In an earlier blog, Matt Symonds discussed some losses which are inevitably part of the process of digitization. The material aspects of books in particular – their size, weight, feel and, indeed, smell – are difficult or impossible to convey on a screen. Consider, for example, the title pages of Livy’s History of Rome and Tusser’s Husbandry as displayed in the AOR viewer. The size of the images is exactly the same, obscuring the actual differences in format (the copy of Livy’s History owned by Gabriel Harvey is a hefty folio, whereas Tusser’s Husbandry is a quarto).
In spite of the loss of some of the physical qualities of a book when transferring it to a digital environment, in most cases the pros of digitization still outweigh the cons. Above all, the increased and ready access to books (as well as to archival documents) is a major stimulus to scholarship as it overcomes all kinds of financial, spatial, and institutional hurdles.
When doing research on Catholic marriage practices in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic, for example, a manuscript letter made mention of a tract written by the priest Joannes Stalenus. A quick search on google returned a digital version of Joannes Stalenus’ Dissertatio Theologo-Politica hoc tempore discvssv & scitv necessaria […] (Cologne, 1677), a book recently digitized by Google (see here). Due to the existence of this digital copy, I did not have to hunt down the book in research libraries in the UK or abroad, but could directly access it. The online availability of a digitized copy of this book was so useful because I was primarily interested in the contents of this book, and not in the physical or other aspects that are specific to this copy. In other words, a digital version of any copy would have sufficed for my purposes (as long as the quality of the digital copy is up to scratch).
As a scholar of historical reading practices, however, I’m very much interested in particular copies of books, namely those which contain reader interventions, physical remnants and traces of the ways in which people used their books in early modern Europe. This morning I wanted to call up a particularly densely annotated copy of Cicero’s Librorum philosophicorum uolumen primum […] (Strasbourg, 1541) which is part of the collections of the British Library (BL) (shelf mark 525.c.1,2.). In the spring of 2016 I stumbled upon this book when searching the holdings of the BL for books annotated by the Elizabethan polymath John Dee, but soon realized that it was not Dee who annotated this book (to my great relief, I have to admit, since transcribing this book is a gigantuous task). This is what some of the pages of the book look like:
To my surprise, I was not able to order this book through the online catalogue of the BL (although I was later assured by a librarian that this should still be possible), but was referred to its digital version – the book has recently been digitized by Google. Duly I opened the digital version of the second volume, but my initial enthusiasm vanished as a saw how sloppy a job had been done.
A number of marginal annotations which decorate this particular copy have been trimmed, instantaneously rendering this book useless for those of us who want to examine the annotations. Compare this image, for example, with the image above (a picture which I took myself some time ago).
Based on a quick inspection of the digital copy, it seems that the marginal notes in the gutter have been completely captured, whereas the marginal annotations in the outer margins often have been trimmed, as can be gleaned from the following image:
Compare this with the picture of the same opening I took:
In general, the annotations in the gutter are most difficult to capture, in particular when a book is tightly bound. That does not seem to have been the problem here, so it is a mystery why so many annotations have been trimmed. Perhaps this has something to do with the particular process of digitization employed by Google, is simply the result of a lack of interest or knowledge, or is caused by the lasting influence of the idea that only the printed text really matters. It is, after all, not so long ago that collectors and booksellers preferred to have ‘clean’ instead of ‘dirty’ books and resorted to various methods in order to restore their books to their (presumed) original and pristine state (see William H. Sherman, Used books, Ch. 8). Whatever may have caused these flaws, this particular digital version is nothing more than a pale and incomplete representation of the original object. It still is useful, but only to a very limited extent. The process of digitization always involves some loss, but digitization done badly hampers rather than furthers scholarship.
How did John Dee make sense of what he was reading? We at AOR have the luxury of examining Dee’s annotations with the apparatus of stable critical editions, the extensive reserves of research libraries, and the even more capacious Google search box at the ready. While Dee enjoyed none of these things, the annotations in his books hint at the breadth of information he brought to the works that he read, and remind us that no one activity dominated his reading. We also get a better sense of how comprehending a book even at the most basic level, could require specialist knowledge in the sixteenth century.
The gloss in Cicero’s Epistolae ad familiares (Letters to Friends), for example, mostly consists of copying out names, places, and even particular words and turns of phrase from the text, while correcting mistakes in it. I was surprised at how many of Dee’s critical comments could only be explained through recourse to footnotes in my modern edition. Some of the typos and omissions could be caught by an educated Latin speaker, but others, like the breaks between letters, show recourse to other versions of the text, perhaps in the form of printed or handwritten commentaries that circulated alongside other editions of Cicero.
In other words, his two-volume, deluxe collection of Cicero’s works couldn’t be met with the same implicit trust (or perhaps willing acknowledgment of my own ignorance) that I brought to the indices and appendices of the Loeb Cicero, trying to keep up with what Dee was putting down.
