STS 2007, Part III - Digital Edition of the Codex Sinaiticus MS

First, to finish my entry on the Futures of Scholarly Editing II panel of March 16th. Peter Robinson's demonstration of the digitized Codex Sinaiticus Manuscript was incredible. The Codex Sinaiticus, a 4th century manuscript with a four-column layout and impeccable handwriting, is one of the only surviving, complete, Greek bibles. Two goals of the project (among others that I failed to write down) are (a) to make a digital version that is as remarkable as the manuscript itself (it's stunning) and (b) virtually to reunify all its leaves. No scholar has beheld the whole manuscript at once in over 2,000 years. The fragments are currently disbursed among St. Catherine's Monastery in Egypt, the British Museum, the University of Leipzig, and the National Library of Russia, all of which are collaborating to produce the digital edition.

In order to make the digital edition as remarkable as the original, the interface is as functional as it is beautiful. A gamma image recognition system was used to link high quality images of the manuscript to the digital transcripts -- down to the individual letter. Images can be floated over the transcripts in order to have a simultaneous supplement to the original. Now readers can search the centuries of corrections made to the manuscript by scholars over a period of 1,500 years, can add their own commentary to the edition, and can import and export their own bits. It is one of the first scholarly digital editions, I think, to incorporate social software into its design in order to enable discussion and collaboration.

All of this is done through a beautiful, beige, AJAX-y interface that one of the German programmers began to develop after he first saw Gmail (the digital MS previously had a highly functional but clunky looking HTML interface). The interface includes elements that can be picked up and dragged around to suit the ergonomic of the reader. And the functions, which allow the interaction between image, text, and other elements, are arrayed in an intuitive and logical manner. I was deeply impressed by the demonstration and left the room buzzing.

I began writing about the panels I attended on the 17th but there was so much to say that I've saved them for the next post.