Phase 1: Biblissima Observatory
Developing a system to manage and analyse historical data will make it possible to study the transmission of books and trace their movements from one library to another throughout the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. In turn, this will allow researchers to better understand under what circumstances and by what means knowledge was diffused.
Digital Image Repositories
The first component of this system is a digital image repository or large virtual library. It will coordinate access to existing virtual libraries or repositories in France which contain high-definition digital reproductions of manuscripts and early printed books: users will be able to consult the Bibliothèque virtuelle des manuscrits médiévaux, Gallica, and the Bibliothèques virtuelles humanistes, using the same tools. Starting with this core group of image repositories, the goal is to provide simple and unified access to a large number of virtual libraries both at the national and international levels.
The second component is a virtual cluster of databases, which describe and analyse the transmission of books, texts and images. These databases will be linked to the digital image repositories and the digital edition platform.
There are many existing databases on the history of texts or manuscripts: the aim of the cluster is to draw them together and link the data they contain.
Biblissima partners will be able to submit their data to those databases that are best suited to their objectives and field of study while also having access to enriched content from other linked databases. A federated search engine will make it possible to search all the data in the cluster, while each database maintains its individual structure.
Digital Edition Tools for Early Written Sources
The third component is a suite of generic and ergonomic tools for digital edition, which can be used for a variety of purposes including critical edition, cataloguing, etc. This will make it possible to work progressively and cooperatively on the transcription and/or edition of any medieval or early modern text. These tools will interface with other databases and digital reproductions that are part of Biblissima, as well as authority files, thesauri and other lexical tools.
The Biblissima toolkit contains guidelines and resources for producing and collecting data, to be used by the people who will be enriching the observatory's databases. It is also meant to be an aid in understanding and analysing the source documents that will be made available to the public. It will include:
- tools for understanding old languages: Latin, Ancient Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Old French, etc.
- tools for deciphering old scripts, combined with language tutorials
- tools for cataloguing old documents (designed primarily for the personnel of cultural heritage institutions)