Let’s talk survival bias

How many manuscript copies were produced of any given texts? How many were circulating at any given time? When were they lost, discarded or destroyed?  How often are the works penned on their pages cited in other texts by the same or different authors? These questions lie at the very heart of our epistemology and are usually subsumed under the term ‘survival bias’.

Works that survive longer obviously have a greater chance at being read, recited, reproduced, acknowledged. And it is today commonly assumed that the number of manuscript copies of a given work tells us something about its impact in its own time and on the succeeding traditions in which it inscribed itself—or was meant to do.

Samer Akkach, in his Letters of a Sufi Scholar: The Correspondence of ʿAbd Al-Ghanī Al-Nābulusī (1641-1731) [Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2010], gives an interesting statement that relates to the survival of Ibn Ṭūlūn manuscripts:

And by my life, this has been the habit of the people of our town, Dimashq al-Shām: they disregard the ʿulamāʾ and the people of virtue, and they antagonise, slander, and harm them. They abolish their sciences and perfections and allow their disrespectful fools and rejects to pester them. How many works of erudite men of knowledge, of men who grew up among them, have they disregarded and lost, neither respect-ing them nor taking note of their books and writings until they had all disappeared and perished?

And surely there was among them the best man of knowledge and the pride of all ḥadīth scholars, Ibn Ṭūlūn al-Ḥanafī, yet they disregarded him and lost his books and works, of which hardly any are now left; and those that are left are still in his own handwriting, since no-one cared to have them copied. And so they did to Ibn ʿAbd al-Hādī al-Ṣāliḥī: they lost his books and works, and they did the same to Raḍiyy al-Dīn al-Ghazzī… and to his son shaykh Badr al-Dīn al-Ghazzī and to his son shaykh Najm al-Dīn al-Ghazzī, the seal of the ḥadīth scholars (ḥuffāẓ). They disregarded them all and lost their numerous beneficial works […]. (23)

For more than a year now I have been pondering how we should understand al-Nābulusī’s rant. The context of this quote makes it clear that he situates himself and the resistance he faced within a long history of anti-intellectual sentiment in his hometown.

On the one hand, we could therefore take his complaints as a political statement which should serve to change public opinion for a more positive stance towards scholars. On the other hand, his assessment of the survival of Ibn Ṭūlūn’s corpus at least is corroborated by manuscript evidence: my own survey shows that more than three thirds of the roughly two-hundred surviving works remain only as autographs. But even so, this survey is a far shot from “hardly any are now left”. Thus, I would rather not credit this statement as a documentation of a historical reality.

What shall us concern here, however, is the other statement al-Nābulusī makes about Ibn Ṭūlūn’s written legacy: “no-one cared to have them copied”. What would that mean in the light of the introductory questions? Did Ibn Ṭūlūn become outdated in the century between his death and al-Nābulusī’s statement? Was al-Nābulusī even correct in this statement? And why, if so, did two-hundred works survive until today if no one cared to read and preserve them?

In “Women and Ḥadīth Transmission. Two Case Studies From Mamluk Damascus” [Studia Islamica 95 (2002): 71-94], Asma Sayeed writes that samāʿ recitation sessions that their “primary function … was to verify the accuracy of the text being read” and that “students would examine their own copies to ensure that these were identical to the text being read.” (80) Thus, an important author or ḥadīth transmitter could be identified through the number of copies made by their own students, if not later generations of students and copyists.

Ibn Ṭūlūn is credited with having taught uncountable numbers of students by his biographers. Nonetheless, apart from excerpts of some of his works, there is not much manuscript evidence of his samāʿ sessions. The overall survival of much of his corpus could be taken as an indicator that his general importance was still acknowledged but the more interesting question might be, what was actually lost by the time of al-Nabulusī.

Luckily, Ibn Ṭūlūn himself was not shy about recording such acts of transmission. His late biographical dictionary, Dhakhāʾir al-qaṣr fī tarājim nubalāʾ al-ʿaṣr is full of references to those, as I have alluded to with regard to his transmission of Thulāthiyyāt. He also documents the transmission of some of his own works that utilize or organize ḥadīth and akhbār. And it contains pertinent anecdotes such as his copying two texts by al-Ghazzālī and Ibn Sīnā both known as Risālat al-Ṭayr as well as the Muqaddimat ʿilm al-akhlāq by Abū ʿAbd Allāh Muḥammad b. Mūsā al-Irdibīlī from a fellow scholar’s collection who had reached Damascus in 942 (fol. 29b).

