Friday, August 07, 2009

Codex Sinaiticus Project: Some Observations

1. One of the purposes of the Codex Sinaiticus Project (for some previous discussion see here) is to make images available on-line but one can only view them within the structures offered (which are cumbersome for many purposes) and one can't actually download any images - so it is hardly open access to the material. The CSNTM approach here is far superior for being less encumbered and more downloadable.

2. Both of the two transcribers (Tim Brown and Amy Myshrall) have said that the best part of their work (in producing an electronic transcription of the entire manuscript) consisted in their having access to the actual original manuscript pieces on location in their four libraries. The transcribers recognise the unique value of the actual artifact (and indeed the scholarly necessity of consulting the actual artifact to check certain readings is reinforced within the project - the electronic media and even the high quality digital images cannot replace the actual codex).

3. The Codex Sinaiticus Project has enabled 'the virtual unification of the whole codex' in one web site. This is true, but as a user there is a sense in which ones experience of the codex is distinctly fragmented, especially compared with using the Lake facsimiles. This fragmentation occurs on both micro and macro levels: on the page level the framing restricts what is actually visible on screen; and in particular the distinctive eight-columned openings cannot be presented at all. Moving around and zooming in on particular location is possible, but is sometimes delayed. And on the whole codex level the handling of the facsimile volumes offers a much more significant parallel to handling the actual manuscript than does the virtual experience on-line.

4. I hope that the Codex Sinaiticus Project will produce a facsimile (photographic) reproduction of the available material. I hope that the images will be made available in some way as well.


  1. These are good points, and well made.

    The usability of the interface for those who want to work on the manuscript, rather than gawk at it, is not as good as it might be. Indeed a simple PDF would probably be better for that purpose. Something like Google books has its merits; but you do need to be able to flip through a book, not just zoom on a hair.

    When I was working on a project to translate Jerome's chronicle, we made use of the images of the Merton manuscript of this, which were online. The interface provided was useless; but since the pages existed in .jpg form on the server, it was possible for me to run a PHP script on my own server which wrapped around those images and made them usable.

    It's probably best to allow programmers who are users to work out how best to present data. For libraries to do this, is like hardware manufacturers writing the sort of software you get with tape drives and the like; it works, mostly, but is awfully clunky and hard to use.

    Nevertheless it is a good start to have the ms. online.

  2. After having worked extensively now with the interface (checking everything for the online commentary), I must say that I like it and it works very good (if you know the tricks).

    But I agree completely with Peter, that it would be best to have the images themselves. It would be very simple to additionally put the images on the server.

    I think they will do this soon, since the project was financed by the public. E.g. it was financed by the DFG, a German public funding organisation.

  3. It *is* possible to download images from the website. Sort of:

    (1) Open MS Word on your computer and make a new document.
    (2) Hit the /Enter/ ket multiple times, so that you have a page or so of blank lines.
    (3) Return to the top of page one.
    (4) Minimize MS Word.
    (4) Visit the Codex Sinaiticus website.
    (5) Get the image you want onscreen.
    (6) Simultaneous press Control, Alt, and Print Screen.
    (7) Wait a second or two.
    (8) Maximize MS Word.
    (9) Press "Paste."

    The image selected from the Codex Sinaiticus site should appear on the page.

    From that point, you can right-click on the image, and use the Edit Picture toolbar to crop, enlarge, brighten, etc.

    There's probably some legal limit allowing this sort of thing for private scholarly research only. But someone with the time could, theoretically, piece together images of the entire codex.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.