Aside from being a humbling experience, transcribing these glosses raises an important question in addition to that of Dee’s own comprehension. As a scholarly resource, our transcriptions should allow a modern reader to understand Dee’s annotations, and that can mean tagging more detailed information about people and locations into the transcriptions and translations. But what if those tags might not agree with Dee’s own identifications? In other words, If Dee doesn’t agree with the (modern) text, are we allowed to disagree with him?
Historians of reading can afford to be more flexible than textual critics in how we treat variant or “multiple” readings without needing to label them “misreadings” or “mistakes.” Even so, these departures put us in a place where no clear or convincing explanation can be drawn that doesn’t pass through Dee’s own mind. Fortunately for us, Dee’s marginalia across several books offer evidence of his own approach to the same editorial problem.
Dee’s library, like his reading, was vast and varied, containing the most current reference sources of the time – printed bibliographies and anthologies like the Cicero volume – as well as “ancient” manuscripts in their original languages. He thus had a fairly sophisticated understanding of how mistakes might be made, and (in keeping with his contemporaries) we find this on full display in his use of ancient etymologies. Historical and antiquarian writing of Dee’s time was full of telling toponyms that revealed the ancient history of places or peoples, if only their true meaning could be extracted from the corruption of time and translation.
This technique had been practiced by historians for centuries, and as a result Britain’s ancient history was a minefield of mythical associations. The prevailing narrative, first set in writing by Geoffrey of Monmouth in the early twelfth century, was hotly debated in and around Dee’s own time. It linked the island’s name to Brutus the Trojan, a great grandson of Aeneas who had led a band of Trojan exiles from Greece through the Mediterranean and France before defeating the island’s former (gigantic) inhabitants. Brutus then named the island Britain and built its first city, a New Troy that would eventually be renamed London in memory of another legendary king, Lud.
While Geoffrey’s inaccurate or all-too-convenient descriptions of places had aroused suspicion (or derision) among historians since Geoffrey’s time, in his printed copy (Christ Church Oxford Wb.5.12), Dee treads this well-worn ground and shows himself to be a master of the name game.
His notes in the early chapters of the Historia locate the would-be Britons near the Acheron river in eastern Greece and as they move through the Mediterranean, Dee comments upon the probability of the account (both in general and in his specific copy) by investigating not only changes in language, but the havoc that their recitation and orthography might wreak upon unsuspecting generations of copyists and translators. Here, Dee explains how Tragecia, a small island near Corfu the nonexistent island of Lergetia (or in some copies Leros which, though extant, was in the wrong direction), after one copyist mishears “Targetia” and a second confuses the Greek character tau for a lambda.
Simple enough, provided that you come to your sixteenth-century book with a working knowledge of manuscript copying practices! We also see Dee taking into account the distance between locations here and in the pages that follow, constructing plausible alternatives where necessary.
For Dee, it was possible (perhaps even routine) to learn from a source and critique it at the same time. “Getting it right” involved accounting for and explaining a certain amount of error. His point, and one well taken by those studying the ways early readers approached their books, it is that there can be quite a lot to learn from mistakes.
In a previous blog entry, we talked about how Chris Geekie taught a class studying an annotated Hamlet prompt book from 1676, where the students would study the prompt book in a similar way to how Gabriel Harvey’s marginal annotations were studied in the AOR project. This summer course, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, was designed to introduce local community college students to digital humanities research. To support the course, Chris needed a new instance of the AOR viewer setup that would allow his students to study this version of Hamlet. This way, the students could emulate the AOR process to experience research in digital humanities. The AOR technical team provided this new instance, demonstrating how AOR’s technical infrastructure – the technologies that lay underneath the appearance of the books on a webpage – can be adapted for other collections.
The Hamlet prompt book was annotated by the eighteenth-century English actor John Ward, with a greater focus on editing the printed text than Harvey’s more interpretive annotations. On almost every page entire lines are crossed out, words replaced, punctuation added, and more edits that come together to show a reader John Ward’s version of Hamlet.
The current way to represent word substitutions as “errata” did not capture the nuance of the different editing annotations from the Hamlet prompt book. Chris and the technical team decided to represent the various annotations as “substitutions”. These substitutions would be typed, so different edits could be represented, potentially treated differently, and individually searchable. Deletions could be thought of as substituting some letters, words, or lines with nothing. Insertions would basically be blanks substituted with something. This change added one new way to represent annotations in the AOR data model.
The technical team determined how to handle the new annotations in the viewer. There were two main aspects that needed to be addressed: how these annotations appeared in the annotation side bar and how these annotations were searched in the viewer. When viewing the annotations in the sidebar alongside the page image, we decided what information would be useful to a user and supported a student to identify the annotation in the image. For searching, it was important to separately search for the different types of substitution (which informed the choice of fields and what information to index for each field).
Modifying the technical infrastructure to support this change was fairly straightforward – evidence of its extensibility. Referring to the diagram of the AOR technical infrastructure (see below), this change to some degree affected the Archive, IIIF Presentation Service, and IIIF Search Service. (For more about the technical infrastructure that supports AOR, see the documentation page).
