Old books, new technologies - Curious

Old books, new technologies  -  Curious

Show Video

well everybody um welcome to um uh one of our great events in the curious program uh put on by the royal society of edinburgh um i'm very pleased to welcome you to today's webinar uh the rsc as you know is scotland's national academy uh my name is jeremy smith and i have the honor of being one of the fellows in the roc um but i'm not going to be the speaker today yeah we're going to have uh two fantastic speakers who are going to take part in the curious program they are daryl green uh and dr margarita vasquez ponte and they are going to address us on issues to do with book history and the examination of ancient manuscripts and books from edinburgh university i should say before we kick off a couple of words about curious it's going to run from now the 9th of august all the way through to the 27th august online and there's a whole series of events inside some of the world's leading experts um across us a number of themes health and well-being innovation invention our planets and and living with uh co within covid19 very apropos the moment so lots of things underway today um so i'm not going to faff around too much more i'm going to turn around and invite um daryl and margarita to do their presentation there'll be an opportunity for question and answers uh and there's the q because this is a webinar there's a q a button at the bottom of your screen my job will be to monitor that q a button uh and um if any q a has come up uh we'll work our way through it uh so there we go but first of all daryl and margarities are going to do their presentation so the floor is yours daryl uh thanks very much jeremy um it's a pleasure to be here today and thanks very much to the royal society of edinburgh for inviting me uh here to to talk this afternoon uh as uh you all know as you signed up for this event uh the topic of uh today's event is on book history and more specifically how we're using or how we've used technology and how we're using new technology to learn new things about old books this talk emanates from my time certainly as a librarian at a number of different institutions across this country but also pulls in expertise from a number of academics librarians archivists uh fellows of the society who've all contributed to to the field of book history uh in the past 25 years or so uh this top this talk will cover a few things uh we're going to look at ways in which we've used and are implementing new technology to help unlock the the secrets uh that are still in uh old books and and early printed books and manuscripts uh it'll feature uh items from collections from around the world but more specifically a number of collection items from the university of edinburgh's cultural heritage collection and as jeremy mentioned we're going to be supported by my colleague marga who's in the crc uh in our virtual teaching media lab who'll be assisting in live viewing a few collection items as part of this talk so many thanks marco so to to start off um the focus of this talk is is on books and we should we should start with defining what we're talking about with books writing surfaces have been around for um for three or four millennia uh but what we're talking about here is the codex is the folded book the codex probably came into existence in the second century a.d there's early evidence of folded bits of papyrus and certainly we have evidence of codexes from the 4th century so this technology is is the technology of the book of the the codex the bound volume is something that's been with us for going on on 2 000 years and because they're so numerous both manuscripts handwritten books as well as printed books they are one of mankind's most enduring technologies if you think about going into your local bookshop today and pulling a book off the shelf the technology that goes into making that book that you're buying today isn't that different from a book that was made 500 years ago 600 years ago the printed page the folded page the bound volume although the the processes might be a bit different the actual delivery of text to you uh hasn't changed that much so let's uh talk a little bit about um the technology of the book and this is really the kind of the nexus of what we're going to be talking about today is how can we explore uh a history from the perspective of an individual volume this is the pursuit of book historians of historians at large of librarians and archivists a number of different fields use individual volumes or collections or or larger corpus to help tell the story of our progress of our of our history uh the the book we have on the screen here we'll be learning a little bit more about later in the talk is um university of edinburgh's ms-56 this is commonly uh called the celtic salter it's an 11th century psalter it's manuscript it's written by hand it's colored by hand it's made by hands and if we think of the book as this kind of confluence of individual industries individual technologies that helps us as we as we'll start to talk a little bit later so to to make a book like this you need writing services how do you make a writing surface parchment paper papyrus in this case a medieval manuscript uh produced probably in scotland probably in iona is written on parchment that's animal skin that's been stretched and treated uh and prepared by a parchment you have the industry of handwriting and ink making a scribe writes writes the script on the page and is often the one mixing the ink or in some cases mixing the pigment so you have the industry of mixing mixing colors and acquiring the materials you need to make these things you have the the process of making a book i.e taking the gatherings that you've that you've written and sewing them into a bound volume uh and then also to think a little bit about how the book technology has progressed i to go from a book in 11th century which doesn't have a title page or chapter headings or indices to the high middle ages and late middle ages where you have the introduction of things like indexes especially to navigate you know very lengthy legal tracks or liturgical tracks so all these things are kind of coming into this individual cultural heritage item that has moved through time and space and has been collected and moved by different people over time and we should mention here too also the invention or the onset of the printing press in western europe by the middle of the 15th century 1450s the printing press had come on the scene and this was the major leap in the technology of the book we went from individual hand copied books to something that could be reproduced over and over and over again so before the printing press or or after if you were copying out a text from another text the text might be the same i.e what

