Medieval pen and ink drawing of a bird set within a roundel which is ornamented with spots.
f. 179v

Team 4 will transcribe the version housed at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal. Ms-3516, ff. 160-179v.

For Phase I of the Image du Monde Challenge (September 25-October 9, 2020) teams will transcribe from the beginning of the work to Book 2, Chapter 4. In the BNF Arsenal 3516, the text begins at f. 168v, column 3, line 36 and ends at 179v.

REMINDER: Participants please sign up for an account on FromThePage. Instructions here.



2021, Jan 22: Team 4, Update 4
Jesse Hurlbut

The Last Page … and Beyond!

As I transcribed the two full-pages of diagrams at the end of the assignment for Team 4, keenly aware of the approaching deadline for the challenge, I realized that the second page had a different tone from the natural history of the Image du Monde text. The central medallion of the complex diagram suggests that reading the accompanying book will reveal the “signs of the times” (“les natures des tans”). Only after completing my description and in reviewing the full manuscript, it became apparent that the diagram accompanies the text that follows the Image du Monde in the miscellany of dozens of texts included in Arsenal Ms-3516. Sometimes, you don’t know what you have in front of you until you figure it out. Consult my complete description of the diagram on fol. 179v

Arsenal Ms-3516, fol. 179vLes Natures des temps

2021, Jan 21: Team 4, Update 3
Jesse Hurlbut

Alternate letter forms

Paleographic samples from almost any medieval manuscript are likely to include variations on certain letter forms. In our manuscript, for example, we see two distinct shapes for the letter ‘r’ in the word “morroit” in example 1.

Three different forms for the letter ‘s’ appear in the passage: “Sest li solaus” in example 2.

It may be argued that the first of these is a majuscule, although a version of the initial ‘s’ also appears at the end of the lines in example 3 –or does this constitute a fourth variation? 

“… si sont tes / … de poestes”

In example 4, by naming the planets (“Mars . Jupiter .  et Saturnus / Saturnus est tot la plus haute”), this scribe displays ambiguity–or at least interpretive license–in the use of capital letters, not only for the letter ‘s’ but also at the beginning of “Mars” and “Jupiter.” It is not absolutely clear that “M” and “J” are capital letters.

In transcribing this manuscript, Team 4 has opted to interpret the scribe’s usage as initiating each verse line with a capital letter, but a quick scan down any given column suggests some ambiguity in the capitalized forms. In example 5, other than the distinctly capitalized ‘C’ (“Car …”), most of these initial letters are barely distinguishable from the same letters occurring elsewhere in the body of the text. Perhaps they are slightly enlarged or bear almost imperceptible extensions or flourishes. We choose nevertheless to interpret the intent–if not the practice–as beginning each line with a capital letter.

Alternate G/g

Example 6 provides evidence of both the capital ‘G’ at the beginning of both lines, as well as of the scribe’s cavalier attitude toward systematic capitalization in this list of place names (“Grece Romenie et toscane / Gascoigne lonbardie espaigne”). For comparison, notice the lower-case form of the letter ‘g’ within the first and last words of the second line (“Gascoigne” and “espaigne”). 

Most striking in this manuscript is that these two forms of the letter ‘g’ appear to be used as interchangeably as the variations of ‘r’ or ‘s’ without any consideration of the function of upper- or lower-case letters. In example 7, a passage describing hail stones (“Grelles”) shows how the form we perceive as capital can appear even in the middle of a word (“Des grans Grelles / …  / Dont grant froidure … / … est tote enGelee”).

This appears in numerous examples throughout the Image du Monde text. In example 8 (“La rouge mer est en eGipte”), the question remains whether the scribe perceived a difference between the ‘g’ in the word “rouge” and the ‘G’ in the middle of “eGipte.” Is the latter a capital–and if so, what principle governs its usage–or is it simply an acceptable alternative letter form?

2021 Jan 17: Team 4, Update 2
Benjamin Kozlowski

Thanks are due to Ben Brumfield and FromThePage for support and assistance in exploring this technique.

Transcribing diagrams?
Up until now, diagrams have been treated as images which cannot be transcribed. This approach makes sense when you consider that ‘transcribing’ a diagram actually entails ‘describing’ it, making diagram transcriptions more akin to commentaries. Or are they? We wondered: What if you could actually treat a diagram like a text and create a real transcription of it?