To accommodate these changes, we modified the archive to recognize the new annotations added for the class. Once the new data was recognized in the archive, we treated it the same way we treat the rest of the AOR data. In the IIIF Presentation Service, we defined how the new AOR/Hamlet annotation appears as a IIIF annotation. We used the IIIF Search Service to index the annotation data to make it searchable, which included defining the search fields that a user would pick in the search interface. Once these changes were made to the infrastructure, the Mirador interface was automatically able to display and search the new annotations.
It is important to stress the value of the IIIF standards. Since the AOR viewer understands IIIF data, making changes to the underlying AOR data model does not require modifying the viewer. Instead, we treated the new data by transforming it into a IIIF compliant form. The viewer automatically handled the new data because it is in a well understood format.
This past summer I had the opportunity to use the Archaeology of Reading to help teach a course for a group of community college students visiting Johns Hopkins. This course was part of a national, Mellon-funded initiative to bring together community colleges with research institutions such as Hopkins in order to introduce students to high level research environments in both sciences and the humanities. I was tasked with developing a syllabus that would make use of the Archaeology of Reading as a way to engage students directly in digital humanities research.
The plan was to work with the students to analyze and transcribe an annotated copy of Hamlet currently held at Hopkins:
These marginalia and textual changes are found in a copy of the 1676 edition. They were made by the 18th-century English actor and theater director, John Ward.
I produced a syllabus which divided the course into three sections:
1. Reading Hamlet and learning about Early Modern England
2. Learning about digital tools and environments
3. Transcribing the annotations using the workflow developed during AOR phase 1
For the first section of the course, spent a couple of weeks going through the play, talking about the plot, analyzing the characters, and discussing our interpretations. We made use of a good critical edition of the text from Oxford Classics. This edition offers useful footnotes for explicating difficult language and passages.
The Oxford Hamlet also provides an excellent introduction to the complex printing history of the play. In reality, there are three early printed editions of Hamlet, all of which contain substantial differences between them: the “Bad” Quarto (Q1) from 1603, the “Good” Quarto (Q2) from 1604, and the First Folio (1623).
The Oxford edition reproduces the text from the First Folio, while also including discussions of Q1 and providing important sections of Q2 in an appendix. As a result, not only did we discuss the play itself, but we also considered one of the central themes of scholarship dealing with marginalia, the varying interpretations and modes of reading across different periods.
From there I introduced the students to several online resources, such as Early English Books Online and the Archaeology of Reading. With EEBO, we were able to start looking at the format and layout of early editions of Shakespeare.
To acclimate them to rather alien fonts and to help prepare them for transcribing the Hamlet marginalia, I introduced my students to the AOR viewer. I asked them to practice transcribing sections of printed text from Machiavelli’s Arte of Warre (1573), which has a rather tricky font for those unaccustomed to looking at sixteenth-century books.
I then asked them to turn to Gabriel Harvey’s marginalia. We looked at one of his longer notes, found in an English translation of Castiglione’s The Courtyer (1561), which describes the ideal characteristics of a courtier. It also proved to be an interesting moment of comparison with the character of Hamlet, described by Ophelia as “the glass of fashion and the mould of form.”
After some practice in transcribing print and handwriting, I divided up the text into chunks of about 11 pages and assigned them to each of the students. I had eight students total, so this proved to be a very manageable division of labor. The marginalia themselves were also fairly straightforward:
Many of the notes—perhaps unsurprisingly for a stage manager—dealt with the entrances of characters, including where they might be positioned. In this instance, the ghost ought to be “under the stage.”
Yet modifications to the text, at least to this extent, was not something initially included in the development of the AOR transcription paradigm. Harvey and Dee, though often engaging actively with their reading material, are not particularly interested in correcting or changing the printed word to make it easier to perform. With Ward, there were several ways of “interacting” with the text:
In this example we see several novel elements:
1.a large deletion of sections of text
2. a new symbol (looks like a long line with hatching)
3. the replacement of words and phrases (“my good lord” → “good my Lord”)
4. insertion of new elements, such as punctuation (ubiquitous in Ward’s promptbook)
To capture this information, I had to slightly modify our XML schema by incorporating a new tag and including a new symbol. This work was not particularly challenging, and our programmers were able to adapt to this different schema relatively easily.
To help the students in their transcriptions, almost all of whom had never worked with any sort of machine-readable language, I produced a simple transcriber’s manual (a pale imitation of the work done by Jaap and Matt for AOR). I also created a template XML file, which contained examples of the basic elements needed to transcribe a page of the Hamlet. All the students would have to do is copy, paste, and modify in order to capture the relevant information. These files, as well as the final XML files, were uploaded to a GitHub repository, which basically follows the same format as the AOR one.
Overall the students were quite invested in the work, although it took awhile to fall into a rhythm for accurately transcribing texts printed over three hundred years ago. We used class sessions as transcription workshops, where students were able to make use of laptops provided by the library. I was able to answer any questions the students had, and being together made it easier for them to check each others work.
Eventually the students produced XML files for the entire work, which can be found here, on a separate instance of the AOR viewer.