you're writing down but it's going to look very different might be decorated or undecorated or just a rough copy or with a printing press you can now make multiple copies of the same exact text in the same exact layouts or what we refer to as an addition this changed the way that we thought about making books and really push forwards how books were designed and developed and made over time there's a lot of things i'm glossing over here but what i'd really like to focus in on is reproduction a book a printed book could be reproduced multiple times and have a certain level of veracity what i'd like to to focus on here this book that we've got on the slide here is uh late 17th century book 1681 printed in paris by jean-marion at this time technology for printing uh printing illustrations especially had gotten to a point where we could make an illustration engraving of a historical document and then print it and reproduce it and this was important for two different two different disciplines historians so that you could learn how to read old handwriting and the legal profession because the ability to verify a document that might be presented in front of you to something else was quite complicated if you think about a land claim and the original document ownership document might be 400 miles away 300 miles away but you have a reproduction of a signal so for example just zoom in here so you can see some of the reproductions of notarial marks and sigils that verify that a document was true and real this is the book technology being used in a new way to reproduce what earlier books earlier script look like photography is something that's very interesting uh photography and books have been intertwined since the invention of photography and photography being used to reproduce reproduce books and reproduce items uh is is something that we're going to spin on its heads here in a moment uh so one of the so 1839 is is the year that's kind of the the the coming out year of photography a number of different inventors in france and england invented photographic processes about the same time william henry fox talbot who's co-credited with the negative process inventing the negative process was playing around with these the idea of making multiple copies from one negative before 1839 and what he was doing it with was a book or printed piece of paper so in his library in lake okapi he had a 15th century little printed broadside that he laid on to expose negative paper and then took that negative and shined light through it onto photosensitive paper to create multiple copies of a 15th century document using using photographic processes and so before photography is kind of commercially available or really publicly of notes these chemists these early proto-photographers are playing around with how to reproduce old books and it's not too far of a leap to then go from photographing a book you know creating a 19th century photographer book to a facsimile the kind of thing that you can can see which is hugely crucial for the the the progress of uh humanities to microfilm and microfiche and eventually digital books uh microfilm microficia are very important because for the first time that in fact similes for the first time a scholar didn't have to be in a place where a medieval book was kept at i.e before a facsimile or a microfilm was made available a scholar would have to travel to a library and this could be you know if you're from north america or or southern europe many many weeks to travel to a repository to study books and so this is really kind of unlocking of the humanities happened in the 19th century largely due to these new technologies that were coming into play so reproducing items one of my favorite stories is um about photographic reproduction of books is pre just at the onset of world war ii um just before the blitz really broke out the british library uh did a huge microfilming micro uh micro filming projects of its medieval books for fear that they would be lost in the in the blitz uh they made multiple copies of the microfilms and sent them to national repositories um so national de france uh to a library of congress uh so on and so forth uh and then put the the books in safekeeping and hope that they survived the books thankfully survived the blitz but also the microfilms did too and it meant that for the first time so kind of 1940s 1950s scholars of medieval texts that were kept in the british library could go to their national repository instead of going to london and see some of these books and for me even in the late 90s as an undergraduate when i was working on the canterbury tales i took a trip to washington dc to the library of congress to see the microfilms that were produced in during world war ii of the canterbury tales manuscripts of the british library so could so i could do the work i could do because there was no digital copies of the category tales of the time so these things have have huge effects on on the the fuel of humanities and you can imagine going from static or manual photography to digital photography and the adaptation of internet and and mass photography by libraries in the late 90s and early 2000s it's just another technological step on the same path how do we use technology to unlock the book well this year this is really the kind of field of bibliograph bibliographic inquiry that i'm most interested in uh so books uh that have survived for hundreds of years are kind of like immortals they pick up all kinds of detail and information about the lives that they've led and the places they've gone and so this book so this book this is a 1489 collection of sermons printed in venice venice you can see on the title page there's there's stamps and names written in there's a book played on the left hand side you know all these marks tell us a bit about the journey this book has taken from printing press to owners and through space and time books like this they'll they'll cross borders they'll cross seas they they survive times of conflict and peace they tell us a lot of interesting stories but there's also things about the these books that they keep their secrets quite closely guarded and it's only in the last 20 25 years that the the field