Towards a virtual archive of the images for original texts
The working prototype for online consultation of images of the original manuscripts published electronically on the site is an enrichment to the project realized in 2004 thanks to the committment of the ECHO (European Cultural Heritage Online) project. The prototype offers a sample of the various kinds of photographic materials available, coordinated and contextualized by a powerful viewing instrument constructed to accompany the critical edition of the texts.
This initial phase of the new resource furnishes examples representative of the solutions available for access to all the various types and levels of photographic materials, as well as the full digital photographic documentation of the first archival unit inserted in this electronic edition.
Because of damages incurred by the archive of the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, especially during the 1966 flood, many pages of the manuscripts included in The Years of the Cupola project are faded or abraded so seriously that normal photography would assist little in the effort to read them. For this reason the site includes photographic materials that vary according to state of conservation of the individual volumes and the existence or not of pre-flood photographic documentation.
In 1958 a portion of the Opera archive was recorded on black and white microfilm. In 1999 these microfilms were digitalized in order to better utilize this resource for reading fragile and water-damaged archival materials. The images pertaining to the project have been re-formatted and divided into page units in order to facilitate transmission in Internet.
Ultraviolet lighting has been used for deciphering other faded texts for which no photographic record prior to 1966 was available: first with the traditional Wood lamp and subsequently by means of digital photography under low-intensity ultraviolet illumination (or similar light bands), which was carried out by the Department for the Conservation of Books and Manuscripts of the Fachhochschule of Cologne. This set of images consists of details of relatively small dimensions (dictated by the lighting methods), which have been treated with image processing programs in order to obtain the optimal reading conditions, a sort of "virtual restoration" of nearly eradicated script.
To assist the user in the consultation of such complex and artifically elaborated reading tools, it seemed advisable to present them in relation to normal images of the manuscript pages in their present state -- full-page photographs taken under artificial white light. To this end a new photographic campaign of high-resolution color digital photography was undertaken for the codices previously documented only in the form of special photography details and for the few undamaged codices that had never been photographed.
The various categories of archival sources, in terms of their states of conservation and documentation, are represented in the virtual archive prototype with different proposals for the management of the photographic material available. The most straightforward category is that of the "bastardelli" notebooks for deliberations, documented with full-page digitalized black and white microfilm images. The prototype includes an entire such codex, the notary's 1417 "bastardello" recording deliberations and allocations of funds (II 1 70), through which the user can freely browse, as in a virtual archive. The photographic sequence can be approached from any document of the textual archive, which gives access to the full-page image, with the document in question outlined graphically and marked with the project's document code. Comparison of new digital photography and the 1958 photographic records for another codex (II 1 74) illustrates the nature of the 1966 flood damages to this archival series.
Codices not photographed before the flood are represented by various examples drawn from the large register of deliberations kept by the notary (II 2 1) and a notebook (II 4 4) and "bastardello" (II 4 8) with allocation of funds written by the administrator. For these the user may consult full-page color images (present state) mapped with the coordinates of individual documents and details made under special lighting, and from there access the details themselves. The details cover the entire pages of this category except for the big register, where they are limited to the most damaged parts.
The few archival units free of flood damage have been documented by a the new campaign of digital color photography: in the prototype this category is represented by three acts from a cash book (VIII 1 2), laid out across two facing leaves in the typical double-entry bookkeeping style, mapped with the appropriate coordinates.
The prototype was devised considering both the nature and extent of the photographic materials already acquired by the Opera and the capabilities of the standard, non-proprietary computer programs made available by ECHO. The result is viewing on two levels:
1) Overview: initial entry level environment with tools for coordinating full-page images, details and individual documents and tools for navigating through adjoining images, whether full-pages or details. This device has been created expressly for the project in HTML-Java language.
2) Digilib (Digital Document Library): tool for close examination and scaling of images and for marking and transmitting marks and comments on the same. It is a working environment developed by the University of Bern adapted to the requirements of various ECHO projects.
See the Image Viewing section in the Guide to the site for user instructions for these tools.
The "intelligent" mappings of the images in the virtual archive were generated by the editorial staff using an application of the Arboreal program (Harvard University), written by Jochen Büttner, which easily allows graphic boxes to be registered as image coordinates.
Click on the leaves below for access to the list of documents supplied with images.
For codices II 4 13 and II 4 8 (administrator's records of payment allocations) the project's transcription of flood-damaged pages commenced before images made under special lighting were available. In many cases this new photographic tool has confirmed the reading made with the naked eye and a Wood lamp. In others it enabled the transcription to be improved, as in the passage from a petty expense account for an Opera messenger presented below. Here the additional passages of reading made possible by digital images under special light appear in bold face. Compare the relevant images under white and ultraviolet light in the virtual archive.
II 4 8, c. 41a - Petty expense account entry, February-March 1418/9
2Così nel testo: probabile conflazione tra "detto" e nome di mese.
3Due parole evanite.