Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fifty Digitised GNT MSS and a New Blog


British Library curator Juan Garcés notified me that he has started a new blog, The Digitised Manuscripts Blog (which of course has now been added to our blogroll). The focus is to report on various issues related to the current digitisation projects at the British Library, in particularly the Greek Manuscripts Digitisation Project funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

The British Library described the project in their "Annual Reports and Accounts 2008/2009":

Digitisation of Greek manuscripts

We are very grateful to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation for making it possible for us to undertake a project to digitise 250 of our Greek manuscripts to make them fully accessible to researchers around the world through the internet. We will also create catalogue records for each item and create a website that will enable researchers to search using key words and interactive technology that will allow them to upload notes and collaborate with other researchers virtually. We aim to launch the website in summer 2010. We are continuing to fundraise to enable us to add the remaining Greek manuscripts and papyri to the site in the longer term.

In a special post yesterday, "Greek New Testament Manuscripts", Juan announced that in the first phase of that project fifty Greek New Testament manuscripts will be digitized (!): one majuscule from the 7th century; 33 minuscules from the 10th-14th centuries; and 16 lectionaries from the 11th-14th centuries. I don't know, but maybe the majuscule is Codex R (027)? [Update: confirmed by Juan Garcés in the comments.]

Joy to the world: more digitized GNT MSS.

22 Comments:

Juan said...

Yes, it is indeed Codex Nitrianus. Well guessed! :)

Tommy Wasserman said...

Thanks Juan! I won't try on the minucules and lectionaries :-)

Jan Krans said...

Will Harley 5598 be part of the project?

Wieland Willker said...

That's great!
R is an interesting ms.
I have a little file online here:
Codex R

(Thanks Daniel for the link syntax!)

Juan said...

The first phase of the project will only cover Additional MSS. We are however considering including Harleys for the second phase. I will post updates on developments on my blog. Harley 5598 is, of course, covered in the Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts (see http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/record.asp?MSID=6972&CollID=8&NStart=5598), including 3 images. We'll see what we can do about the rest of the MS.

Jan Krans said...

Thanks Juan for this information. You can be sure that many value very highly what the BL is doing. I just happen to find Harley 5598 particularly interesting, not only for its illuminations. Another example would be Burney 97; Angelos Vergecios's handwriting is of interest on its own, because it was the basis on which Claude Garamond modelled his "Grecs du roi" font.

Dirk Jongkind said...

Juan, tell me Add. MS. 33.277 is in the list, please, please?

Wieland Willker said...

Dirk Jongkind said...
Juan, tell me Add. MS. 33.277 is in the list, please, please?

= 892.
Yes, please, please, please!
And perhaps Egerton 2710 (= 700)?
That's all I want from London.
:-)

Wieland Willker said...

Thinking about it, here is a list of important manuscripts, that I'd like to see photos of:

Paris: L, 0141, 22, 28, 33, 579
Cambridge: Xi
Dublin, TC: Z
Tbilisi (Georgia) Theta
Athos, Lavra: Psi
Vatican: 157
St. Petersburg: 565
Sinai: 1241
Jerusalem: 1342


Btw. what has happened to the ambiguous Sinai digitization project? I am not aware of any online photos.

Anonymous said...

I hope that their images are easily viewable and downloadable. It is an insult to just be able to view images and not save off-line for collation purposes.

Often the BL simply wants to promote their existence and greatness, as opposed to making fully available images for the masses.

Gary Dykes

Tommy Wasserman said...

GS: "It is an insult to just be able to view images and not save off-line for collation purposes."

Gary, although I am sympathetic to your aim to collate MSS and make your data available, I strongly disagree with you on this issue.

We have a saying in Sweden which I think is applicable: "One should not examine the teeth of a donated horse."

Personally, I am very grateful and I do not feel insulted when museums and libraries make their collections available to the public on the internet. Moreover, in their exhibitions they can provide a context (descriptions, explanations, exhibitions of groups of related items, etc). To demand that they make the material available for download is I think to misunderstand the purpose of their existence.

Besides, for those with broadband connections and the like I suppose collations work on-line will be unproblematic.

Wieland Willker said...

I must admit that I have to agree with Gary. I wouldn't call it an insult, but one gets the impression that the library is hesitating to share their material. It would be nothing to put the images as such on the server, too, as others do. But the BL isn't doing it. I am wondering why?

The Sinaiticus project was funded with public money, and I agree with Gary that they should not withhold the images. I have informed the German DFG about this matter.

I have asked Juan several times for images, but never got a reply. That's not nice. The Sinaiticus project is a great thing, that's for sure, but its protective attitude leaves a bitter taste, too.

Peter M. Head said...