of conservation science has really unlocked a lot of information uh about medieval manuscripts and early printed books that has really advanced our understanding of of the early lives of some of these books the first person i'd like to talk about is a fellow of the royal society and a recipient of the sir walter scott medal in 2019 uh and a friend professor kate rudy uh kate who's based at the university of san andreas um was uh pioneering in her adaptation of of technology and working this field of conservation science uh which came out of the the mid 1990s uh which brought together pre-existing scientific instrumentation developed for other fields into the realm of cultural heritage conservation and and and investigation uh and kate's had a very specific research question in mind so kate had spent a lot of time at the the getty in california at the cloning's bibliotheque in the netherlands uh and of course at libraries uh here in the uk and her kate's a medieval art historian uh and through her work uh examining hundreds of thousands of medieval books she um began to to want to quantify the dirt marks that we see in medieval books so part especially books of parchments uh the grease and dirt off of people's fingers over time will leave marks on the page and as kate was working especially through devotional texts of books of hours and bibles and things would notice that there are certain pages that would have darker smudges than others so kate you know could could vocalize this and describe it but really wanted to be able to quantify this and show that these marks have have quantifiable data that can show us how well used or how well looked at these pages are because unless a book has been written on we don't know how much somebody has read or looked at a page so kate who uh has a lot of exposure to the creative industry as well knew of a tool called a densitometer densitometer is a non-invasive device that's used to measure the density or the thickness of a film negative so this is used in the film industry and photography industry and kate thought that perhaps using the densitometer and using a blank page or a very light page as a sample and then using that to measure the the darkness on the pages one could start to actually quantify how much use a page had in a manuscript and she was right so this is just an example of a a book that's uh in the hague and the graph here shows what could be visually described you know it's quite quite clear that uh where you have the most common liturgies the most common prayers the illuminated pages that they're going to get the most use but she was able to quantify it and to do this over hundreds and now probably thousands of books to help show a data set that that now tells us more about how these books are being used the next technology i'd like to talk about is was developed by a team led by sarah fitimint who was mary curie scholar at york who is now based at cambridge at the mcdonald institute for archaeological research the fitment's team called beast to craft their question was can we identify the species and subspecies of animals used to make parchment right parchment has been around for more than 2 000 years as a writing surface for about 2000 years and as uh certain you know as a material for for other things for longer but it's quite hard to visually identify what animal that parchment could be made of because the parchment scrape down and the follicles are removed and it's quite hard to to to know these things uh so uh sarah who is a conservator and a chemist developed and her team developed a method of protein and peptide analysis using very very very very very tiny shavings of the parchment eraser shavings of the parchments to then determine uh what animal and indeed what's a subspecies of animal and to then geo locate that species as well and this has really revolutionized how we understand the making of books that are that are written or printed on parchment um and again she's creating this data set that's now individuals can take samples of the manuscripts in their collection send that off to her team in cambridge and um get analysis and results to understand where the parchment might have been mate for the case of books we don't know that much about that's extremely helpful and i'll show that in a moment microscopy is also something that has been brought into the field of book studies certainly within the last 30 or 40 years and high resolution digital microscopy is is something that is really revealing uh this is uh dr christina duffy who's at the british library she's an image technician and this on the right hand side is the lindisfarne gospels probably one of britain's most well-known medieval books but not a very splashy page on a very flashy pretty page and i've done that on purpose duffy and her team at the british library have been using high resolution microscopy to look at the materials made for decoration and what we'll see here is we're zooming in on this um this bit of illustration on the right hand side the decoration around the text is when you get in really close so this is at 500 microns you can actually see the individual elements the individual drops of pigment that have been put onto the page around or before the text in this case this is toasted lead used to make thousands of little dots this kind of crack crack literature pattern behind the text that you see there on the right hand side so being able to really get up close is telling us the materials and from the materials as we'll see with the next slide as well the materials open up a whole new line of inquiry pigment analysis is also on on the rise so andrew bibi professor andrew baby who's at the university of durham has what's known in the profession as team pigment developed a new technique using a spectrometer to analyze pigments being used in medieval books manuscripts the spectrometer is reflective reflective technique that then reproduces a graph and that graph is compared to a database that he's developed to identify what actual elements have gone into the making of a pigment that you see in a medieval book now for us that's very interesting and i'll show you why in just a moment i'm going to hand over to marga now and we're going to look at a medieval book from the university of edinburgh's collection so this is again ms-56 the celtic salter this book as you can see is kind of a hand sized medieval book that was produced in the 11th century we think we're fairly certain it was produced on the isle of iona in