ESR4: Palaeography and digital scholarly editions

Frederike NeuberMy name is Frederike Neuber, I’m originally from Germany and I’m currently based at the University of Graz at the Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities (Centre for Information Modelling). My supervisor is Georg Vogeler.

I graduated in March 2014 at Freie Universität Berlin in ‘Editionwissenschaft’, which is something in between Editorial Philology and Textual Scholarship. My master’s thesis was a scholarly edition of a collection of letters from the german author Fanny Lewald (1811-1889) to her friend, the literary critic Hermann Hettner (1821-1882).
I gained practical experience in digital scholarly editing at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities in the working group TELOTA and in a CLARIN-D-project hosted by the German Textarchive. In both jobs I was involved in the creation of digital scholarly editions (DSE) of historical manuscripts and prints in the ecosystem of X-technologies.

With my fellowship on ‘Palaeography and digital scholarly editions’ I will generally explore the relation between DSE and Palaeography, and investigate the possibilities and limits for palaeographical research in the context of DSE. In a broader sense this means even that I will explore the role of script in its relation to the document and the text of a source and the possibilities to display characteristics of writing in scholarly editions.

The starting point of my studies will be an analysis of what role the description of handwriting usually plays in scholarly (digital or printed) editions and how this descriptions looks like. Following this analysis I will describe state-of-the-art in Digital Palaeography methodologies and particularly concentrate on transcription models (with focus on allographic transcriptions) and their practicability for scholarly editing. When talking about ‘transcription’ in the context of DSE, what is meant is the whole process of ‘recoding’ the original writing. This includes the reading and the transcribing as well as the encoding and the annotation of the text. Obviously the meaning of ‘transcription’ is much more complex, and during the next three years I will attempt to define the term more exactly, but at the moment I am starting with a practical working definition. As a second task of my fellowship I will analyze the role of text-image-linked editions, their potential for palaeographical research and evaluate tools supporting text-image-linkage.

Based on the results which I will gain from all these evaluations, I will develop a transcription model which allows for enhanced palaeographical studies in the context of DSE. At this point I don’t know yet what this model will look like; it could be e.g. a sample tag-set for palaeographical information in DSE. As there might be XML-related problems, I would try out stand-off markup as well as examine other markup languages which are not from the X/TEI-family.
In the end I hope to apply the transcription model to an edition of my own, where I am responsible for both the philological and technical work. Leaving the DiXiT-bubble within three years, I would be very proud to have my own digital scholarly edition. –  But first there is still a long way to go.

The DiXiT-requirements are a good starting point, but they are pretty general. At the moment I am thinking about how to put them into the larger context of a PhD-thesis, which material to work with, and which research questions can be addressed to it. I tend to work with modern manuscripts (late 18c-20c). This is because, first, of the simple reason that I situate myself as a researcher in the modern age. Second, because I think modern palaeography is a rather unexplored field (at least compared to classical and medieval palaeography) and could thus be an ideal playground for a young scholar to experiment in.

So far I have a few ideas, but as they are still a bit unstructured and as my presentation is already quite long I will share them soon in another post with you.

I invite you to leave comments, suggestions and critiques here on the blog or via e-mail ( You can even find me on twitter @FrederikeNeuber.


I am based at the Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities in Graz. I graduated in Editorial Philology in Berlin where I worked in the field of digital scholarly editing of mss and prints. I am interested in modern ms and print studies, theories and concepts of writing, text and editing theories, media transitions at the turn of the ct. 19|20.

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