The interface is identical to that of AOR phase 1, although it is immediately clear that Ward’s style of annotation clearly functions much more differently than Harvey’s or Dee’s.
In addition to producing a tool for scholar’s to consult when researching early annotated editions of Hamlet, the students also stumbled across interesting elements in the text. For instance, one student found one of the earliest examples of an emendation to a particularly obscure passage in the play:
After doing some research, we discovered that Ward’s emendation (“hernshaw”) does not derive from any earlier editions of Hamlet but rather represents an attempt to clarify the ambiguous identity of “handsaw,” which is actually a bird and not a carpenter’s tool.
Another student focused on the interesting punctuation in Hamlet’s famous soliloquy in Act 3:
This student ultimately gave a fascinating presentation during a symposium in August on the different uses of punctuation in this very speech. Unsurprisingly, John Ward is relying on grammatical and theatrical conventions peculiar to his own epoch. I would say that the transcription process, however slow going it might have been, actually allowed the students to get much closer to the text than we had during our close reading of the play.
In addition to reading and transcribing Hamlet, we were also treated to a series of fantastic presentations from researchers at Hopkins working on AOR. Earle Havens introduced the class to the digital humanities and the use of digital tools for visualizing history, Jaap Geraerts skyped in from across the pond to talk about the process of developing AOR’s XML schema, Mark Patton described how programmers and humanists work together to make materials accessible to everyone, and Neil Weijer gave multiple presentations on early modern England, the history of the book, and Shakespearean forgeries.
We also had the opportunity to go on several trips to visit various nearby labs and libraries to expose students to relevant and interesting research materials, as well as the many kinds of skilled professionals and scholars who work around them. We got to see some surgery performed on early modern book-binding structures in JHU’s Conservation Lab; we learned about print-making and early Shakespearean prints at the Baltimore Museum of Art; at the Evergreen Library, the students learned about the varieties of early books, including Audubon’s Birds of America in its enormous elephant folio edition. In the last week of class, we visited Washington D.C., where we went to the Library of Congress to see rare objects such as the first map containing America and Thomas Jefferson’s library. We also visited the Folger Shakespeare Library, where we were given a tour of the some of the library’s annotated Shakespeare texts. We also stopped by the ongoing exhibition on painting Shakespeare across time, an exhibit definitely worth seeing, especially since it lets you try on costumes:
The summer course turned out to be excellent research experience for the students, who were able to engage in more “traditional” methods, as well as explore and develop new types of digital scholarship. They were able to collectively explore the text of Hamlet at a high level of detail, learn about the history of the book (including the methods of early printing, typography, and printmaking), and develop an understanding of basic digital humanities tools, particularly the use of XML to help capture marginalia and textual modifications. AOR turned out to be a robust pedagogical tool. It immediately provided a platform for the easy exploration of early modern books, typography, and paloegraphy. More fundamentally, the process of producing a transcription for a new annotated book allowed students to develop new digital skills as well as hone their ability to carefully attend to the word on the page. Transcribing proved to be immensely useful in helping students both learn about the collective nature of research, as well as explore in a new way one of the most fascinating texts of English literature.
At the very beginning of the first phase of AOR (2014-2016), I started working on what would become the Transcriber’s Manual. Initially this document was intended to provide the research assistants with an overview of all the reader’s interventions thus far encountered and with guidelines for capturing these interventions in XML. Back then, the AOR XML schema still was under construction and subjected to frequent modifications. As a result, the Transcriber’s Manual became more than just a manual: it also turned into some sort of a log book in which we documented the decisions made in relation to the development of the XML schema. Therefore the Transcriber’s Manual not only is a useful reference work for those who are interested in the particular ways in which the AOR transcriptions are constructed, but also contains the rationale for our specific approach.
As AOR progressed and new books were digitized and transcribed, the Transcriber’s Manual steadily grew in size, making various internal reorganizations necessary. Due to the large number of high-res images, the document became so unwieldy that my old laptop would invariably crash when trying to amend and save it. Happily, the arrival of a new computer swiftly put an end to these problems. Since the start of AOR2, the Transcriber’s Manual has expanded even further. Moreover, due to the inclusion of several new reader’s interventions, we had to amend the ‘old’ AOR XML schema and created a new schema for phase 2 (2016-2018). Because we had always intended to design a fairly lightweight and flexible XML schema, we managed to include these new reader’s interventions without having to radically alter the structural features of the schema.
In order to document the evolution from AOR1 to AOR2, we decided to create a new version of the Transcriber’s Manual. The AOR2 Transcriber’s Manual still contains most of the content of the old Manual, but lots of new information based on the AOR2 corpus of books annotated by John Dee has been included, too. The dual nature of the Transcriber’s Manual is kept intact: just like its previous iteration the latest version of the Manual contains guidelines for the research assistants and well as an explanation of the decisions we made. Recently, in addition to the AOR1 Transcriber’s Manual, the AOR2 Transcriber’s Manual has been made available on the AOR site. Hopefully these documents are of any use to those who wish to gain a more fuller understanding of our working practices or who would like to embark on a project similar to AOR themselves.
P.S. Last but not least: the AOR2 Transcriber’s Manual contains sections with overviews of unknown/unidentified marks and symbols. Any input would be greatly appreciated!!
This blog post is written by another research assistant, Matt Beros. Matt is currently working on the first volume of Cicero’s Opera after just having finished transcribing Quintilian’s Institutionum oratoriarum!
In this post I will be briefly looking at some of John Dee’s astrological marginalia in UCL’s copy of Firmicus Maternus’ Astronomicon Libri VIII (1533). Dee appears to have revisited this work several times judging by the evident variations in handwriting style and quality of ink. The frontispiece is inscribed: ‘Ioannes Deeus 1550. 22 Maij Lovanij’ but many of the annotations are in the italic hand typical of Dee’s later writing style. Dee’s reference to a ‘blasing star’ in the constellation of Cassiopeia in 1582 provides us with an approximate terminus ad quem for his later annotations. The majority of the marginalia are in Latin and English with the occasional term in Greek and in one case Biblical Hebrew.
Many of the Greek astrological terms are difficult to identify since they often appear in the midst of a Latin marginal note. For example, in the following marginalia, the rather cryptic word following ‘solis sunt aut matutin[a]e, aut’ is the Greek astrological term: ‘ακρονυκτα’ (acronyctae).
‘Planeta[e] cu[m] aut sub radijs solis sunt, aut matutin[a]e, aut ακρονύκτα, aut vespertin[a]e.’
The planets as either under the rays of the sun, or as the morning star, or acronyctae, or as the evening star.
The term ακρονύκτα is a word from the Ptolemaic tradition referring to stars rising in the sunset. Numerous other astrological terms, such as κενοδρομία (kenodromia), literally ‘void of course’, occur in Dee’s marginal glosses throughout the Astronomicon. Porphyry of Tyre helpfully defines ‘kenodromia’ in his ‘Introduction to the Apotelesmatika of Ptolemy as when the moon is passing through a ‘void’ region in the zodiac.
A more substantial example can be seen in Dee’s Greek annotations on the table of the thirty-six decans. The decans were Egyptian sidereal deities each associated with a zodiacal sign and closely related to the figure of Hermes Trismegistus. Maternus attributes this ‘most true and immutable theory’ to the Egyptian high priest Petosiris and the pharaoh Nechepso. In the margins of the text Dee scrupulously notes the equivalent Greek terms for each of the thirty-six decanal names listed in Maternus’ table. Beneath the table Dee writes, ‘J Dee. Ex Ephastione Thebano’ (from Hephaestion of Thebes). In another annotation Dee notes:
‘In Epha[e]stone Thebano, et simpliciter decem quosque proximos gradus, pro decano vno, assignat et alias decanis dat nomina quam hic nobis a Firmico proponuntur. Libellus ille Ephestionis impressus est. in 4˚ cu[m] Iatro matica Hermetis graere, et alijs’
Clearly Dee is citing another work as his source for the thirty-six decanal names from Hephaestion of Thebes. On the basis of this marginal annotation we know that this work by Hephaestion of Thebes is a ‘libellus’ (a small book or tract) collected in an anthology of Greek Hermetica (Hermetis graece, et alijs). Dee does not provide the title of this collection or the title of the libellus nor any publication date. We do know that this book is in ‘4˚’ (quarto) format and includes the title of another work beginning with ‘Intro[…]’. The title of this latter work was not immediately recognizable either. On the basis of Dee’s handwritten catalogues we know that he arranged many of his books by format. The detailed citation suggests that this is possibly a book from Dee’s personal library. Whilst perusing Dee’s 1583 autograph catalogue under ‘libri in 4˚’, the following title caught my attention: Joachim Camerarius’ Astrologica. Qua[e]da[m] opuscula gra[e]re 4˚ Nori[m]bergae (1532).
Camerarius was a German classical scholar who published the first Greek edition of Ptolemy’s astrological text, Tetrabiblos in 1535. The Astrologica was a slightly earlier anthology of Hermetic astrological tracts in Greek with selected works translated in Latin. Dee’s own copy of the Astrologica is bound with the Arabic astrological work, Messsahala de elementis et orbibus coelestibus (1549) and currently housed at the Bodleian library, Oxford. Camerarius’ anthology collected Hephaesiton of Thebes’ Ἀποτελεσματικά, Vettius Valens’ Florilegium and the Ίατρομαθηματικά ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus. The final work, Ίατρομαθηματικά is Latinized as ‘Iatromathematica’. Now we are in a position to transcribe the second title listed in Dee’s marginal annotation as ‘Iatro[mathe]matica’. If we closely examine the Ἀποτελεσματικά (Apotelesmatika) of Hephaestion of Thebes, we can see that Dee appears to have written the decanal names verbatim including the precise same Greek contractions as the Camerarius edition. This is fairly compelling evidence that Dee had Camerarius’ anthology close at hand while he was annotating his copy of the Astronomicon. Dee also adds an additional column to Maternus’ table under the title ‘grad[us]’ (degree). Dee’s column is simply the cumulative sum of each preceding degree of separation between the decanal positions in the zodiac. In other words, it indicates the position of each decan in the zodiac for each sign between 1˚-30˚.