the monastery in iona on the west coast of scotland uh and it's rumored although there's nothing to verify that it was commissioned by malcolm the third king of scotland uh for his wife english wife margaret this book is um uh interesting on a multitude of levels uh first and foremost if it indeed was made on iona uh it is therefore then the earliest surviving book made in scotland to still be in scotland there are earlier scottish books that were produced in iona and other places that are now in dublin and cambridge and london but this uh we book we don't think has left scotland however we don't know much about it and that's largely due to the binding as as marga showed there at the beginning is a modern binding it was applied in the the late 19th or early 20th century and so a lot of the contextual information that would be found with the book has been lost so we don't know who owned the book we know it came to university in the early 17th century but that means for 600 650 years this book lived a life that we just don't know that much about um there's uh things though that we're starting to to find out about it and margaret is going to settle in on this page you can see that she's wearing gloves and normally with medieval manuscripts you wouldn't wear gloves but because this book is so we and also because the pigments are right to the page as she's wearing gloves for this book and she's using weights just to hold the page open so that she can hands-free use our zoom technology uh to zoom in on the book a bit so as i was talking about team team pigment and what we call team parchment or sarah fitments group at cambridge uh this book has been a subject of study of both of those groups um team pigment uh andrew bibi and his team came up to edinburgh in 2019 summer 2019 to look at this book and a few others and examines the colors that we see here so the colors that we're seeing here the the purples and the oranges and the yellows and the greens all of these have been analyzed and are largely unsurprising pigments that are produced in the british isles especially in scotland these are largely vegetable or mineral dyes they're made by with local local elements however marga i don't know if you can slide the book around to a blue there's a blue initial on the right hand side i think i'm gonna let her catch up with us uh what they found with the blue is that uh the blue pigment so blue pigment in most insular books so these are books that are produced in the british isles is made from woad which is a vegetable vegetable dye vegetable pigment but the blue that's been used for the celtic salter is actually made from lapis lazuli lapis is a precious stone precious mineral that comes out of the central mediterranean near east asia and as uh quite common in oils you know very fine oil paintings used for jewelry and decoration quite uncommon especially in in insular manuscripts for pigments so you know this opens up a whole new line of inquiries to to did somebody have lapis on iona did somebody um you know where did that lapis come from and how did it come to iona or did somebody have the pigment pre-made somewhere else and brought it to iona and who thought to use it in this manuscript who asked for it to be used in this manuscript so all of these elements start opening up conversations uh thanks marga i'll also say this manuscript has been um uh put to the study of the uh parchment group we haven't had results back yet as they the analysis was just sent off just before the pandemic but we're hoping to get some results on um the parchment analysis here as well the other uh side of things i wanted to talk about today is uh using technology to help read and understand books and this is something that we're working on um quite closely at the university of edinburgh so book collections and especially manuscript collections are vast and extensive uh and uh it's quite hard for uh individuals unless you're on site and calling up lots and lots of books to read through things and so there's been a lot of work in the last 10 years or so to use technology to help unlock the information and data that's within early printed books and manuscripts so what you see on the screen here is a collection of notebooks from a geologist sir charles lyle who was a self-taught geologist and polymath man at large in the middle of the 19th century and his notebooks were acquired by the university in 2019 in a major fundraising campaign with the further accrual in 2020 of his correspondence archive and ephemera the notebooks here are really really interesting here you have notebooks that span 50 years of his life as a geologist and um and traveler and all in his hands and all from his mind this is kind of his mental laboratory of how he worked out his ideas which eventually made its way into publications such as the elements of geology these notebooks equate to about 30 000 pages of handwritten notes several thousand letters that are both outgoing and incoming letters and lecture notes and ephemera and things so it's a huge amount of material the notebooks themselves are also full of his own illustrations drawings uh often interlude with newspaper clippings and sketches and things so they they're often you know the kind of as he was um uh in london or if he was traveling to italy or later to to north america you know kind of his own folding collection of ideas as well um but we were faced with quite an interesting problem here we have this you know fantastically rich resource um but how do we actually unlock it to make it accessible to researchers as quickly as possible so first few steps are conservation uh which we're getting conservation project off the ground for moments an archival description to make sure that they're properly described and ordered but then how do we actually get access to the contents well photography back to photography and digitizing or digitally photographing uh these items um so brief catalog descriptions were made by archivists uh but we started to play around with new technology which is is uh handwriting uh recognition software uh here we have a corpus of material that's all written by one person it's over 20 uh sorry 27 to 30 years 50 years including all the letters and correspondence and uh it's also in quite a scruffy hand it's like my notebook he's writing quite quick and quite fast so quite hard to read um but there there's a software that that's been developed in the last few years and especially one company that we've been working with called transcribers