabitants of the digital scholarly ecosystem. Meanwhile over the last decades many digital local computerized services, web based tools, and stand alone applications have been developed to create, publish, and analyze digital representations of manuscript and printed text. Although such tools have been trying to accommodate for medieval manuscripts –and sometimes were even solely developed for that purpose– a true convenient and intuitive means of re-representing medieval text in the digital medium seems elusive. The nature of medieval texts –ambiguous, uncertain, instable, often of unknown origin and descent, of puzzling function and context, damaged, fragmented, still unconventional in their multiplicity of form, format, language, orthography, typography, and script– poses an ultimate challenge to creators and users of digital tools wishing to produce useful and reliable digital counterparts to these medieval sources of knowledge and testimonies of intellectual creativity.

The workshop Easy Tools for Difficult Texts: Manuscripts & Textual Tradition was held at the Huygens Institute in The Hague on 18 and 19 April 2013, it created an overview of the state of the art of tool development, and of the difficulties and extreme requirements medieval manuscript poses to digital methods and techniques.