Uncovering censorship in the 16th century with Transkribus and Python. Episode I: OCR with Latin prints

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