Obviously we need to recognise the rights of the holding institutions to make their images available in the way they think is best.
We might also want to urge that scholarly use of the material often requires freedom from the constraints of the "context" in which the images are packaged, so that different questions can be asked of the (relatively) raw data.
If there was a general consensus among scholars that the best way to deliver digital imagery of a manuscript is to make them available for download or purchase on DVD at reasonable price, then one would hope that holding institutions might help offer that (esp. to the extent that these projects are funded precisely in order to make material available to scholars).

Peter M. Head said...

Anyway, I would presume that clever people can figure out how to extract and download all the images. Then we just need a black market distribution service.

Tommy Wasserman said...

PMH: "Then we just need a black market distribution service."

Please remember the ethos of this blog ;-)

Peter M. Head said...

Yeah, we need someone else to organise it.

Darrell said...

Wow, I was not aware that Codex 033 and 037 are now online with great images:

http://epub.ub.uni-muenchen.de/10932/

http://www.e-codices.unifr.ch/en/csg/0048

Here are the links for anyone else who has missed these.

Bob Relyea said...

From Peter:
> Anyway, I would presume that clever
> people can figure out how to extract
> and download all the images. Then we
> just need a black market distribution
> service.

Some people have;). I won't distribute the result, however for 2 reasons:

1) The images are still under copyright (even if copied). The BL 'license' does not allow redistribution, so it would be illegal.

2) violating that license discourage the faith in those licenses, and could jepordize future efforts like the one given here.

In fact I don't distribute any of the images I get from those institutions that make them available on the web, I only give out links to the websites.

I feel it's best to just try to make "common good" arguments for the distribution of images of manuscript resources. I feel particularly uneasy beating up the BL on this issue since while their images are not as easy to get to as some of the University or Swiss holdings, one cannot argue that today the Codex Sinaiticus is by far and away the *most* accessible of the Great Uncial, followed by the codex Alexanderinus.

Anonymous said...

Bob said:

1) The images are still under copyright (even if copied). The BL 'license' does not allow redistribution, so it would be illegal.

True, their copyright restrictions are severe. What are they afraid of?? And who wants to redistribute?? Does anyone know how many MSS they (the BL) possess which they stole, or acquired via war or conquest? Or how many they purchased from Bedouin who stole materials from archeological sites? How many of the original scribes gave the BL permission to control access to "their" documents? The BL does actually and properly "own" some of their acquisitions, but not all.

Generally libraries exist to preserve and to provide access to all materials, openly and freely;
except in Communist nations.

Charging a small processing fee to access is acceptable. But restricting access to God's Word, is a mark of human ignorance and pride. It is "backwards" nations who restrict access to documents intended for all humanity. The BL maintains earthly laws and regulations, yet there are higher and greater laws.

Gary Dykes

Daniel Buck said...

TW:
We have a saying in Sweden which I think is applicable: "One should not examine the teeth of a donated horse."

Tommy, we have the same saying. In English it goes, "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth."

I applaud the dynamic equivalence of the Swedish translation, but IMO it lacks the poetic imagery of the English.

But either way, the meme requires contextualization to a modern culture, both in Sweden and most of the English-speaking world, in which horses aren't generally donated for any purposes other than being made into dog food, in which the state of the horse's teeth is not an issue.

Somthing like,

"Accept a gift without examining it first to see how valuable it will be to you."

To give some background, a horse's molars continue to grow throughout its life, so that the longer its teeth are, the older it is (unless an unscrupulous seller has filed them down to pass it off as a younger horse). Prospective buyers would examine the teeth of a horse in order to estimate its remaining useful life.

In this case, the gift horse, upon examination, turns out to be too young--despite its incredibly remote origin, despite being cut off by many centuries from any ties to those who originally payed to have it produced, any use of the manuscript is still hobbled by modern copyright laws. And the manuscripts are hardly being donated--even mere images of the manuscript are being offered for viewing with restrictions against secondary use, reminiscent of those in a previous century who were allowed to LOOK at Vaticanus but not copy from it.

Perhaps we could recast the proverb to the current context as,

"Remove the hobbles from a horse before loaning it out."

Andrew Wilson said...

Daniel,

That posting was one of the best comments ever made on this blog, at least for the first few paragraphs. After that, although the technical info about horses teeth was enlightening, it was not quite as funny.

Tommy Wasserman said...

DB: "Tommy, we have the same saying. In English it goes, 'Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.'

I applaud the dynamic equivalence of the Swedish translation, but IMO it lacks the poetic imagery of the English."

Daniel (and Andrew),

what I wrote was not the Swedish translation of the saying, but a bad English translation of the saying in Swedish. And the English version cited by Daniel is actually much more like the Swedish version than my DE translation. The saying in Swedish does not mention the teeth at all, but only the mouth. It is probably just as poetic. Sorry to spoil the fun.