Thus, if we compare the number of biographees hearing a certain work with the number of surviving manuscript copies, we could get a better idea of the survival of his works and thereby somewhat reliable numbers to assess the survival bias related to his corpus more generally.

Overall, samāʿ transmission of Ibn Ṭūlūn’s publications is mentioned in fourteen biographies and refers to only twelve different works (numbers in parentheses give the number of mentions):

  1. al-Aḥādīth al-murawiyya fī al-basātīn al-nayrabiyya (1)
  2. al-Arbaʿīn ḥadīthan ʿan Arbaʿīn shaykhan fī Arbaʿīn bāban min al-ʿilm al-sharīf (3)
  3. al-Arbaʿīn / Arbaʿīn ḥadīthan min Arbaʿīn ḥadīthan mufarida bi-l-taṣnīf (3)
  4. al-Tuḥfa al-laṭīfa fī al-masāʾil al-mutaʿayyin (ʿalā al-shāfiʿiyya) fīhā taqlīd Abī Ḥanīfa (2)
  5. Fatḥ al-ʿalīm fī al-musalsalāt bi-ḥarf al-mīm (2)
  6. Manḥ al-jalīl fīmā warada fī maqām al-Khalīl (1)
  7. Munyat al-aṭfāl wa-bughyat al-rijāl (1)
  8. Qudrat al-jalīl fīmā warada fī maqām (al-)Khalīl (7)
  9. Risāla fī al-fīl (1)
  10. Sharḥ al-ṣuḍūr fīmā ruwiya fī al-fakhkh wa-l-ʿuṣfūr (6)
  11. Tuḥfat al-ḥabīb fīmā warada fī al-kathīb (4)

Interestingly, the same works are usually transmitted at the same places. Out of the 22 cases where a place is mentioned,  Barza is intricately connected to #8 (all seven transmissions) and #2 (both transmissions), whereas #10 is transmitted in al-Tall four times, #11 twice at Masjid al-Qadam, and only the ḥadīth collection #2 was transmitted also in Ṣāliḥiyya and, more specifically, at the Salīmiyya Mosque.

One possible explanation for the concentrations might be that all biographees participated in the same samāʿ session. In contrast to the place, the time of transmission is not frequently provided by Ibn Ṭūlūn. Altogether, only three dates are mentioned: one transmission of #8 is dated 9.6.949, one for #11 took place on 9.11.936, and the only act of transmission for #7 fell on 19.1.943. Yet, without further circumstantial information, it is not possible to determine whether these dates relate to the other respective transmissions as well.

If Sayeed’s assessment is correct, this short survey would account for at least 29 copies of Ibn Ṭūlūn works being produced, let alone those by other attendants not included in the biographical dictionary. I am doubtful that works like Qudrat al-jalīl fīmā warada fī maqām al-KhalīlTuḥfat al-ḥabīb fīmā warada fī al-kathīb or even Sharḥ al-ṣuḍūr fīmā ruwiya fī al-fakhkh wa-l-ʿuṣfūr were actually copied by every listener, simply because they were first and foremost devotional texts. The first two describe faculties of shrines and that is where they were mostly recited.

In any case, the surviving manuscript evidence is poor for all the works mentioned. In this respect, al-Nābulusī seems to have been correct. For brevity’s sake, I’ll give the numbers of surviving manuscript copies with autograph manuscripts being enumerated separately and underlined in another list:

  1. al-Aḥādīth al-murawiyya fī al-basātīn al-nayrabiyya (0/0)
  2. al-Arbaʿīn ḥadīthan ʿan Arbaʿīn shaykhan fī Arbaʿīn bāban min al-ʿilm al-sharīf (0/0)
  3. al-Arbaʿīn / Arbaʿīn ḥadīthan min Arbaʿīn ḥadīthan mufarida bi-l-taṣnīf (0/1)
  4. al-Tuḥfa al-laṭīfa fī al-masāʾil al-mutaʿayyin (ʿalā al-shāfiʿiyya) fīhā taqlīd Abī Ḥanīfa (0/0)
  5. Fatḥ al-ʿalīm fī al-musalsalāt bi-ḥarf al-mīm (0/0)
  6. Manḥ al-jalīl fīmā warada fī maqām al-Khalīl (0/0)
  7. Munyat al-aṭfāl wa-bughyat al-rijāl (0/0)
  8. Qudrat al-jalīl fīmā warada fī maqām (al-)Khalīl (0/0)
  9. Risāla fī al-fīl (2/1)
  10. Sharḥ al-ṣuḍūr fīmā ruwiya fī al-fakhkh wa-l-ʿuṣfūr (2/0)
  11. Tuḥfat al-ḥabīb fīmā warada fī al-kathīb (1/1)

Furthermore, the two copies for titles #9 and #10 were produced only around 1900. That leaves us with one surviving copy out of 29 alleged copies made. Today, it is found in Bursa, Hüseyin Çelebi MS 854/1, fols. 1b-7b. And even that copy contains only excerpts of the work.