that actually has progressed the ability to recognize handwriting that's done through a series of uploading images of handwriting and transcribing and providing a model and then you can ingest a huge amount of data into um into the model to produce transcriptions uh and so it is our plan to photograph all of the notebooks in the collection and to put them through a transcription engine so that not only can you read the archival descriptions but also once these have been transcribed you can do free text word search keyword search you can start to create indices that can be navigable you can look at individual names you saw darwin pop up there so it makes the unlocking of the information that in these notebooks that much more quickly accessible and these notebooks are of interest to not only historians of science but folks that are interested in the history of travel lyell was in italy and north america several times as well as other places so there's so many different ways that these notebooks could help engender new research through technology the last thing i'd like to talk about is using technology to help us describe books most most people would think that libraries have all their books on an online catalog if you go to a library where it's a public or a university library that if you drop in a search and you don't find a book then that means they don't have it the fact is is that certainly the libraries in scotland and for their fields most of the historic collections are between 50 to 70 represented on the library catalog and that's due to resources and the need to to catalog new books coming in because of um modern demand of student demand but also some of that is because there's some of our historic resources are just really difficult to deal with uh one of the the the resources that we're really interested in at the university and wider in edinburgh is what are called the scottish court obsession papers which are the the printed materials that were submitted to scotland's supreme court as part of the litigation process from about 1750 to the end of the 19th century and these are printed documents that encompass the period of the seven years war and french revolution to the great reformed acts in scotland university reform acts in scotland and so on so they're a wealth of information before i start talking about them more though i'm going to hand back over to marga here we go so a paper a session paper is an individual printed documents kind of 8 8 to 16 pages in length and very formulaic and this is really important you can see here on this page that you've got dates and individuals who are the litigators or the advocates and who's presiding over the court the court's case and then the details of the case continue on as we can see from this volume as marga turns over the page is that almost all of the court obsession papers in the university's collection are also heavily annotated they're annotated by the advocates that might have had these papers to hand they're annotated by those who attended the the various trials uh they're annotated in some cases by judges uh looking at results these are really the kind of the working papers almost like the papers you might get if you're going to a committee meeting or something like that you scribble all over these are they but these are printed at a printing press uh maybe in a run of 10 to 15 copies very few copies so the survival rate is really low and because they were designed for quick and dirty use they're printed on relatively poor quality paper but they're also really heavily used the three libraries in edinburgh that house collections are the university the signet library and then uh of no surprise whatsoever the uh advocates library the advocates library has uh over 3 700 volumes of these session papers so one volume might have a 100 different tracks within it the advocates library has over 1 300 volumes and the university of edinburgh has about 425 volumes of these papers so it means across just those three institutions we have about 250 000 papers of the court of session individual documents and these documents are so rich they're full of information about individuals about people about transactions and these are also in some cases people that don't have any other historical record at all um so for these three institutions and then now partner institutions in america it's it's long been an ambition to to unlock the information that's within within these papers but it's been very difficult and it's only with the onset of new technology that has really allowed us to start experimenting and playing around with how we might be able to do this um so several different trials or phases have been conducted in order to understand first what these what these papers need you can see they're in all different sorts and states the conservation of these across multiple institutions um is dire uh there's a lot i mean there's a lot of photography that needs to happen in order to unlock these uh and we also you know once we get past photography stage well then how do we open up access beyond that because if you just have a pile of photographs you still have to look at them to sort through them uh so our second phase of working on the session papers uh began in 2018-2019 which was both digitization but also working with our colleagues in the university of virginia to look at how we could not only host images so this is really important to be able to host images and to see them very quickly but then also how to start unlocking the data that's within the session papers and that's both ocr optical character recognition which has been around for a long time but to to put that on mass scale with historic documents has its own pitfalls and also to develop a tool a piece of software that could automatically create records without an individual having to go through and describe each individual case so question is you know how do you go from a document to data to actually something that is findable that is you can actually search for individual terms or people or or place names within this huge corpus of text and that's the work that's ongoing currently this last year again with our colleagues at the university of virginia and developers at the university of edinburgh and archivists and librarians we worked together to start developing this tool and to experiment the limits of of what the technology currently allows to explore this huge corpus of work and right now it's working pretty well so this is kind of behind