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Accessing the full text of the Trésor des Chartes’ registers! (beta version)

HIMANIS project

Looking for the word “abbatisse” in plain text of the Tresor des Chartes’ registers

The HIMANIS project is funded by the Joint Programming Initiative on Cultural Heritage and Global Change” (JPI-CH) of the European Union. The partners are developing cost-effective solutions for querying large sets of handwritten document images. It gathers Computer Science, Humanities and Cultural Heritage institutions in order to produce technology to generate new, research-based knowledge from historical manuscripts. As a challenging and particularly interesting case study, the large collection of the Trésor des Chartes’ registers produced by the French royal chancery (Paris, Archives Nationales, JJ35 – JJ211).  The expected outcomes of this project are:

  1. a new indexing/searching technology for historical manuscripts
  2. a new paradigm to study our historical heritage, as conveyed by manuscripts, by using full text search technology.
  3. a new vision of the raise of nation states in Europe via a new study of the corpus under this paradigm.

Now we are proud to announce that we reach the two first goals of our project!  You can search the plain text in the Trésor des Chartes’ registers and provide feedback: It is ready to be used and tested by all interested users worldwide!

You can search the plain text in the Trésor des Chartes’ registers and provide feedback!

How to search?

Query settings

Home page of the HIMANIS indexing and search engine
  • A query box is provided to type the queries
    • The search engine is case insensitive (“Paris” and “paris” retrieve the same results). The search engine allows for “AND”, “OR” and “EXPRESSION” queries (see below).
    • Abbreviations are not queried as they appear in the images; instead the corresponding expanded forms are used. For example, use “paris” to find “Paris”, “par.”, “par^s”, “Pars.”, etc.
    • Query text must be diacritcs-folded (e.g., “sebastien”, rather than “Sébastien”).
  • A confidence box and slider are provided to express a confidence threshold which determines the desired precision-recall tradeoff. The default is 50%. A higher value results in higher precision (little or none wrong spots) and lower recall (some, or many existing instances of the query may not be retrieved); a lower value results in lower precision (some, or many wrong spots) and higher recall (all or most the existing instances can be retrieved).
  • A ‘Max. results’ box is provided to express the maximum number of spots to be retrived and shown. For example, if this number is set to 20 and the confidence is set to 40%, the system shows at most 20 spots with confidence higher than 40%; and if no (or 0) confidence is set, the system retrieves at most 20 spots with the highest confidence.

    Query settings


The search engine allows compound queries (boolean AND, OR, NOT) and “sequences”. For compound queries, the results are computed at Page level, and the number of matches is the total number of word occurrences matching the query.

  • Relations are interpreted at the full page-image level.
  • The operators are: AND: “&&” (or just blank space), OR: “||”, NOT: “-” (before the words which have to be negated). Parenthesis “(“, “)”, can be used for grouping
  • For “Sequence”, the number of match is computed at Page level and one match corresponds to the complete expression.
  • A query can be a sequence of words, expressed using the symbols “[” and “]”. Sequences are not exact strings; they allow (a few) extra words to appear among the stated words. Examples: “[ludovico francorum]” (where “francorum” is an expanded abbreviastion) would retrieve pages with strings such as “ludovico franc.”, “Ludovico rege franc.”, “ludovico dei gra. francorum”, etc. In the current system version, sequences can not be mixed with boolean operators.

Queries: NOT

“france – flandres”: pages with at least one instance of “france” but with no instance of “flandres”

Queries: mixed AND/OR/NOT with parentheses

“paris && (france || flandres)”: pages with at least one instance of “paris” AND at least one instance of either “france” OR “flandres”, or both

Navigation through the results

The current presentation of results is bound by the hierarchy of the collection and we know that it is not always easy to flip through the results. We ask for your patience and your help!

We ask for your patience and your help!

It is possible to:

  1. browse all registers
  2. browse all pages in one register
  3. see the list of registers with the number of matching pages (not the number of matches in the volume)
  4. see the list of pages with the number of matches

Queries are interpreted, and results are shown, hierarchically. For example, assume a collection is composed of many Volumes and each Volume of many Pages. Then, if the query is issued at the top collection level, the system first shows the Volumes where the query may appear with confidence above the threshold specified. Then if the same query is issued for a specific Volume, the system shows all the Pages where the query may appear with a confidence above the threshold. Finally if it is issued for a specific Page, the system shows locations where the words involved in the query may appear. In the PRHLT interface, default levels of the hierarchy are called: “Home”, “Collection”, “Chapter” and “Page”.

The navigation from one page goes either to the previous or the next one in the same volume, or back to a higher level (volume or corpus). There is no possibility to jump directly to the next match.

To go back to the superior level, please navigate with the breadcrumb.

