All posts by hamel

Is the Admiral “unknown”(1) by the French Royal Chancery Registers?

This post is following the recent post by MAXIME GELLY-PERBELLINI with the same topic, but with a different research mater. Primary sources about the French royal admiralty for the medieval period are rather scarce and one looking for the Admiral of France will at first be very disappointed when looking in the French Royal Chancery Registers. Would it be? In fact the query “admiral” or “admiraldum” with all its declination in the HIMANIS search engine will only return one hit in French (JJ112, fol. 51v) and none in Latin, and for that one will have to take down the confidence level to 14 . For having gone through the printed inventories and through the registers manually, we can say that the Admiral of France is indeed present in the registers more than once. What is the reason for that?

Firstly, the word « admiral » was not part of the trained model. The recognizer have to read it by himself without previously knowing the word. Secondly, the word in itself is subject to reading error, for it contains a sequence of multiple similar downstrokes.

So, how to find the Admiral (or the Visdmiral) in the corpus? While looking in the complete list of indexed words I’ve found following word variation: adjural, annual, adminal and Anviril. The same problem occurs with the Visadmiral, as the computer read Visammal, Visauvel, Visanmal or Visaumal. Clearly, as the computer have to read the word without being previously trained with this word in particular, it is the sequence of “m”, “i” and “r” that causes the reading error. Below a quick summary of all the query that merit to find the foresail admiral. For consistence, all queries have been performed with 14 confidence level.

  • Admiral @14 > 1 hit
    • Adjural @ 14 > 34 hits
    • Annual @ 14 > 25 hits (majority of false hit)
    • Adminal @ 14 > 32 hits
    • Anviril @14 > 1 hit

The present version of HIMANIS did not use any dictionary for the word recognition, only a 5gram model. In future development, correcting the list of indexed words automatically by injecting linguistic reference will certainly help improve the recognition.

Having access to the list of indexed word certainly help to find the admiral, but it is not a panacea and does not resolve all the problems. With 4.000.000 words the complete list of indexed word is very difficult to handle on a basic computer..

One can also take benefit of the recal module. But for that you already need to have some good hits and explore how the computer read the word. That is how, in one case when the word “admiral” is separate in two parts ( “ad” and “val”), we found one more occurrence..

(1) The office of admiral of France is still today not very well known. See Mathieu Le Hunsec, « L’amiral, cet inconnu », Revue historique des armées [Online], 266 | 2012, Online since 06 September 2012, connection on 23 November 2018. URL : 

HIMANIS Project New Conference on 29 May 2018 at the Archives Nationales

A second conference from the project HIMANIS (Historical Manuscripts for user-controlled Search), about handwriting recognition by computers of the ancient writings, is held on Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at the Archives Nationales (Paris site – Hôtel de Soubise, chambre du Prince).

Since 2015, the Archives Nationales became an associated partner with the IRHT-led HIMANIS (Historical Manuscripts for User-controlled Search) research project, which goals were to study the records of the French Royal Chancery of the 14th and 15th centuries. The major technological challenge was to carry out computer recognition of medieval writing that was sufficiently reliable to provide the community with a full-text search engine of the registers, many of which were not yet covered by inventories or index. A web interface, combining access to images, transcripts and archival analyzes, has also been developed.

Continue reading HIMANIS Project New Conference on 29 May 2018 at the Archives Nationales

Concluding conference of the HIMANIS project on 27 October 2017

To celebrate the achievements and the end of the HIMANIS project, the Institut de Recherche et d’Histoire des Textes (IRHT) is organizng a conference on Friday, 27 October 2017, to present, explain and discuss the impact of handwriting recognition technologies for medieval studies and heritage institutions.

The European project HIMANIS (HIstorical MANuscript Indexing for user-controlled search), led by the IRHT, brought together several research teams in engineering sciences, both private (A2iA, France), and public (PRHLT-UPVLC, Spain and Alice-Groningen Univ., The Netherlands), with the support of the National Archives and the National Library of France.

The main result of this project is that it is now possible to carry out keyword searches in the corpus of registers of the French royal chancery of the 14th and 15th centuries. For the moment there are 167 volumes of the National Archives series, JJ 7 – JJ 209 and 20 volumes of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. The interface (still preliminary) can be accessed at the following address: It is a test interface, which will evolve in the coming months, with additional manuscripts and new functionalities, notably to
navigate between the results, to display the regests and editions. HIMANIS also aims at computer-assisted analysis of the different hands involved in each volume, to study the functioning of the royal chancellery and the progressive construction of the centralized state of the French monarchy.

Entry is free but registration is required: Registration form.

Continue reading Concluding conference of the HIMANIS project on 27 October 2017

Language for acts registration at the French Royal Chancery: a fresh look at the data


The simple query of part of the protocol formula [ dei gratia francorum ] in the HIMANIS search engine return results that confirm what we already know about language used by the French Royal Chancery for recording acts.

Some warning.

