Appel à contribution – On the Way to the Future of Digital Manuscript Studies. Experiences and Challenges

Journal of Data Mining and Digital Humanities

(ISSN: 2416-5999; E-ISSN: 2416-5999) Special issue

On the Way to the Future of Digital Manuscript Studies. Experiences and Challenges

Through the special issue On the Way to the Future of Digital Manuscript Studies the Journal of Data Mining and Digital Humanities (JDMDH) and the ERC-funded project Patristic Sermons in the Middle Ages (PASSIM) intend to offer a dynamic space to survey the field’s achievements and to envision its prospective developments. This special issue stems from an event that took place at Radboud University in Nijmegen on 27-29 October 2021 and has gathered some accomplished scholars in this area of study together with promising young researchers.

The concept of the workshop was informed by textual studies in the broadest sense of the word, which will also form the basis of this special issue, for the written word and various material ways in which it manifested itself through the ages have proven a terrain where methodological innovations in Digital Humanities converge. Time and space have limited the topics involved: the workshop and the special issue revolve primarily around the Latin Medieval West, although papers dealing with other cultural contexts (Biblical, Classics, Vernacular, Greek), as well as broader epistemological questions and more technical computer science tasks are expected to provide a thorough and complementary overview.

The projects presented during the workshop have explored several aspects of Digital Humanities applied to manuscript studies. A larger group of papers was concerned with digital editions, including both the strategies to render puzzling manuscript transmission, and techniques for computer-assisted stemmatology and digital phylogenetics. Other contributions have examined the recent impressive developments of quantitative analysis: statistical paleography, lexicometry, text-reuse detection, stylometry, and authorial attribution. All these topics are deeply interconnected with encoding, on the one hand, and with HTR applications, on the other. Further papers have pointed to the opportunities afforded by the digital analysis of vast corpora comprising hundreds and thousands of manuscripts, as well as to the tools which assist scholars in exploring the history of libraries or understanding the quantitative aspect of text dissemination in the Middle Ages.

Increasing digitization, immense hubs for manuscript images and metadata, interoperability protocols and versatile data models (IIIF, XML-EAD, and the like) provide the structuring framework for outstanding endeavours. Digital collections of manuscripts, editions, encoded texts, and HTR techniques can finally “dialogue” and interact in order to pursue achievements that, until recently, were simply unconceivable.

The initial purpose of this special issue is to disseminate within the scientific community the outcome of the workshop held in Nijmegen. However, we would also like to invite a broader spectrum of scholars for a discussion on two of the most essential constitutive elements of Digital Humanities, as they have emerged during the meeting in Nijmegen: vision and cooperation.

The first element is vision, meaning that the intuition that underlies a Digital Humanities enterprise is crucial. Since the very beginning of Digital Humanities, the storage of huge amounts of material in databases (e.g. text, metadata, images) seems to be have been able to unfold a huge potential. More recently, however, the improvement of techniques and infrastructures have allowed for a much broader perspective. The digital environment is not limited to investigations conducted by querying over a larger repository of data. In fact, it has the power to inspire a new mindset, and hence trigger innovative research questions that would simply be unthinkable outside of it. This is the most rewarding approach, and in view of its implementation, it is crucial to encode the stored data in such a way that enable them to answer the new questions. A simple database is no longer the utmost goal; rather, it provides with the means to aim bigger.

The second keyword is cooperation. The scholarship is, on average, structured in layers: the access to texts, images, metadata, or interpretations is often separate, and the exchange of data between individually created research instruments does usually present with complex technical and epistemological challenges. Through this lens, interoperability between different endeavours is of the upmost importance and, to do so, so is the development of conventional structuring and encoding protocols. The cooperation is also crucial to some of the biggest existential challenges that Digital Humanities projects have to face. As the scientific landscape evolves rapidly, the task of achieving long-term sustainability and maintenance of infrastructures takes center stage. It is vital to join forces on several levels: technical, economic, and on communication level. Developing versatile data models and flexible interoperability protocols is essential from the technical point of view. But the goal is virtually unachievable without significant financial support and organisational effort to enhance the efficiency of communication within a network of projects, to increase each of their impact and hence – why not – strengthen their capacity to negotiate with relevant and interested institutions.

The scientific questions and the computer science challenges discussed at the workshop can translate easily to a much wider domain, and encompass countless objects of study in the context of textual studies regardless of language, chronology, material support, and programming methods. But they are also intimately connected with the question of even more universal significance which often escapes scholarly attention: namely the axiology and values of the research in the Digital Humanities.

This special issue is designed to bring to the next level the reflections that engage with all these topics. The world of Digital Humanities is relentlessly evolving, and hence demands constant revision, update, and discussion of new approaches. Through the Journal of Data Mining and Digital Humanities, we are delighted to offer an opportunity to all those who are interested in providing their own contribution to the field, by taking into account, and engaging in, the problems outlined above. By editing this special issue, we hope to foster fruitful cooperation and dialogue within the field, on both the applied and theoretical levels, and thus to bring our own modest contribution to the future of digital manuscript studies.

Submission details and deadlines:

  • The papers are expected to be between 15 and 25 pages and present original and previously unpublished work.
  • Articles in both English and French are accepted.
  • All the articles submitted are subject to blind peer-review in accordance with the journal’s editorial policies.
  • First submission deadline: 15 July 2022.
  • Second submission deadline: 1 November 2022.
  • In order to submit an article to the special issue you should:
    • Sign up and connect to the platform of the JDMDH.
    • Register on an exterior repository cooperating with EPIsciences (HAL, Arxiv or CWI) and upload your manuscript there.
    • Submit your manuscript to the special issue by providing the ID of your manuscript that was assigned to it upon uploading.
    • After your paper is accepted, you will be invited to adjust the manuscript according to the journal’s guidelines and stylesheet (toolkits are provided for MS Word and LaTeX). For more details, see the dedicated section of this website and the official EPIscience documentation, or email Gleb Schmidt ( and Riccardo Macchioro ( Webpage of the special issue: digital-manuscript-studies

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