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TEI as a format for archive inventories? At which level is the “text”?

As mentioned in previous posts, we are dealing with plenty of inventories in the HIMANIS project: handwritten systematic inventories, printed ones, cardboard files, geographic inventories, indexes, etc.

Now, the issue we have, is of the coherence of the formats we are using. The text edition we use as a training data set and ground truth, namely the Actes royaux du Poitou edited by Paul Guérin and converted by the Ecole nationales des Chartes, is in TEI-P5 format. There are twelve independent TEI files. This is normal because it is a text edition.

But what would you do with inventories? Some are plain text, some are in EAD format. We could convert them to TEI and consider that these inventories are, each of them, one “text”, so that we could convert each of them to a single TEI file, using the <body> to render the core of the inventory.

For the systematic inventories, we also could consider that each of the inventories contains “manuscript descriptions”: each register can be rendered within a <msDesc> and each text is a <msItem> within the <msContents> part.

The volumes which are copied the one from the other (such as JJ 42B and JJ41) makes it difficult to keep the same structure, except if you want to multiply the descriptions, with one <msDesc> for each of the registers and each <msItem> having the same content but the respective foliation.

In HIMANIS, we are making a new choice: considering each volume as a <TEI> entity (combining them thanks to <teiCorpus>), whose text gathers the <group> of all contained royal charters, each of which being a <text>. The abstract and analysis remains in the <front> part, with an empty <body>.


This solution is, obviously, borderline, since we end up having no text in the whole TEI document, but it is an opening towards a future in which the text could be added as if it where a scholarly digital edition. On the top of that, of course, it allows us to homogenize all source formats, including the text editions, at the (almost) the same level towards an integrated environment. (Not exactly the same level, since the <TEI> file for Guérin is one volume of the edition, not one volume of the register).
For all comments of the community, we are grateful!

Update on the inventories of the Chancery registers

Inventory of Archives Nationales, JJ 84 (11v-12r)

On December 5, during our second plenar meeting, held in Valencia (Spain), we discussed (among other topics) various issues that we have encountered with the inventories of the French royal chancery registers. Until the HIMANIS project, those were the only tools available to find particular information in those registers. They exist in different formats: printed or handwritten; some are already converted in EAD (in different flavours), but, despite the efforts of the Archives Nationales, not all available for the general public yet.

As we intend to use these inventories in the project in order to collect correct identifications for place and person names, as well as to evaluate the precision/recall of indexing, we need to have them in a interoperable electronic format (TEI / EAD).

The oldest inventory which we will use, and the only one covering the entire corpus, is the three volume manuscript inventory made in the nineteenth century by A. Longnon and A. Coulon, providing very short Latin summaries for each document. This inventory was retyped by the Archives Nationales and converted in the EAD format.

A second series of inventories encompass the geographical inventories which were elaborated for Gascogne; Languedoc and Rouergue; Berry, Blésois, Chartrain, Orléanais, Touraine. They cover the whole corpus (JJ 35 – JJ 266), but not all the acts in the corpus as they are limited by the region that they are interested in. It is also a short summary with index. We converted the OCR made by Gallica and converted them into TEI as already mentioned a year ago in our post on Named entities and ground-truth: progress report

Modern systematic inventories elaborated by the Archives Nationales come in different formats: printed, typed or are still at manuscript stage (Registres du Trésor des Chartes, Inventaires analytique, 6 vol. in 3 t.).

  • T. I: Philippe IV (1300-1314) [JJ 37 – 50]
    • OCR by AN; EAD with subjects index coded
    • Index (place names + persons) : TEI by IRHT
  • T. II: Fils de Philippe le Bel (1314-1328)
    • T.II.1 : Louis X, Philippe V (1314-1321) [JJ 50 – 60]: EAD by AN
    • T.II.2 : Charles IV (1322-1328) [JJ 61 – 64]: TEI by IRHT
    • No index existing
  • T. III: Philippe de Valois (1328-1349)
    • T. III.1 1328-1349 [JJ 65A – 69]: OCR by IRHT; TEI
    • T. III.2 1336-1346 [JJ 70 – 75]: OCR by AN; EAD
    • T. III.3 1339-1350 [JJ 76 – 79B]: OCR by AN; EAD
    • Index (subjects, person, place names, chancery notes): OCR by IRHT; TEI

Typed unpublished inventories have been retyped by the Archives Nationales (AN) :

  • Jean II and Charles Dauphin
    • JJ 80 – JJ 81: OCR by AN; plain text converted to TEI
    • JJ 83: OCR by AN; .xls to be converted to TEI
    • JJ 82 – 95: Ms. Index on cardboard files (persons and subjects) about 30.000 files; re-typed by AN
    • JJ 96 – 97: Ms. Index on cardboard files (persons, place names, subject): 4.500 files; retyped by AN
  • Charles V (1364-1366)rc
    • JJ 96 to JJ 98: abstracts and index in .xls to be converted to TEI

Last but not least, our main concern were with the 12 inventories that  were still in handwritten stage (JJ84-95 or about 1400 pages). Those where remained in the manuscript (JJ84-95 for the reign of Jean II and a part of Charles V). We therefore asked our partner A2ia if they can perform HTR on those. But how did we proceed to achieve this task?

 

First, the AN provided us with high resolution reproduction of those 12 inventories, or 1429 pages, at 300 dpi in tiff format. We then produce ground truth, which consisted of the 4 first pages of each inventories (1079 lines of text). Then A2ia trained and performed HTR. We were lucky as the inventory have only one hand and as the layout is very stable from one inventories to the other. Using a standard French model and lexicon from the printed inventories, this operation was able to be carried out quickly in less then 4 weeks and produced results that went beyond our expectations with a very high recognition rate and transcript almost usable as is.

Inserted acts and vidimus copies in the registers of the French royal Chancery: Originals without originality?

During the colloquium L’acte original, entre conceptions médiévales et concept diplomatique (Nancy, 6-7 oct. 2016), we presented a paper about the practice of “insertion”, which consists in transcribing an earlier document into the body of another act. This practice is used, according to the Vocabulaire international de diplomatique (International vocabulary of diplomatics), either to give legal support to this act (for example, by transcribing the powers of prosecutors or commissions), or to confer authenticity to the transcribed act, known as “vidimus”. This double practice is massive in the registers of the French Royal Chancery, going as far as to produce vidimus of vidimus.

Using the materials accumulated so far in the HIMANIS project, encompassing several text editions and all available inventories (despite the differences in structure),  we quantified this practice and documented its evolution from the reign of Philip IV (1286-1314) until Louis XI (1461-1483) and were able to show diachronic variation (with a maximum under the reigns of Philip IV’s sons and a sharp decrease under Charles V and his successors) as well as geographic differences.

We also studied the diplomatic features (beneficiaries etc.) and indications of collation (becoming quasi systematic under Philip VI) and mise en texte within the registers.