the scenes of some new software that's still in development looking at how once something has you know once the corpus of text has been digitized we can use ocr and then underlay that underneath the digital images how you can then search arounds for individuals names roles place names or topics such as slavery and this is fairly revolutionary it's using a number of different technologies that have been around for a long time so scanning books and ocr and so on and so forth but allowing us to to surf and to to move across these historical documents in ways you would never be able to do with the physical item you would have to sit and sift through hundreds of volumes to find what you're looking for across multiple different institutions where instead what our goal is to create one place where all the session papers can be brought together and you can run a search for a person's name so for example we're seeing frasier of kelso or you can search topics such as slavery or flax or or whatever else you might be looking for and see where you might go this is super important also for folks that are interested in genealogy or local history national history international history i mean this is a period when uh scots were were abroad in so many different places actively part of communities and so many different places and the court often is a witness to those activities through economical transactions or otherwise so this is is really kind of cutting edge is what we're doing with at the university of edinburgh with technology and books i think i'll finish on that note and i'll just say thanks thanks very much to everyone you can see my email and twitter handle here if there's anything here that sparked your curiosity i'd love to know about it uh and i'd love to to hear questions you might have as well so thank you very much and i'll hand back over to jeremy thanks so much daryl for a fascinating presentation um now there are already questions beginning to appear in the q a um which i think indicates um how opening up this is this material which is what you've been doing here to a general audience is so provocative the first question is from from fiona mcparland she asks what is the error rate for transcribers does it in just a sample of every character beginning or how does it know the handwriting fascinating subject yeah absolutely so it's a very good question so with uh transcribers um uh let's start with how it knows first and then i'll go to error rate so how it knows is in order to create a model for an individual's handwriting you need to ingest a certain number of images and then a certain number of transcriptions of those images so it can learn what a character looks like spatially and so once you have created that model and that model could be for a 12th century hand or 21st century hand or anything in between as long as it's the same person then it can it creates a model and can start to recognize characters and what's fascinating about it is not only does it recognize lyle so in lyle's case it recognizes lyle's notebook hand but if you put a notebook a notebook hand through the model and then you put a letter which is in a much cleaner more um presented presentation script the model recognizes it as well so that's how you create the model so it's still labor-intensive it's not just automatic you know an individual has to be able to read some of that handwriting so you have to have some specialist knowledge to read some of that handwriting to create the model but instead of having to transcribe all of the work that's there so for example the darwin project that has taken over 30 years of scholars transcribing every individual letter of charles darwin and putting that into both published and in databases where instead the computer can do the majority of the grunt work once the model is developed accuracy rates we didn't know how things were going to come out with lyle but we have been running tests and samples on about four notebooks which just concluded about three months ago and the accuracy rate was about 90 which is astonishing it's pretty remarkable um what we would like to do now i mean lyle is still the focus because that's one of our current live projects but we'd like to experiment with earlier and later hands as well to see this trend the community using transcribers is quite broad now and there's uh groups all across uh european research libraries that are using transcribers so there's models out there for a medieval hands and continental hands and things we'd like to say that's astonishing and i imagine it can make a contribution to some of these vexed questions about whether handwriting is the same person or not well there's different hands yeah which of course raises a lot um well i can keep going with that the next question i've got on here is um from elizabeth tevye at dale she says in the little salsa other yellow and orange lead the purple whoa what's the green mineral vegetable she asked that question yeah i knew i was going to get that question when i brought up the the pigments so i i know one or two of them i've got some of the reports uh in front of me so the orange is definitely lead uh yellow and the green are vegetable although i uh vegetable i can't uh tell you exactly what that is i don't have my notes in front of me uh the purple is a type of word uh so that again that's a vegetal dye um date again that that's pretty common um in a lot of insulin manuscripts yeah fascinating stuff um i was very struck when you talked about the lapis lazuli which of course is a it's a guy it's it's a cultural thing isn't it sort of an accent it tells us something about how people value the text and that's why i think it's so illuminating about what you're doing the next question i've got here is marina de cena from bergamo and she says the scots archive fabulous for historical linguists too the kind of people who love crunching large quantities of data and making and drawing conclusions from that absolutely and i'll say also i mean there's two things there for me personally that are fascinating one is place names uh because jeremy you and i know that place names are really important when we're doing things so that they change uh but two also that um the quarter session papers does record scott's language as well yeah uh so we have uh 18th and 19th century witnesses um direct witnesses to scott's language being used as well which is um uncommon it'll make a major contribution to developing things like the corpus of modern scottish writing