‘Manuscript and Text Cultures’ describes a phenomenon that begins when written documents start to circulate more widely and knowledge transmission becomes increasingly text-centred and no longer a predominantly oral exercise. CMTC offers a platform for established scholars and research students engaged in the recovery, decipherment and interpretation of texts from a broad range of pre-modern cultures in which this phenomenon can be observed, including ancient China, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, and medieval Europe. Its activities are designed to enable scholars to share their experiences and develop new, collaborative research topics across disciplinary boundaries. CMTC combines traditional approaches, such as philology, epigraphy and papyrology, with new methodologies inspired by communication theory, information science, philosophy, and other disciplines, in order to generate a common language for the study of the material conditions of meaning production and memory across time and space. Its interdisciplinary research sets out to drive our understanding of the processes underlying human creation of knowledge and meaning in methodologically novel ways with clarity and rigour. In this way the Centre hopes to enable informed debate across subject boundaries and to contribute to shaping an emerging field of enquiry into the material factors of knowledge production across societies.
Large-scale digitisation projects have provided unprecedented access to high-resolution images of medieval manuscripts. In many respects, we might compare this revolution to the arrival of the printing press. This presents us with the challenge of what might we do with this material beyond browsing with the “Turning the Pages” viewers provided by repositories. How might, for instance, letter-forms or iconographic motifs be catalogued, curated and compared to support evidence-based scholarship? How fine-grained should our descriptions be? And do Digital Humanities projects and Machine Learning change the scope or even the nature of our research questions?
Dr Stewart J Brookes is Lyell Fellow in Latin Palaeography, Bodleian Library and Dilts Fellow in Palaeography, Lincoln College
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