  1. The complete formula ([name of the king] dei gratia Francorum rex…) is often skip and replace by “[name of the king] etc.”
  2. As the search engine is not yet lemmatized, distinction is made between “gratia” and “gracia”. To have more precise results, one can add the results of a second query [ dei gracia francorum ]
  3. Some noise might also be introduced by the vidimus copy of an act within an act.

Nevertheless, as from the first register (JJ35) the French Royal Chancery used both Latin and French and that one prevailed over the other at different periods, all major transitions are outlined by this query.

Serge Lusignan, in his 2004 book La langue des rois au Moyen Âge, point out how langage used evolved. From his observations, we can explain the major breaks-up in the following graph that we made from our query (number of query results are in red in the graph; in blue are the total number of acts for each register):

  1. JJ35-49: French is seldom used as language of registration by Philippe IV (5%)
  2. French is a little more used by Philippe IV two elder sons: JJ50-52 Louis X (19%) ; JJ53-60: Philippe V (10%).
  3. JJ53-65A: The French conquest begins slowly under his younger son, Charles IV (11% at the beginning; 26% at the end).
  4. JJ65B-79: Major break-up appears during the reign of Philippe VI. No reason is known, but in October 1330 French overthrow Latin for around 80% of act are registered in French from this date.
  5. JJ80-95: When Jean II become king (JJ80), Latin regain his place (2% of French only) until his capture. During the Regency of the Dolphin Charles (JJ84-95), French progressively take back his ground: from 32 % in 1358 it reaches 75% by the end of 1360. Back from his captivity, Latin is back again, but not with the past glory (21% French).
  6. JJ96-117: When Charles V becomes king in 1364 what today could be named a “Language policy” is put in place. From now, language is determined by the nature of the act recorded: French for remission; Latin for ennoblement, legitimation, Amortization and almost everything Church related. As Remission count for 62% of the registered act during his reign, French became predominant from now on.

NEW : improved fonctionalities for correcting query results

We improve the way to correct the results by adding two new functionalities:

1/ After a query, on the spotted words, when you click on the word you are asked if the word is correctly spotted. Not entirely sure of the result you got, we add a third option (“not sure”)  to “correct” or “incorrect”.

2/ When clicking on a word to see if it has been recognized, you have now a dropdown menu suggestions of the recognized word in order of confidence. You can now just select the correct answer from the list rather then typing it. Of course, if none of the suggested result is good you can still type the correct word manually.

The bounding box surrounding the word now appears and they are in color (green, yellow, red or grey) so you can have an idea of the confidence level of the word you are going to select. And don’t worry if the suggest word in the bounding box have nothing to do with the one you clicked: the system will only take into account the pixel on which you clicked on.

Lemmatized search is on it’s way. We are still testing it on a small sample of the corpus but it will be implement in the coming month.

NEW : documents from BNF added to HIMANIS

New documents have just been added to the HIMANIS search engine. The new documents come from BNF digitized microfilm available on Gallica and that are related to the French royal chancery. Those are either originals or copies of chancery registers that are for various reasons located at the BNF rather then at the AN. Actual shelf marks of the chancery registers of the Trésor des Chartes come from the system put in place around 1380 by Gerard of Montaigu in the last version of his inventory of the libri utiles (actual JJ 115) who numbered the registers from I (JJ 11) to CXV (JJ 115). When the JJ serie was organized, between 1852 and 1854, numerous registers where added to the original serie that were not originaly in it:

  • Some came from what was considered by Montaigu as libi inutiles (JJ 42B, 79B, 267 à 270, 288, JJNN et JJOO).
  • Others came from the J serie (JJ 20, 24B -24D, 274 and 304-320) or even P (JJ 30B), Q1 (JJ 24A2) and X (JJ 54B) series.
  • Numerous are inventories and copies from the 13th to the 18th century (JJ 12A-JJ 128, JJ 9A, 9B, 27A-27C, 271-273, 275-303, 534-5884 et JJ A-JJ K).

In 1862 an exchange of documents took place between the AN and the BN and all of the above (except JJ 27C, 272 and 273) have been transferred to the BN in exchange for various inventories (nowadays JJ 12B-127).


– Français 5291 (ex JJ18):

– Français 10187 (ex JJ27B:

– Français 18437 (ex JJ20):

– Latin 9778 (ex JJ27):

– Latin 9784 (original of JJ47 and JJ277):

– Latin 9988 (final copy of JJ30A):

– Latin 9996 (inventory = JJ275 and 276):

– Latin 10919 (ex JJ29):

– Latin 10932 (ex JJ17):

We also add the available chancery formularies and protocols.

Ptotocols and Formularies

– Latin 4763:

– Français 5024: (Formulary of Odart Morchesne, digital edition from ENC

– Français 5030:

– Français 5271:

– Français 5318:

– Français 5727:

– Français 5909:

– Français 6022:

– Français 6142:

– Français 14371 (chancery protocol):

– Français 18674:

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.