A glimpse at the coverage of extant inventories

Last week, I was in Graz, talking about “Automated indexing of medieval manuscripts: the HIMANIS research project and the registers of the French royal chancery” at a Lunchtime Lecture of the Zentrum für Informationsmodellierung at the University of Graz.

For this lecture, I prepared a small slide which I had ever wanted to do: just give an idea of the coverage of the inventories at a glimpse. Well, it is easy and difficult at the same time.

The Virtual Reference Room of the National Archive indicates many inventories for the fonds JJ. Not fewer than 42!

But, if you simplify a bit, then, you have the systematic printed inventories from JJ 37 to JJ 79 (1300-1350), then you have handwritten unpublished inventories for the years 1350-1364 (JJ 80 to JJ 95), and, besides some particular text editions, esp. regarding the Poitou region, some geographic inventories for JJ 35 to JJ 266, covering the provinces of Gascogne, Blésois, Orléanais, Chartrain, Languedoc and Rouergue.
In the map above, there are of course some catches: I’ve avoided the question of the exact limits of the older provinces by using a map with actual departements. But I hope this gives a good idea of how much we have to discover in the Chancery registers 😀

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!