Two other interesting marginal notes cite additional sources for the decanal names. One marginal note references the thirty-six daemons of Celsus Africanus and another notes the thirty-six horoscopes in the Asclepius, a tract from the Corpus Hermeticum. Dee provides a detailed citation for Celsus Africanus’ discussion of the 36 daemons in Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa’s De Occulta Philosophia Libri Tres.
’36 Da[e]mones Celsi Africani de q[ui]bus Agrippa. lib[er] 1. cap. 73.’
36 demons of Celsus Africanus from which Agrippa cites in Book 1, Chapter 71.
Agrippa’s work had a notable influence on Dee, his September 1583 catalogue housed at the British library (Harley MS 1879) lists three different editions of De Occulta Philosophia (fols. 39, 44v , 53v). The Celsus Africanus passage in Agrippa describes the decanal names as referring to daemons which were believed to exercise an influence over corresponding parts of the body. Finally, Dee also cross-references another source of the thirty-six decans in the dialogue of Asclepius, a work that was enjoying renewed attention in the early modern period following Marsilio Ficino’s publication of the Corpus Hermeticum in 1471.
Maternus ascribes an ancient Pharonic origin for the thirty-six decanal names but the transmission of these terms through various Graeco-Egyptian sources is far from straightforward. As William Sherman points out, “Dee often pairs the terms ‘ancient’ and ‘credible’ but he also had an awareness that the older the information the greater the need for careful scholarship, particularly in terms of textual transmission.” Dee’s marginalia on the decanal names is an interesting example of his reading practice of comparing and collating different texts from his library. Such marginal notes attest to Dee’s philological interest in the Ptolemaic astrological tradition and his scholarly caution in comparing variant textual sources.
This blog is written by Daisy Owens, one of the three Research Assistants working on AOR.
John Dee frequently refers to other books within his own collection in his marginal annotations, and by tracing these external references we can attempt to build up a picture of both how Dee read the books in his library and the connections he saw between certain texts. In his copy of Thomas Walsingham’s Ypodigma Neustriae, he unsurprisingly makes connections between this text and another historical text by Walsingham, the Historia Brevis, which is bound together in the same book. However, Dee’s most frequent external reference within his annotations of Ypodigma Neustriae are to a book which remains elusive to me, the mysterious ‘liber gallicus’.
Dee makes seven allusions to a certain ‘liber gallicus’, as well as two mentions of a ‘traductio gallica’ which may refer to the same text, over a twenty page-section of Walsingham’s text approximately covering the period 933 to 1037 in the history of Normandy. These repeated references to the ‘French book’ contrast with his other connections between texts in a number of ways. Whilst in most of his external references Dee names the author, here no such helpful information is given. Even the name ‘liber gallicus’ stands out as an unlikely actual title, a feeling compounded by the fact that it always appears here uncapitalised. Though we can only speculate about the reasons behind this apparent lack of detail, the sustained comparison with Walsingham’s history suggest that this was a book of some importance to Dee.
Whilst some of these references simply note ‘liber gallicus’ next to part of the printed text or Dee’s own marginalia, perhaps indicating that a particular historical episode or figure is also recorded in the French book, on occasion they appear to allude to extra information supplied in ‘liber gallicus’, or even to differences between the two texts. Beneath a reference to Sprota, the mother of Richard I of Normandy, Dee notes in Latin that ‘the French translation says that she was the daughter of Herbert, Count of Senlis’. Where Walsingham names the daughter of Duke Hugh the Great as Emma, Dee states that the French translation calls her Anina or Agnet. Whilst elsewhere Dee corrects errors in both content and grammar, marking out key passages in his copies of texts such as De Navigatione and Historie del S. D. Fernando Colombo with an approving ‘hoc verum’ or ‘verè’, interestingly here he does not indicate whether he feels one book is more reliable than the other. Judging from these annotations, he appears to value the comparison of a variety of texts, and here seems reluctant to wholeheartedly pledge allegiance to either of the accounts.
Pinning down the identity of the work Dee repeatedly references should have been simple due to the specificity of the references: I was, after all, searching for a book about a particular one hundred-year period of Norman history featuring some fairly obscure figures. However, unfortunately the precision of the historical moment was matched by the vagueness of Dee’s authorless ‘liber gallicus’ tag. After some investigation, I lined up Matthew of Paris’ Chronica Majora as a possible contender; sadly my hopes were dashed when the content of the two texts failed to correspond. I also remained preoccupied with Dee’s uncharacteristic failure to give the author’s name…
Although the identity of ‘liber gallicus’ remains a mystery to me at present, the study of Dee’s references to other texts here and elsewhere in his library opens up a number of lines of enquiry regarding his approach to the study of history and to learning and reading more broadly. Drawing on these connections, we can begin to piece together a more detailed picture of Dee’s tentative but rigorous approach to history involving a comparison of multiple texts.
