As with Jan van der Noot’s tract on the plague, EPUB available here, I have created only an EPUB version. Some formatting is lost in the conversion process to a mobi (i.e., a Kindle) version. When I figure out how to solve that problem, I will post mobi versions too.
I continue to play with EPUBs as I think about what options they offer for readers and students. One version of van der Noot’s text includes a number of notes that readers can see if they click on the links. Some notes offer definitions of difficult words, other identify contemporary books mentioned in the text, still others explain unusual or unfamiliar terms and concepts. While helpful, such annotations are rather pedestrian and only just begin to enhance the reading experience. Now that the EPUB standard adds considerable support for HTML5 and CSS3, there are many interesting and interactive possibilities. Unfortunately, not all ereaders support all HTML5 options and the Kindle is woefully inadequate in this area.
Please send me any suggestions and ideas you might have about what would enhance your reading of early modern primary sources or how I could make them more effective/useful in classes: dhayton(at)haverford.edu.
Elly over at Medieval Robots revels in how digital humanities are making medieval and early modern material available to broader audiences (see her “How Early Modern Animal Jetpacks Went Viral). I too am delighted to see digital resources making so much material available both for scholarly use and for the interested audience. Recently the Vatican has started making its collection of Latin manuscripts available (maybe they’ve been there for a long time, but I just learned of them): Manoscritti digitalizzati. Let’s hope they continue adding to the few hundred that are already posted.
Killing a few minutes looking through these manuscripts I came across a great copy of Rabanus Maurus’s encyclopeia, “De rerum naturis” from 1425 (Pal. lat. 291). There are wonderful illuminations throughout. A few caught my attention.
The chapter on portents opens with this great illustration of different prodigious creatures—a dog-headed person, a cyclops, monopod a Sciopod (thanks to Elly at Medieval Robots for reminding me what these creatures are called), headless people with faces in their chests—all pretty standard from the encyclopedia tradition, especially Pliny’s Historia naturalis (for a nice collection of monstrous race images, see Rensodionigi’s Flickr collection).
I don’t recall previous seeing, however, a small male figure with rather prominent, erect genitalia floating in a sort of cloud:
I also like the beasts, some of which seem to be hungry (and since when did unicorns and elephants not get along>):
And, of course, the obligatory zodiac:
Whether you are a scholar doing research or an interested person looking for something amusing, there’s no end to the fun you can have looking through these manuscripts.
Digital humanities is a term that risks losing all useful meaning as scholars apply it to an ever increasing range of projects. Many of these projects are “digital” only insofar as they put material online, often without providing any tools that facilitate the study of that material. A collection of on-line texts, for example, is not a robust digital humanities project, as far as I am concerned.
I find myself thinking a lot about opportunities offered by digital projects. Right now, that thinking takes place in the context of my course on plagues and epidemics. I think there is an opportunity for students to work collaboratively on a project that would make early modern plague texts available online and would allow people to study these texts beyond what can be done through Early English Books Online (EEBO). Such study would include textual analysis for words, mapping the texts geographically and chronologically, comparing texts, and collating both symptoms and treatments.
Today I stumbled across an ambitious model in Witches in Early Modern England. This website indicates some of the promises that DH offers. In addition to collecting and making available a mass of primary sources, the people behind this project — led by Kirsten C. Uszkalo — have envisioned various tools that will allow people to study these texts in interesting ways. I don’t yet know if these tools merely facilitate research that otherwise would have been possible if laborious or if they enable people to ask new questions. There is surely a spectrum between those two positions—I can think of many projects that would be possible but not feasible without some sort of database-mapping-textual analysis backend. In any event, it looks promising.
Uszkalo’s Witches in Early Modern England is certainly far beyond what I could do with students, at least in a single term, but it does point to some of the ways I can think about a plague project.