It will require further research to understand fully why especially those of Ibn Ṭūlūn’s works disappeared that were embedded in the culture of oral/aural transmission, whereas his historiographical works fared much better in terms of preservation. Was just he sidelined in the succeeding traditions or does it bespeak greater historical shifts and changes in transmission and reading interests during the Ottoman period?

 

 

The history of MS Tarikh Taymur 631: vol. 1 of al-Ghuraf al-ʿaliyya

Still these Cairene manuscripts. Among others, they have one volume of Ibn Ṭūlūn’s biographical dictionary, al-Ghuraf al-ʿaliyya fī tarājim mutaʾakhkhirī al-ḥanafiyya. The British Library holds the second volume of the work. I have spoken about this work before here and here. Also, Guy Burak made use of an Istanbuli copy of it in his dissertation, “The Abū Ḥanīfah of his time? Islamic Law, Jurisprudential Authority and Empire in the Ottoman Domains (16th-17th Centuries)”. As can be seen from the collections where they are held nowadays, the different volumes of the Ghuraf were separated from each other at one point. The Cairo manuscript (MS Tarikh Taymur 631) contains the first part of this three-volume work on 386 pages, covering the introduction as well as biographies in alphabetical order until the letter ẓāʾ. The last biography is dedicated to Ẓuhayr b. Ḥasan al-Qurashī al-Makkī (745-819).

The London manuscript (MS Or. 3046) contains the other two volumes, the second entirely dedicated to names beginning with ʿayn, the final one containing names from mīm to yā and, in addition, entries for people known by their kunya or their laqab. It concludes with a short chapter on women, consisting of only three entries. The volume is about twice the size of the Cairo manuscript at 358 folios; yet, I counted 61 empty pages within this volume, indicating that the author never finished his original aim. These pages were not all counted in the catalogue, where only 320 folios are ascribed to the volume.

Both manuscripts give away some of their own trajectories. MS Or. 3046 entered the British Library from the British Museum, where it was part of Baron Alfred von Kremer‘s collection, who left an ownership mark dated 9 January 1886 (fol. 358b). According to the catalogue, this date refers to Kremer’s sale to the British Library and not to his own acquisition.

The Supplement to the catalogue of the Arabic manuscripts in the British Museum (pp. vi-vii) describes Kremer’s collection briefly, as containing almost 200 Arabic manuscripts most of which he acquired on several trips to Cairo and Damascus between 1849 and 1880.  Yet, Kremer does not even have an entry in the English wikipedia.

Apart from this note, there are no other ownership notes to be found, only annotations in the hand of Ibn Tulun’s student Akmal al-Din Ibn Muflih. These are more sparse than in other works. They include several marginal rubrications and explanations, e.g. on fol. 175b: “hādhā jadd Amīn al-Dīn Muḥammad b. ʿUthmān al-Ṣāliḥī”. He also made an addition to the biography of Muḥammad b. Aḥmad b. ʿUthmān al-Biqāʿī al-Dimashqī (fol. 125b), giving his date of death in 965 AH. The lack of further information on the manuscript’s history could partly be ascribed to a later framing of the first folio, which cut away or hid further potential owners’ or readers’ annotations.

fol. 1a of MS Tarikh Taymur 631

MS Tarikh Taymur 631’s first folio is also framed in a similar manner. And here it is visible that the framing affected at least one such statement, which states the manuscript’s belonging to Ibn Tulun’s original book endowment at the Umariyya Madrasa. The frame features a large stamp of Ahmad Taymur’s library.

Again, throughout the volume similar annotations by Ibn Muflih are interspersed, which is little surprising due to both being part of the same work. The main difference is another library stamp to be found on pages 39 and, twice, 387.