Summer or not, we are slaving away at the CELL office in order to transcribe all the annotations contained in the books which are part of our Dee corpus! This blog post, by Finn Schulze-Feldmann, one of the three research assistants involved in phase 2 of AOR, reflects on Dee’s different annotation styles.
When transcribing John Dee’s marginal notes, one comes across many different styles of how to annotate a book. We all know some who consider books to be so sacred that their immaculacy shall not be tainted under any circumstances, and others who quite willingly leave their individual imprint on a book, scribbling their thoughts on the margin and highlighting passages in all the colours of the rainbow. If Dee had had different colour options available too, he would most certainly used them. His copy of Cicero’s Pro Publio Quinctio is at first sight slightly overwhelming to say the least. There are plenty of comments in the margins, heavy underscoring and various different drawings and symbols. Hardly any pages are left untouched. Thanks to these annotations we are able to gather some understanding of how a scholar as prolific as Dee worked.
This is, of course, not to say that Dee subjected all his books to such excessive treatment. Quite the opposite! His copy of Quintilian’s Institutio oratoria could serve as an example in any modern-day handbook on how to read, highlight and annotate texts. Measured and never in a way that the reader could not grasp them immediately, the annotations are a guide through the text – and a delight for those transcribing them. They reference other works of Cicero, number lists mentioned in the text and provide brief summaries. Thus, to navigate through the text is made an easy task.
And then there is a third kind of annotations. Scattered through all his books, there are some that might be of interest not so much for their scholarly purposes, but rather they allows us to get closer to John Dee the person, or shall I say, the artist? Dee used not only to annotate books, but also to draw in books. Admittedly, the majority of his drawings mark names in genealogical trees as kings or queens. But there are also the odd ones that are a bit more playful. One of my personal favourites is a face that is seemingly randomly drawn in a margin of Dee’s copy of Matthew Paris’s Flores historiarum.
Their entertaining effect aside, the different ways in which Dee annotated his books do pose questions regarding their purpose and use. Would anyone but Dee be able to make sense of his densely annotated Cicero volumes? They seem to contain different layers of annotations. Those in a neat hand would still help a modern-day reader to find their way around the text. Others such as notes confirming or rejecting what is written and references to other works bear valuable insight in Dee’s intellectual engagement with the text. Especially the Cicero mentioned above appears to be a book he had read over and over again, each time with another focus. A rich repository for generations of researchers to come, none of Dee’s contemporary, I suspect, would have benefited much from these. As the printed text itself is at times even obscured by the marginalia, this volume seems dedicated to private study alone. In contrast, it would not be much of a surprise if the well-measured and neatly written notes in the Quintilian were indeed intended to be read by others. They are instructive and insightful. That Dee had allowed himself a little digression by drawing random faces and crowns, readers both today and in the past may smilingly excuse.
I have always been a big fan of the Dutch expression ‘het nuttige met het aangename verenigen’, that is, to combine or unite the useful with the pleasant (in Dutch – a superior and more elegant language 😉 – it sounds far less clunky). Recently several members of the AOR team spent a perfect week in Poland, and we managed to achieve just that! The week started with a two-day colloquium, titled ‘Libraries, Scholarship, & Science at the Crossroads, from Nicholas Copernicus to John Dee, 1490-1610’. A large variety of topics were addressed in the papers presented at this conference, ranging from the (alchemical) writings of Edward Kelly, astronomical works heavily annotated by Joannes Broscius and Peter Crüger, and Dee as a reader of Antoine Mizauld, to Copernicus’ annotations, the ‘history of the history of writing’, and the design of printed books in the sixteenth century (for those interested, the whole programme can be found here). We also fulfilled our scholarly duty by giving papers on several aspects of AOR: Earle started with a lucid overview of AOR; Matt focused on the data aspects of AOR, discussing the ways in which we handle and view our own data; Chris presented a compelling approach to a particular element of the AOR data, the people mentioned in Harvey’s marginal notes, and gave numerous examples of how we can use network visualization in order to make sense of this data (Chris will write a separate blog post on this topic in due course); I focused on Dee’s copy of Cardano’s Libelli Quinque and compared his annotations to those of Harvey in another astronomical text, Luca Gaurico’s Tractatus astrologicus.
Several trips to various libraries in Cracow were included in the conference programme and this, together with the copious meals and the good company, proved to be the really pleasant aspect of this week. It turned out that most libraries in Poland, or at least those in Cracow and Wroclaw, have amazing collections, many of which are not well known outside (and in some case even inside) Poland, and true treasures are just waiting there to be discovered! During the days after the colloquium the scholarly tourism continued: on Wednesday we visited the Jagiellonian Library and saw (and touched!) the autograph of Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus (some low-res images can be viewed here).
In the afternoon we had the pleasure of going to Collegium Maius, the museum of the Jagiellonian University, where we encountered an actual bookwheel!
