Visiting a museum as a kid, I sometimes wondered why I could hardly read anything in the medieval or early modern books and manuscripts displayed in the exhibition. Even after I learned Latin in school, the situation did not improve. I was not aware that people in former centuries used a lot more abbreviations than today, especially in Latin texts. As long as paper (or parchment) was very expensive, scribes and printers tried to save as much space as possible. Therefore, a sentence like “In principio fecit deus caelum et terram” could be abbreviated as “In prīcipio fecit de⁹ celū ⁊ ťrā” (“In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth” — the first verse of the Bible). You may have noted that these abbreviations worked differently than abbreviations like “WWW” or “U.S.” that we are familiar with today, and it would be nice if they could be resolved automatically with a Python script.
In the first episode of this miniseries, I explained how to use OCR with Transkribus to create a diplomatic transcription from images of 16th century Latin prints. However, the resulting text is full of abbreviations and may contain transcription errors. In both cases, Python scripts could help to normalize the text and to detect possible errors.
An indispensable prerequisite for pimping the Transkribus workflow with Python is flawless access to the data stored on the Transkribus server. It would not make much sense to manually download the data, then run some Python scripts on the command line, and finally upload the data again manually, especially when we talk about hundreds of pages to be processed. This episode will show how to download and upload transcriptions from and to the Transkribus server using Python. (Basic to intermediate knowledge of Python is required.)
by Markus Müller with the collaboration of Melina Ramirez
Since the 1980s, our knowledge on 16th century censorship has been growing constantly thanks to coordinated research projects and new sources. In over ten years of research, for instance, José Maria Bujanda and his team edited all printed catalogues of forbidden books issued by Catholic authorities in the 16th century (eleven volumes until 1999). This made it very easy to check whether a certain author or book was banned or not. With the opening of the Archive of the Congregation of Faith (the former Roman Inquisition) in 1998 a vast number of manuscripts became available that provided an insight into the internals of the Roman Congregation of the Index (founded in 1572) and the decision making processes of the censors. These processes are particularly interesting for books that were not totally banned but expurged, meaning that the censors deleted or modified passages considered “heretical” and then reprinted the book. In many cases, the only way to find out what they actually changed is to compare the original with the expurged edition line by line and word by word. Because Rome was by far not the only Catholic authority that expurged books, the same book was sometimes also expurged by the Spanish Inquisition, the Sorbonne in Paris and other local inquisitors. They all had their own censoring procedures resulting in different expurgations. If we want to uncover the differences between these expurgations, we have to repeat the tedious manual comparison over and over again. These repetitive comparisons are exactly the kind of “boring stuff” that could be automated with Python. „Uncovering censorship in the 16th century with Transkribus and Python. Episode I: OCR with Latin prints“ weiterlesen