Each entry from the 1912 published catalog has been rekeyed and tagged for multiple index points, including the manuscript number, text title, date, language, and other detailed facets of manuscript cataloging. Many texts have been freshly identified and given standardized titles. PDF page facsimiles of the original published catalog entries by M.R. James are also presented.
Technical platform and interface
The image quality is impressive, with full-color images adhering to archival standards, including uncompressed master TIFF files and JPEG2000 derivative files (presented as JPEGs on the website). All leaves and bindings are presented in views that appear very faithful to the original artifacts. The project’s background notes mention which manuscripts were not able to be scanned completely because of page damage or extremely fragile bindings (21 in total). The page navigation is fairly intuitive and flexible to use, supporting zooming and rotation, page turning with an “animation” flip option (which thankfully can be turned off), and selection of specific pages.
The interface assumes a specialized knowledge of medieval manuscripts, allowing keyword searching or browsing by standard manuscript description points, including lists of such special features as rubrics, incipits (first words of the texts), and decorative features. Annotations in the catalog entries serve to expand the physical descriptions, provide additional textual identifications, or reference secondary source commentaries. Summaries contain more information on the contents, provenance, and significance of the documents, citing modern scholarship. The texts themselves are not fully transcribed or text searchable.
An additional interface is provided for searching entries in the annotated bibliography of secondary sources.
The site also provides several detailed tutorials, including helpful notes on how to interpret standard manuscript descriptions (“A medieval codex, like a modern hardcover book, is made up of many small booklets bound together. Such booklets, known as quires, and individual folios in quires, could be added, subtracted, moved from one book to another, or rearranged. A collation statement describes the quires within the volume.”)
An open access or “basic” version of the database displays both the catalog descriptions and page images for the primary sources (no secondary sources). This open version is only browsable by known manuscript number or title, and page images cannot be zoom-magnified.
Stanford University maintains the database and provides semi-annual updates and corrections to the interface and files, with the most recent version (1.3) mounted in April 2011. Another release, scheduled for November 2011, will include corrections to metadata and more than 500 rescanned or corrected images.
Stanford is investigating efforts that may help with further discovery of these manuscripts and comparison in relationship to other manuscript collections. Currently the UCLA Catalog of Digitized Medieval Manuscripts contains descriptive information and links to each of the Parker manuscripts. This exposure is responsible for the highest current usage of the collection. The University of Sheffield is building a similar cross-institutional database of medieval manuscripts.
Also, value-added tools for comparison and analysis of the manuscripts may be available by 2014 or before, as an outcome of a multi-institutional research project “to define and build a prototype environment that enables real-time interoperation between digital repositories and user-controlled tools like DM (for annotation) and T-PEN (for transcription).”