On Thursday we travelled up to Wroclaw to visit the University Library, which turned out to be truly extraordinary as one of the librarians had found, when she was preparing the show and tell, a presentation copy of Tycho Brahe’s De mundi aetherei to Johannes Praetorius! [insert image]. If this wasn’t enough still, that afternoon we went to yet another library in Wroclaw, the Ossolineum.
All in all, this was an amazing week and a wonderful combination of scholarship, bibliophilism, good company, and let’s say a more than sufficient quantity of excellent food and wine, beer, and spirits. It also proved to be a great way to get to know Poland, and many people, including myself, sort of fell in love with this country. We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to all the people and institutions who made this week possible, in particular Clarinda Clama, who did a marvellous job organizing this week!
As the conference season has started in earnest, various members of the AOR team have travelled across the globe in order to preach the AOR-gospel. Here are some updates on the various conferences at which we presented!
As part of a now firmly established ritual, several members of the AOR team (Chris, Earle, Jaap, Matt, and Tony) took part in a round table discussion on AOR titled ‘Reading John Dee’s Marginalia: Expanding the Archaeology of Reading in Early Modern Europe’. As the title indicates, the round table aimed at discussing the new avenues into which AOR is moving due to the inclusion of a second reader, the Elizabethan polymath John Dee. Tony started with a wonderful comparison of various differences and similarities between Harvey and Dee as annotators and readers, while Matt zoomed in on a particular difference, namely Harvey’s and Dee’s diverging approaches to and use of annotations. The comparison between Harvey and Dee was fleshed out even more by Chris, who compared the use of the Greek language in the annotations of both readers. Earle presented a compelling overview of AOR and explained how the new directions into which AOR is moving form a logical extension of the first phase of AOR; Jaap offered an overview of some challenging new types of annotations the Dee corpus includes. All in all, it was a lively session in which we discussed the humanistic and technical developments of AOR and had a stimulating discussion with the audience about the content of the annotations themselves as well as the best way of making them available in digital form in the AOR research environment.
CNI 2017 Spring meeting
Members of the AOR team regularly attend and present at the meetings organised by the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI), which primarily caters for an audience comprising librarians, data curators and digital archivists. These meetings, which occur twice a year, are a perfect platform for our colleagues at JHU’s Digital Research and Curation Centre to provide information about the technical (infrastructural) aspects of AOR and related projects they are working on. It also has become sort of a tradition to present a paper which combines the humanistic and technical strands of AOR. Following up on an earlier paper Sayeed and I gave at CNI’s Fall Meeting 2015 in Washington D.C., we now embarked on a trip to Albuquerque. Whereas previous time we talked about the particular model of development the AOR team has adopted, ensuring the continuous close cooperation between team members with technical and those with humanistic backgrounds, in this presentation we focused on some of the new directions into which AOR is moving, largely due to the inclusion of a second reader, John Dee, and his particular reading and annotation practices, as well as the development of new use cases and the aim to enhance and expand the functionalities of the digital research environment AOR envisages.
Dee’s technical annotations, such as astronomical charts, genealogical trees, and tables filled with all kinds of data, do not only pose challenges to the XML schema, but also force us to think about the appearance of what we now would call “structured data” in his annotations. We need to think how to capture and, possibly, reconstruct the relationships between the component parts of the data Dee recorded in his marginal notes. Of particular importance is the way in which we conceptualise such ‘reader interventions’, but also how such interventions are made accessible in the AOR viewer. As such, Dee’s annotations further the development of both the humanistic and technical strands of the project. Hereafter, Sayeed presented his vision of the development of infrastructure and how infrastructure can be shared among DH projects, benefitting from similarities between projects while maintaining their integrity as projects with particular research questions, sources, aims, et cetera. He then moved on to showing how some of the AOR data can be linked to other, external datasets, thus enriching the AOR data with the data generated by other (DH) initiatives. We did address other topics in our presentation and, luckily, CNI has been so kind to record it! You can view it here!
Shakespeare Association of America
While Jaap headed to Albuquerque, Matt was on his way to Atlanta for the meeting of the Shakespeare Association of America (or #shakeass, which is surely up there in the catchy hashtag stakes). SAA is organised slightly differently to most other “big” conferences: most of the meeting is given over to seminars, rather than panels, and the focus is on working together in discussion on specific themes and issues. Matt had been invited to take part in a seminar called “Traces of Reading in Shakespeare’s Britain”, organised by Rebecca Munson (of AOR Project Partner Princeton University Centre for Digital Humanities) and Philip S. Palmer (Head of Research Services at UCLA’s wonderful William Andrews Clark Memorial Library). It was especially good to get a chance to swap notes with Erin McCarthy of NUI Galway’s brilliant project The Reception and Circulation of Early Modern Women’s Writing (RECIRC). The seminar benefitted from commentary from Heidi Hackel of UC Riverside, whose Reading Material in Early Modern England (CUP, 2005) is absolutely required reading for students of annotation (and offers an intellectual approach quite different from our own here at AOR, but that’s a subject for another blog entry.)