Stamp, MS Tarikh Taymur 631, p. 387

My first reading of its inscription was “hādhā min kutub ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Muṣṭafā”. The first half seems to be something else, perhaps “kharāj” or “khodā”? The important thing, however, is that the name pops up in other Ibn Tulun autographs, and there we learn more about this book collector.

The Cairene MS 21201 b (for tafsīr) is a small collection of four Ibn Tulun autographs. They do not need to concern us now but what is more important is that it carries several annotations that testify to a prolonged engagement by one person with the manuscript. He first identifies the handwriting on the dust page (fol. 1a) as that of Ramadan al-Utayfī, a 17th-century chief judge of Damascus. He gives his name as Abd al-Salam and the date of his note as 4 Ramadan 1278 / 5 March 1862.

His whole name and familial background we learn from a collation note on fol. 17a, dated 1284 / 1867: “ʿAbd al-Salām b. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Muṣṭafā b. Maḥmūd [erased] al-Ḥanbalī”. In all likelihood, he was the son of the owner of MS Tarikh Taymur 631. While there is no evidence that Abd al-Salam also called MS Tarikh Taymur 631 his own, this connection would at least put it in a private Damascene library by the early 19th century.

This is not to say that henceforth this manuscript would remain private property until its transfer to Cairo. Chances are that it might have again been endowed but we simply cannot say for sure. And one more thing we cannot guess is when the two volumes became separated for the first time, and whether they were reunited at any point afterwards.

The internal documentation of both manuscripts sets in at different points in time and betrays very different trajectories. The Cairo manuscript seems to have left the Umariyya library to another (or several other) Damascene library and finally to the Taymuriyya in Egypt. The London manuscript, in contrast, appears to have been bought immediately by a European orientalist, who then sold it to a European National Library.

A whole Majmūʿa copied? MS Majāmīʿ 315

In March, I returned to the Dār al-Kutub in Cairo and spent a whole week with their collection. Ibn Ṭūlūn’s name pops up very often in the different collections of the Dār al-Kutub. The earliest acquisitions are certainly found in the Taymūriyya Library, whereas the general collection seems to have made a bulk order of Ibn Ṭūlūn autographs only by the early 1930s.

Aḥmad Taymūr did not only acquire “originals”, however; he also created copies. One modern way of bridging the gap between both was photography, and Taymūr made ample use of it to create facsimiles of autographs. At literally the same time, he also hired copyists to ensure he had personal copies of Ibn Ṭūlūn texts. One of the most intriguing one is MS Majāmīʿ 315 because it is not a copy of one text but rather of an entire multiple-text manuscript.

Oddly enough, MS Majāmīʿ 315 does not have a call number referring to his own collection. Yet, it does carry his stamp on the first and last page, one time in red and another time in blue. It contains 533 pages of 22,7 x 17,2 cm, each filled with 15 lines of text. The writing is larger and spaces between lines – as well as the margins – are much more generous than in Ibn Ṭūlūn autographs. Together, this would account for the volume’s thickness.

Headings are written in red ink and larger script, being aligned centrally in the page. The paper is of good quality and of white color, the very prominent watermark reading “Gouvernement Egyptien 1915-1917”. The dating of the copy is made even more precise by a note below a contents statement on a separate leave: 1336/1917-18 (the copyist is not named). The leave is of brown color. On the top of it is stated that all works (rasāʾil) in this manuscript were originally authored by Ibn Ṭūlūn. The page’s center is occupied by the contents statement, which includes eleven entries:

  1. al-ʿUqūd al-durriyya fī al-umarāʾ al-miṣriyya
  2. Nafaḥāt al-zahr fī dhawq ahl al-ʿaṣr
  3. Al-taʿrīf li-fann al-taṣḥīf
  4. Araj al-nasamāt fī aʿmār al-makhlūqāt
  5. al-Mulḥa fīmā warada fī aṣl al-subḥa
  6. al-Naḥla li-mā warada fī al-nakhla
  7. Ibtisām al-thughūr ʿammā qīla fī nafʿ al-zuhūr
  8. Laqsh al-ḥanak fīmā warada fī al-samak
  9. Risāla fī al-fīl [incomplete at the beginning]
  10. Sharḥ al-ṣudūr fīmā ruwiya fī al-fakhkh wa-l-ʿuṣfūr
  11. Tuḥfat al-aḥbāb fī manṭaq al-ṭayr wa-l-dawābb

Taymūr had this copy made from a manuscript containing exclusively Ibn Ṭūlūn autographs. It is now, and might have been back then, part of the library of the Baladiyya of Alexandria. Stephan Conermann records it in his biographical article of Ibn Ṭūlūn as MS Alex. Fun. 183. According to Conermann, it does contain 14 textual units in total, including all of those mentioned above. Even though it might seem like unnecessary repetition, I will reproduce the list for MS Alex. Fun. 183 here:

  1. Ijāza
  2. al-Naḥla li-mā warada fī al-nakhla
  3. ʿUnwān al-rasāʾil li-maʿrifat al-awāʾil [includ.: al-Arbaʿīn ḥadīthan fī ḍamn ʿunwān al-rasāʾil fī maʿrifat al-awāʾil]
  4. Irtiyāḥ al-khawāṭir fī maʿrifat al-awākhir
  5. Risāla fī al-fīl
  6. Laqs al-ḥanak fīmā qīla fī al-samak
  7. Sharḥ al-ṣudūr fīmā ruwiya fī al-fakhkh wa-l-ʿuṣfūr
  8. Ibtisām al-thughūr fīmā qīla fī nafʿ al-zuhūr
  9. Tuḥfat al-aḥbāb fī manṭaq al-ṭayr wa-l-dawābb
  10. Araj al-nasamāt fī aʿmār al-makhlūqāt
  11. al-Mulḥā fīmā warada fī al-subḥa
  12. Nafaḥāt al-zahr fī dhawq ahl al-ʿaṣr
  13. al-Taʿrīf fī fann al-taṣḥif
  14. al-ʿUqūd al-durriyya fī al-ʿumarāʾ al-miṣriyya

Two things should become immediately apparent in a comparison between both contents statements. First, what was taken out? Taymūr apparently shed his own recreation of the manuscript from all works related to ḥadīth transmission (in bold), including the ijāza (although this entry probably refers to Ibn Ṭūlūn’s original contents statement, which was a preferred place for people to document their ijāzas from him). While the two works, ʿunwān al-rasāʾil and Irtiyāḥ al-khawāṭir, were also copied, they were put in separate manuscripts. This obviously sets the remaining works in a very different framework than the original one.

Other ḥadīth works are kept, this knowledge is not declared void. But the genres dedicated to documenting the transmission itself seems not to have had any value for Taymūr. Secondly, this coincides with a restructuring of the manuscript, putting the once final text on rulers of Egypt first. Also, the longest work, Nafaḥāt al-zahr fī dhawq ahl al-ʿaṣr, is moved up to second place. Other works, discussing certain wildlife themes, have been brought into a more systematic form, beginning now with the general makhlūqāt and only later addressing specific kinds of flora and fauna: the date palm, flowers, fish, birds, and mounts or pack animals (I am uncertain, however, whether Ibn Ṭūlūn really talks about elephants or rather the Quranic Sura by that name).

Even though the multiple-text manuscript is not reproduced exactly as it was, MS Majāmīʿ 315 is exemplary in that it selects and reshapes the contents of only this one source manuscript.

 

 

The largest Ibn Tulun majmuʿa in Cairo (and everywhere else)

Rummaging through the catalogues of the Egyptian National Library (Dar al-Kutub), one finds a large number of entries for Ibn Tulun. And a large share of those do point to a manuscript from the collection of Ahmad Taymur: MS Majamiʿ Taymur 759 is said to contain a staggering 33 different texts. Even for Ibn Tulun’s MTMs this is far from ordinary.

In December 2017, I finally had a chance to see the physical Ibn Tulun autograph manuscripts at Dar al-Kutub. In this context, I’d like to thank Konrad Hirschler for letting me tag along, the organizers of a codicology workshop at the IFAO for the invitation to Cairo, and the friendly staff at the Manuscripts Section at Dar al-Kutub, especially the exceptionally helpful and friendly Hamdia Mohamed Mohamed ʿUmar.

MS 759 is real, I mean it is really there in Dar al-Kutub. That is not true for all of the Ibn Tulun multiple-text manuscripts that exist in the catalogue, as I have said before. For example, the MSS Majamiʿ Taymur 373, 374 and Ḥadīth Taymur 546 only exist as microfilms. And once we look at the contents of those four manuscripts (see table), it becomes evident that it could be no other way. Those latter three manuscripts simply do not exist anymore in a physical form.

Distribution of works between manuscripts

As the table shows, there is ample overlap between MS 759 on one hand, and MSS 373, 374, and 546 on the other. And that is because the latter three manuscripts were destroyed at one point after they were photographed in the 1920s. “Destroyed” means here that the individual texts or sometimes quires were extracted from their original codicological context and recompiled into what is now MS 759.

None of these manuscripts was an original compilation by the author, so they do not contain a contents statement at the beginning. However, scrutinizing scholars (or bureaucrats) the creators of the microfilms were, each microfilm carries a date and a numbered list of works included in each of those “Damascene manuscripts”. Together they add up almost completely to the contents of MS 759.

Most probably, the newly formed majmuʿa was offered to the Taymur library at a later point. Whether the owner or librarian knew what exactly was on offer or whether the recompilation was intended to confuse them about exactly that is difficult to say.

In any case, the fragmentary titles from MS 373 (Jawāb al-suʾāl ʿan ḥukm al-dajjāl) and MS 546 (twice Risālat nāqisat al-awwal) might be in that state since they originally were first titles of a bound volume. Together with the contents statement, the first page of these works was lost or binned.

Taking this into account, we can finally make a guess as to which of Ibn Tulun’s works they might actually be. This is difficult if not impossible about the one which relates to hadith. The corpus is simply too large with over one hundred individual titles. It is also difficult since my copy of the text is bad and less than two pages of text remain, much of which is filled with isnad.

For the second text, already the index of the microfilm states “it appears that it deals with the legality of the rulers’ disposal of state revenues (amwāl bayt al-māl)”. The title that comes closest to this is Ibn Tulun’s Tawḍīḥ al-maqāl fī masʾalat al-waqf min bayt al-māl. No copy of this text is recorded.

In some catalogues this text is also titled Risāla fī al-fiqh al-shāfiʿī. While there are several references to al-Shāfiʿī on the first two extant pages, the creator of the microfilm seems to be more informed, since in the following much of the discussion revolves around several wakīls, that of the bayt al-māl, that of the sultan, and others.

Thus, while none of the four manuscripts discussed here can be considered an original compilation, at least it could be established that one more work from Ibn Tulun’s work list can be identified as having survived in part.

Digital Perspectives on hypotheses

Earlier this year, I attended the second instance of the Digital Humanities Institute Beirut (#DHIB2017). It was the second of its kind in the Arab World and, thanks to the generous support by AMICAL it offered participation free of charge (also it included nice gimmicks such as a reusable water bottle which I have since lost, a high-quality tote bag, and a notebook with its own sticky tags and notes).

The DHIB featured, among other workshops, two sessions on markup languages: multimarkdown and TEI XML. Since I am still struggling to understand how to integrate either of those into my own research and publication process, I will not dwell on those – mostly failed – efforts here.

Now, I kind of forgot about this entry for some time and some of it might seem dated by now. Yet, as the first ever digital humanities internship at the Orient-Institut Beirut draws to a close, bringing us that much closer to a publication of our Arabic text editions in a workable html format (besides the classic print and open access PDFs derived from it), it might regain some of its earlier timeliness.

Instead of summarizing the DHIB, it might be a better idea to point out those blogs on hypotheses which are much further in their mastery of digital possibilities and thus offer advise to others who want to stride down this road.

The first one is foxglove which gives you an overview of French DH initiatives. It also introduces workflows for TEI related edition projects for Latin script texts.

In contrast, Freakonometrics is rather concerned with optical character recognition and machine-readability of texts (e.g. PDFs). In general, it is rather about text analysis than text enrichment but it also provides perspectives on the usefulness of markup languages.

 

Personally, I find the third one, Himanis, the most interesting. Himanis is short for “HIstorical MANuscript Indexing for user-controlled Search“. It speaks to me mostly because it brings together Digital Humanities perspectives and an understanding of books as objects. The notion of books as objects becomes especially important when thinking about their organization in book cases or shelves. How they deal with that in their TEI based edition of royal charters, they explain here.

Obviously, hypotheses has much more to offer which I will not address here at length. And for those who, like me, read French at a snail’s pace, there are also all-English sites. For instance, digilex covers the creation of a digital dictionary of spoken German with TEI and XSLT.

But one of my favorites is certainly The Recipes Project. They again start out from a distinct interest in manuscripts and old texts. In addition to sharing their insights about encoding these texts in a digital format, the blog also provides useful descriptions of manuscript collections, digitization, historical trajectories of books, teaching with manuscripts, and flabbergasting bits and pieces from the history of strawberries. Even though it deals exclusively with European texts, everyone should check it out.