What’s unique about diagrams?
The pictorial images found in medieval manuscripts can serve a range of purposes. For instance, they may be decorative, expressive, or convey a narrative. In many cases, the interpretation of such images can be subjective. It is clear that we needn’t transcribe such images, and perhaps shouldn’t attempt to do so, given their varied functions. But diagrams are a different story. Diagrams rely on visual conventions to unambiguously represent information or communicate a concept. For the most part, they consist of a very limited set of repeated graphic elements—e.g. lines, circles, maybe arrows—though they can also include a fair amount of text. Sometimes the textual content outweighs the graphic elements and/or the graphic elements play a more supportive role. Either way, they tend to be highly schematized. So one could think of a diagram less like an image, and more like a concrete poem, a specific layout of a text.

Why transcribe diagrams?
Unlike printed editions, digital editions needn’t be an end product. Rather, they can and should serve as starting points for further work. For example, you could lemmatize the text of a digital edition. You could use the text to create further editions, combining it with other editions of disparate manuscripts of the same text. You could then, for example, highlight differences between various manuscripts using markup. If diagrams play an essential role in clarifying and communicating concepts in a text—and we believe that they do—then they should be considered integral components of the text, and be included in this process. “But surely,” you protest, “this is impossible, right?” That’s where you’re wrong. We contend that, due to their schematized nature, diagrams can be transcribed and analyzed like verbal content. To this end, we want to introduce you to the use of SVGs as an experimental way to transcribe diagrams.

Introducing SVGs
SVGs are vector based images. That is, unlike formats like JPG or PDF, an SVG is a plain text file that includes a set of rules defining how to draw the desired image. The image is rendered when the file is opened in a browser or with an image processing tool such as Photoshop. SVG is an open standard, and SVGs are composed like any other XML-structure, i.e. they consist of a set of with which you define the rules to compose the image. This includes lines and circles, but also text elements.

What are the benefits?
Since SVGs are plain text files, you can parse them just like any other XML file, and can include them in your HTML like any other image. Yet an SVG’s elements can also be styled (via CSS) and accessible using any XML processor. This means that you can extract only an SVG’s text elements, i.e. for lemmatization of any text in a diagram. Or, you can access certain elements with Javascript to show or hide them. This technique could be used to show changes to diagrams in different editions of a given text, much as one already does with plain text.

Cool, but we can’t include SVGs in FromThePage, right?
In fact, FromThePage supports inclusion of SVGs within an edition on a basic level, right out of the box! While you cannot include an inline SVG (that is, include the code of the SVG in itself) in a FromThePage edition, it is entirely possible to upload an SVG to a server and then include that SVG in your edition as an external source. Currently, one can only place exactly one external source in an edition, since everything below the first source will be cut out by FromThePage’s renderer. This, however, is only a visual problem: the text will be saved, no matter how many external objects you reference in your edition.

Ready for Print!
Of course, you can also convert SVG images to other formats (like JPG or TIFF), and include them in print publications. Since an SVG only includes a set of rules, it can be resized without losing any details—a feature which makes the format ideal even for these purposes.

2021 Jan 15: Team 4, Update 1
Stephanie J. Lahey

As of today, the midpoint of Image du Monde Phase 2, Team 4’s initial transcription of BnF, Arsenal 3516, ff. 168v–179v is complete, and we’ve transitioned to the review phase of the challenge. Two resources have proven exceptionally helpful during the initial stages of this round. The first is L’image du monde de Maitre Gossouin, a 1913 prose redaction of the text by O.H. Prior (former General Editor of Cambridge Anglo-Norman Texts). The second is the invaluable set of Transcription Guidelines developed during Image du Monde Phase 1. Thanks to Team 4’s hard work and organization back in the initial stages of the project, we were able to hit the ground running.

Nonetheless, our Slack channels received quite the workout over the past week as team members puzzled over ambiguous passages and scribal peculiarities. We even made a few additions and revisions to our existing Guidelines. These included abbreviations for ‘-tur’ and ‘-gur’, as seen in this couplet from f. 172r, col. B (fig. 1), as well as an abbreviation for ‘Christ’ which cropped up in a rubric on the bottom of col. B on f. 173v (fig. 2).

Detail of a medieval manuscript page showing 2 lines of French script in dark brown ink.
Fig. 1 — Abbreviations for ‘-tur’ and ‘-gur’ (BnF, Arsenal 3516, f. 172r)
Detail of a medieval manuscript page showing 9 words of French copied in red ink.
Fig. 2 — ”Li esclipce qui avint en la mort Jhesu Christ” (BnF, Arsenal 3516, f. 173v)

BnF, Arsenal 3516 provides a timely reminder that one can can never be complacent when working with medieval manuscripts—revisions are inevitable!

#TEAM4 members include: