Digital humanities tends to focus on delivery systems, specifically faster access to digitized versions of printed works. Our project incorporates that focus by helping to digitize the rich medieval manuscript collection of the Five Colleges. But computational power offers much more than delivery systems, very little of which has been used in the study of ancient texts. Our project also explores means and methods for incorporating the mathematical processing speed of computers into the discipline of codicology (the study of books as material objects). Four specific areas are targeted:

  • Reducing the distortion of the page during photography/digitization in order to produce a perfectly level page surface;
  • Measuring the precise mise-en-page, including text-block, grid lines, kerning, leading, and so forth—by which measures specific scribal houses and print houses can be identified;
  • Measuring letter forms—by which specific scribal hands and type foundries can be identified;
  • Measuring the density and color of ink in a line of writing—by which means changes in scribes can be more easily identified.

We hope to include students in this work both to train ourselves in the teaching of digital humanities and to train students in the methods and possibilities of computer-assisted codicology.

Project Leaders:

Stephen J. Harris
UMass, English and German

James Wald
Hampshire, History

Mike Kelly
Amherst, Archives

Martin Antonetti
Smith, Rare Books

Jim Kelly
UMass, DuBois Library