Seeking information in the registers of the French royal chancery was never an easy task. During the conference Administrer par l’écrit au Moyen Âge held at the IRHT in Paris on June 1st, 2016, our colleague Olivier Canteaut pointed out during our joint paper, it also applied to medieval researchers. Indeed, even in the Middle Ages, reading registers cover to cover was not excluded for retrieving a particular document because tables of contents and rubrics were more than often not sufficient to find the information that was needed. And to avoid such a tedious task, the king was sometimes gathering living witnesses of his predecessor’s act rather than searching for a copy in his registers! Still today, making research in those registers is daunting, especially for the time period following the reign of Jean II (1350-1364) where modern inventories are either partial or difficult to access.
Therefore, as the main technological challenge of the HIMANIS project is to develop effective new tools for retrieving information in a massive document corpus like the chancery registers, how about merging ancient and new technologies?
Auto-indexation of the chancery register will provide keyword spotting across all the documents kept in the chancery registers. Combining this with all the existing materials (converted to electronic format), we aim at allowing simultaneous browsing between the auto-indexed digital images, document level segmentation, existing inventories, edited documents and indexed places names and persons.
The first batch of our ground-truth and images has been processed. That are 489 pages, 7100 lines, 132’700 words! All on HD images provided by the French National Archive and based on the text edition by Paul Guérin. We now are able to see the text on the image :
From then on, we are now working on
1) the validation/correction of the alignment or segmentation… and here we have to acknowledge that our “ground-truth” was far from being 100% accurate (some links to images were wrong, some text paragraphs were omitted by Paul Guérin, and all sorts of funny discoveries)
2) the enhancement of the text edition, esp. by enriching it with the abbreviations as to create better models and a better ground-truth. For that, we have played with a little tool, which indicates which abbrevations are possible for a given word :
As part of the work to build optical models, A2iA applied the techniques developped in the Oriflamms project to automatically align text and image, and extract each occurrence of any particular letter.
This is always a great fun for palaeographers to see this happening 🙂
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.
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…
Manuscripts are among the most important witnesses to our European shared cultural heritage. In recent years, large quantities of historical handwritten documents are being scanned and made available through web portals. Yet, the wealth of information conveyed by the text captured in these images remains largely inaccessible. General users and researchers more and more expect to query handwritten resources in plain text like printed books, but current handwritten text recognition technology is still far from offering sufficiently accurate transcripts on historical documents. This situation raises the need of searching approaches specifically designed for text images. HIMANIS aims at developing cost-effective solutions for querying large sets of handwritten document images. To this end, innovative keyword spotting, indexing and search methods will be developed, tested, adapted and/or scaled up to meet the real world conditions required. HIMANIS associate Computer Science (A2iA, UPVLC and RUG), Humanities (IRHT) and Cultural Heritage (The European Library, the Archives Nationales of France and Bibliothque Nationale de France) institutions and produce technology to generate new, research-based knowledge from historical manuscripts. As a challenging and particularly interesting case study, the large collection of registers produced by the French royal chancery (14th-15th c.) will be used as a test bed. This will allow sustainable use and management of this important cultural resource. Implementing user feedback will also increase our understanding of the meanings that it holds for people and how they perceive, use and interpret it, thereby meeting societal challenges in promoting its use and re-use. The expected outcomes of this project are: a) a new indexing/searching technology for historical manuscripts, brought to the market by A2iA; b) a new paradigm to study our historical heritage, as conveyed by manuscripts, by using full text search technology. c) a new vision of the raise of nation states in Europe via a new study of the corpus under this paradigm.
HIstorical MANuscript Indexing for user-controlled Search