Number of volumes with at least one match (and average confidence)
List of volumes with at least one match and number of pages with at least one match
List of pages in the volume and number of matches on the page
Matches on the page
  1. Miniatures. At each level of the hierarchy (except at the lowest one, the page level), the system shows the elements of this level by means of miniature images, with some information associated; namely,
    1. an identifier of the element,
    2. a bar representing the confidence of the system that the query appears somewhere in this element
    3. the number of elements in the lower level where the query may appear with a confidence above the threshold specified.
  2. By hovering the mouse over the confidence bar, the actual confidence value is shown.
  3. Pan and Zoom: When a (part of a) page image is shown, it can be explored by moving the mouse while holding its right button. In addition, the mouse wheel can be used to zoom in and out.
  4. If a word appears more than once in a text line, only the instance with greatest confidence is shown.
  5. The approximate locations of spotted queries in each page are marked with rectangles (called “bounding boxes”) surrounding the corresponding words. The color of a rectangle expresses the degree of confidence the system has in the corresponding spot. Exact confidence values can be seen by hovering the mouse over the rectangles.

Your feedback is needed!


On the spotted words

When you see the results of a query a “word level”, you can click on the word and you are asked if the word is correctly spotted. Please help us and say “correct” or “incorrect”.

Giving feedback on spotted words

If you see a missed word

In the example below, the word “pedagiis” has been correctly spotted on the lower right part of the image.

Correct and missed matches on one page

If you double-click on the image, you can add the word to our index!

Inserting the correct transcription for a word

Hints for the Chancery collection

  • Click on the Chancery miniature with no query to see the 147 Volumes indexed, each showing the number of images it contains (ranging from less then 100 to more than 1000).
  • Queries can be formulated at any level: full Collection (Chancery), specific Chapter (Volume JJ…), or individual Page.
  • Remember to use the Confidence and/or Max.results levers depending on the precision-recall tradeoff you wish to achieve.
  • The number of the “page” indicated is the number of the file.
  • There are 147 volumes; 32 additionnal volumes are being digitized by the French National Archive

In the near future…

This is a presentation of the Beta Version. In a near future, you will be able to scroll through the results and provide feedback directly on a hit list of the results.

You will be able to get the correct foliation of each image and retrieve metadata from the inventories and text editions.

IRHT’s interface proposal to access the Chancery corpus: aligning and merging early modern inventories (tables of contents), 20th c. inventories and indexes, partial editions, and the result of automated indexing performed in the HIMANIS project

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!

Named entities and ground-truth: progress report

The research project started on November 1st, 2015. We are now describing the first steps undertaken during the first 3 months of the HIMANIS project are the following: the partners created the CHANCERY corpus (Archives nationales, JJ 35 to JJ 91) and associated the ground-truth with the images. They also acquired the necessary linguistic resources and formatted them in order to apply them to the automated indexing. At the same time, they created a dictionary of named entities with a dual objective: on the one hand, allow for a better indexing, and, on the other hand, provide a tool for accuracy measure. This dictionary is mainly based on the diverse regional systematic surveys : Gascogne; Languedoc and Rouergue; Berry, Blésois, Chartrain, Orléanais, Touraine.
While working on these resources, we are moving from a linear and self-contained work and go to a direct index to spot on which page of which register, one can find a specific named entity.

The ground-truth is drawn from the large collection of Paul Guérin, Recueil des documents concernant le Poitou contenus dans les registres de la Chancellerie de France, 12 vol.

as it has been digitally edited by Ecole nationale des chartes:

In parallel, they started the automated segmentation per line and words of their systems as well as the automated indexing, either based on first optical models or based on text-image alignment.

A great start


Paris, Archives Nationales, JJ 35, fol. 5r (en ligne sur le site des Archives nationales). Reproduction by permission (see conditions on the website:

This week, we had our kick-off meeting! It is a great fun to gather all the partners from the Netherlands, Spain and France.

This is the occasion to give some specific information about our corpus, aka “the Chancery corpus” or short “Chancery”. It already encompasses the high resolution digitized images of the registers from the French royal chancery, covering the period from 1211 to 1363, with the shelfmarks Paris, Archives nationales, JJ 7 to JJ 91. The full inventory is online : and a fair part of this collection is already freely available to the public on the website of the French National Archive with more detailled descriptions for each volume from JJ 7 to JJ 56 (see

For our team, the core corpus only covers the period 1302-1363 with the registers stricto sensu, but wouldn’t it be a pity to let the first part of the digitized material without indexation?

We are very happy to thank the French National Archive for its very generous and ongoing support. Not only they provide us with full resolution images for our scientific research, but they keep digitizing. In two years from now, the HIMANIS team and the Archives nationales will be glad to let everyone search directly in the text of this wonderful resource!

As for now, how should we start? Is there a better way than quoting the first charter of the first volume (JJ 35, fol. 5r), the reform order of 1303, whose preamble is all about starting a new way of life?

Nos, Philippus Dei gratia Francorum rex, pro reformatione regni nostri, quod retroactis temporibus gravatum extitit adversitatibus temporum et guerrarum ac pluribus aliis contrariosis eventibus, deliberatione provida fecimus aliquas ordinationes et statuta utilia et salubria pro gubernatione ac bono statu regni predicti, pro pace etiam ac transquillitate subjectorum nostrorum, sicut inferius continetur…