Now, a virtual library of medieval manuscripts at the click of a mouse

February 11th, 2009 - 4:05 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Feb 11 (ANI): Researchers have created a virtual library of medieval manuscripts, which anyone can access at the click of a mouse.

Somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 rare and precious medieval manuscripts have been scanned over the past decade into formats that could be studied over the Internet.

But, the only problem is that scholars dont know the existence of the webpages where such manuscripts can be found.

Searching for medieval manuscripts gets you millions of hits, most of which have nothing to do with manuscripts, and when they do, they usually feature only images of a single page rather than the entire book, said Matthew Fisher, an assistant professor of English at UCLA (University of California Los Angeles).

Since finding these great projects is so tough, theyre functionally invisible, he added.

Fisher set out two years ago to remedy the situation.

With the assistance of two graduate students in English, a computer developer from UCLA’’s Center for Digital Humanities and Christopher Baswell, a former UCLA professor of English, Fisher decided to collect links to every manuscript from the eighth to the 15th century that had been fully digitized by any library, archive, institute or private owner anywhere in the world.

In December 2008, the group launched the initial results.

The UCLA-based Catalogue of Digitized Medieval Manuscripts now links to nearly 1,000 manuscripts by 193 authors in 20 languages from 59 libraries around the world, allowing users to flit from England to France to Switzerland to the United States to name the locations of just a few of the featured repositories with the click of a mouse.

Because these manuscripts are so old and fragile, libraries are digitizing them, but you cant find them, Fisher said. Were completing the step of making them accessible to the world, he added.

Employing a Web application designed by the Center for Digital Humanities, which promotes the use of computer technology in humanities research and instruction, the Catalogue of Digitized Medieval Manuscripts allows users to search for manuscripts according to their author, title, language and archiving institution.

In its first three weeks of operation, the site had almost 5,000 visitors from Australia, England, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, Canada and all over the United States.

Well never replace the joy of sitting down with an 800-year-old book, but we will bring the wonder of these manuscripts to people who might never experience them otherwise, said Fisher. (ANI)

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