which you know i would love to see attached to that um and it really opens up the same sort of way and the same that the old bailey project did for voices meow bailey only this is a even more so um i have a question now from uh my friend graham kai who says can transcribers deal with let me just move this down a wee bit uh with the many medieval early modern medical manuscripts and things like that full of relatively obscure abbreviations abbreviations yeah yeah that's a good question absolutely so uh transcribers can deal with these things so transcribe is it's all based on how good of a model you create to ingest things and so about abbreviations they're the bane of any paleographer any any reader of early handwriting but they're rather formulaic you know once you get into a genre like medical manuscripts the the the abbreviations are usually quite regular in their usage and so if you can train a model transcribers to recognize those then yeah it can recognize those things that's fascinating especially we've dealt it with dealing with other languages um you know and i still have my handy copy of capelli uh abbreviations by the side i wonder i wonder if you could train it with that next question from allison steenson my question concerns mixed or miscellaneous manuscripts i'm thinking about national library scotland awesome adventure as a drummer before the collection as i take it the manuscript is gigantic means tons of different material hands how do we get about trying to create a model for that kind of text yeah that's uh that's that's that's where technology is currently up against the glass glass ceiling i think um yeah it's so transcribis is really the strength of transcribers is based on a model of a hand it can recognize over and over again yeah when you have a composite manuscript or manuscript where you have lots of different people writing in uh or indeed you know that's it's where it falls down with correspondence as well is that you know for example the correspondence archive that we have with charles lyle has letters from hundreds of different people but you can't train a model for hundreds of different people it has to be on one individual's handwriting because each individual writes in a slightly different way and that's you know the same for an anonymous scribe of the 15th century or um a scribe of the 17th or 20th century so i think you know there there's still room for technology to grow and to adapt uh but also there's still room for the traditional paleographers and historians using traditional skills that are still necessary yeah that's fantastic it takes you into the whole realm of what we mean by interdisciplinarity doesn't it for opening up this stuff i was hugely impressed by the range of technology um biocode ecology was was comparably new to me i'd heard this but i hadn't heard it displayed or disgusting quite that way yeah um someone said to me that um you can smell the manuscript which is an area where you you can't do it was it someone talks about sniffing at the codex sniffing the books yeah the claim was that um it smelled a bit goaty uh uh i i'm not quite sure how much you go with that there's a no there's actually so there's a group in oxford or the base in oxford and harvard's that are olfactory um chemists that are working on breaking down the actual chemicals that are in the air when you are in a library so a kind of historic you know college library or when you're faced with a medieval document and so they're working down breaking down the actual particles that are in that experience uh and to recreate them as well so you can imagine you know in a year's time you might be able to have uh i don't know a corpus christi cambridge candle so you can smell what it smells like inside of corpus christi cambridge who knows yeah is it a goat or is it a sheep and i'm told chris i'm told the question is actually not not that it's easy but in medieval times classical antiquity um it was a close call i think i think i'd prefer a sheep candle to a goat candle that's great um oh my friend wendy scace asks questions which i think is uh here we go thanks for outlining the various technologies being deployed at present do you know of any team ah here we go is trying to match scribal hands across manuscripts using visual computing methods yeah awesome potato this one yeah so this is a hot potato so there are there are folks that are doing this um both with english language manuscripts as well as latin manuscripts and others and it's difficult it's um so there's manuscripts and then there's documents as well right so you have scribes that flip back and forth between copying out medieval books and then are also employed as a professional scribe to copy out legal or court documents and so um i think we're getting to a point now where we could probably use the existing technology to start doing these things it's also getting things digitized as well and this is is always the crux that matters that in order to do this we need the building blocks to build these tools um there's been great deal of efforts in large national institutions to digitize the codices but the the the vastness of the places like the national archives or the national records of scotland uh and to digitize the material that you need there to as comparative analysis is still behind so there's work uh that is ongoing and there's visual analysis of scribes there's visual analysis of wood blocks you know illustrators that's ongoing but it's it's a new new area of research yeah um because one of the questions always comes that science comes up is that um because of scribe work across different kinds of document different kind of book and different kind of production maybe they adopt different kinds of script or you have a slightly more formal or less form script okay okay um before i go to the next question can transcribers handle that sort of thing uh someone's writing casually as opposed to writing it's a little bit more invest yeah so we certainly seem to be able to handle something like that with with a 19th century hand so to flip back and forth between uh more rough notebooky hands in in mile versus a more presentation hand that you would see in a copy letter or a letter uh it handled that fine the question of would it be able to recognize a scribe so we're talking about medieval scribes here that would that would be trained in multiple hands and would be often advertising their wares in multiple hands um not only there's there's issues there because letter forms change um some of the the the tropes um do bleed through you know when somebody's switching a hand they still use the same abbreviations or the same um flourishes on initials but it comes much more difficult um so a rough answer is probably uh but it would boil down to somebody being able to set up a model in the first instance yeah yeah get that um some questions coming up oh here's someone who's printed books i've had manuscripts not really a question regarding handwriting working with printed books from the 18th century i was wondering how you talk to differentiate between long s normal s l's and f's and words i take it that's quite a training isn't it yep that's uh that's um that's the bane of uh anybody working with early printed books is the the long s and f so one example i didn't show you in in the the current uh quarter session papers was that it wasn't picking up on kelso uh but it will pick up on kel-fo uh because the s transliterates to an f and ocr uh that still takes manual correction um it gets it about 60 to 70 percent of the time but there's still some things as a researcher you need to know that if it if a result isn't coming back for something that's very common like kelso uh then try kelpo instead uh yeah interesting isn't it it's a question of where you transcribe or you transliterate that's such an intriguing question absolutely here's here's one oh here's a it's an interesting one have you heard about the idea of using software meant for analyzing genetics to build schematic trees of manuscripts um wow that's a great question i've come across that but it's it's an interesting question is um uh i wonder if that crosses over yeah well whatever it is alison's asked a good one there um i'm just trying to see some of them seem to dish around uh i think i think i've oh yes here we go here's i'm going back to the top again it seems to um one of those things that zoo does with its q a here's another one wendy's case you could use crowdsourcing to build a database people could upload their own images with metadata just like a natural history could visual computing suggest matches and someone likes that uh i don't know who it is but someone has liked it yeah yeah and that's certainly so that's one of the ways that i think there's a group in spain that looked to build a model of medieval spanish uh hands uh monastic hands using crowdsourcing yeah um the bit about the sorry just going back to alison's question about the genetics and stamatic trees yeah so we're kind of getting into the the the depths of code ecology and in book history but yeah yeah absolutely i mean there's there's groups i think it was peter robinson's group um did a lot of work in the late 90s early 2000s with the the digital chaucer project on how you could demonstrate the the relationship between different copies of the canterbury tales digitally where that technology's gotten to i don't know no no i've certainly said about it with classical texts i see allison has added on an extra one saying i've heard about it at ucl during their paneography summer school so so um the whole idea of getting this material in these complicated ways i think is is is fascinating yeah the other one that struck me so fortunately was work which catherine rudy's done with the densitometer uh which i think is fascinating because it shows how people are actually going into the book and where they're actually focusing yeah so you get a sense of how things actually used i mean for for me it kind of it puts tingles on your arms a little bit because there you get you get the ghost of a reader where you know only if somebody has marked up a page so if you're looking at a medieval book an early printed book you often see lines or little pointy hands or whatever showing that somebody's engaged with the text but there's really no other way to know if somebody's actually spent time with the book that you're looking at what kate has shown is that you can and you i mean you saw her thumbprints you know holding that little book of hours open and then off and you know that somebody 500 years ago was holding that book in the exact same way looking at that page in the exact same way and spending time with it as well it's fascinating and you can watch even the things like the finger moving across the page how did you actually move you know that raises questions about how people actually read this stuff i think it's fascinating because it can add on to the people who worked on annotation the used book um uh thing that people like bill sher worked on um i've just um i've been said a little personal note say that we're coming up for time this is this is the royal side of edinburgh uh the hidden people who are telling me to keep track of where we're going uh how the hell the event um i'm gonna have a quick last check through to see whether there's any more uh uh questions to come in um and oh here we go uh uh alison stinson says that like was me and i definitely collaborated to something like that and with these cases i'm looking for collaborators so i think we're all into this into this mode now um what i think is one of the many things to come out today daryl has been the notion of collaborative activity between people working different approaches and how that opens up completely new ways of getting this this complicated material um well look it's been fascinating absolutely fascinating thank you so much for the presentation it's it's been great to hear you talk about these things i've heard you talk about off and on but it's just lovely to see them all in in in that way um i i i it's hard in the world zoom uh especially when we're in this strange glass world of of webinars uh to all um clap and congratulate um so i i'm rather taking it on myself to sort of represent everybody here as a congratulating voice uh so uh thank you so much um and i hope you can come i hope you and your team can come again uh very much and thanks to margaret [Music] absolutely margaret thank you and daryl and thank you everybody for asking some really interesting and provocative questions um look forward to oh here we go there's yet more of camping many thanks great session thank you thank you everybody and someone says computer this is mario jose last computer-assisted transcription tool for ancient documents called state yeah yeah great stuff well look folks thank you again uh and look forward very much to um see you all again and thank you for calling thank you cheers now cheers [Music] you

2021-08-30 07:04

Show Video

Other news