284 Greek manuscripts online at the British Library

I learn from here via here that Juan Garces, the go-ahead curator of Greek manuscripts at the British Library, has got 284 manuscripts online.  It’s well worth browsing the four pages of the list.  There’s a manuscript of Zosimus New History in there, for instance.  Despite pleas from Biblical people, it’s mostly classical or patristic or bits and pieces, which is all to the good.  Synesius is well-represented too.

Note that the short list in the browse is not everything.  If you click on one of the text links you get a break down of all that the manuscript contains.  Works in the TLG are given the TLG reference too.

Turning the pages is quick and easy, thankfully, unlike early and very clunky online interfaces.  This one is almost usable!

Really Important: tell the British Library which manuscripts you want to see online

Juan Garces is inviting suggestions for manuscripts to be digitised here.

The obvious answer to this question is: all of them! We all want access to free digital resources, but creating them is tempered by a series of practical considerations. How can we best deliver digitised manuscripts to your desktops? One answer is to secure funding for independent digitisation projects with achievable goals. Such a series of projects has to be placed squarely within a vision and strategy. At the start of each one we have to ask ourselves: which manuscripts should we digitise next? …

It is, however, crucial that we also engage you. Here’s how. Contact me to answer the following question: which particular Greek manuscripts held by the British Library would you like to see digitised and why? I cannot promise that your favourite manuscript will be in the next phase, but I can assure you that your feedback will inform our decision.

Basically Juan has to go out and bid for money.  So if you have an idea for some manageable-size “project” that would attract funding easily, tell him.  If you have a bunch of manuscripts in mind, tell him.

I notice that the Stavros Niarchus Foundation is funding the first tranche.  We have, perhaps, overlooked the “wealthy Greek shipowner” angle on all this.  The manuscripts — the physical books — are the remains of Greek culture as it was in the middle ages, and record that culture from still earlier stages.  Why shouldn’t this Greek culture be online?

Greek mss at the British Library

I have been hunting around to see which Greek manuscripts at the British Library it might be interesting to get digitised.  It is remarkably difficult to find out.

The BL catalogue is online; but it is largely useless because there is no way to restrict results to Greek mss only.  So a search for Chrysostom — every collection must have these — is pointless, because most of the results will be Latin manuscripts of translations.  This is really quite frustrating.  So far I have managed to find only a handful of mss which I might put forward.

One possible source of information would be Henri Omont, ‘Notes sur les manuscrits grecs du British Museum’, Bibliothèque de l’École des Chartes, 45 (1884), 314-50, 584 (p. 335).  This is online here.  Maybe this will list some interesting volumes, if it ever downloads!

UPDATE: Indeed it does.  After a survey of the main collections, it lists the interesting previous owners and what they owned.  I need to digest this down into a list of suggestions.

Never mind the New Testament – digital mss at the British Library

All the NT people are getting excited about Juan Garces’ plan to digitise 250 manuscripts at the British Library.  But of course the rest of us have views too!  I have written today to Dr Garces asking for some classical manuscripts to be done as well.

Some time ago I went through the introductions of a large number of Loeb editions in order to get an overview of what mss of what existed where.  Since the list of mss in a Loeb is always limited, anything mentioned is probably important.

Here’s what I found that was held by the BL — 9 manuscripts in all:

  • Letters of Alciphron — British Library Harleianus 5566.  Paper. ff.141r-167v.
  • Apollodorus — British Library Harleian 5732.  (16th c).
  • Babrius, Fables — British Library, Additional 22087 (codex Athous).  Contains fables 1-122.  Corrections in the margins and above the lines by Demetrius Triclinus. 10th c.
  • Herodotus – British Library 1109 (Greek papyri in the British Museum III p.57 = Milne, Catalogue of the literary papyri in the British Museum no. 102) 1/2nd century
  • Homer, Iliad, — British Library Burney 86, 11th c.
  • Isaeus — British Library, Burneianus 95 (=codex Crippsianus).  This is a vellum manuscript containing Andocides, Isaeus, Deinarchus, Antiphon, Lycurgus, Gorgias, Alcidamas, Lesbonax and Herodes.  This was first discovered in the library of the monastery of Vatopedi on Mt. Athos.  It was then acquired by the Phanariot Greek Prince, Alexander Bano Hantzerli of Constantinople.  John Marten Cripps bought it from him at the start of the 19th century.  It then passed into the collection of Dr. Charles Burney, and thence with the rest of that collection by purchase into the British Museum in 1827.  It also has two corrector’s hands.  The first is the original scribe correcting his work against the exemplar, with the occasional conjecture.  The second may or may not involve the use of a different ms.  13th c.
  •  Isaeus — British Library, Burney 96. 15th c.
  • Thucydides — British Library 11727. Parchment  11th c.
This taken from my notes about the traditions here:

Digitised mss at the British Library

From Evangelical Textual Criticism I learn that the excellent Juan Garcés is revolutionising things at the British Library.   He’s leading a project to digitise 250 Greek manuscripts and place them online so scholars can consult the things.  He has obtained funding from the Stavros Niarchos foundation.

He’s also created the Digitised Manuscripts blog to report on progress.

It seems that the British Library described the project in their “Annual Reports and Accounts 2008/2009”:

Digitisation of Greek manuscripts

We are very grateful to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation for making it possible for us to undertake a project to digitise 250 of our Greek manuscripts to make them fully accessible to researchers around the world through the internet. We will also create catalogue records for each item and create a website that will enable researchers to search using key words and interactive technology that will allow them to upload notes and collaborate with other researchers virtually. We aim to launch the website in summer 2010. We are continuing to fundraise to enable us to add the remaining Greek manuscripts and papyri to the site in the longer term.

Let us hope that they understand that we will all want downloadable PDF’s.

It might be interesting to think what mss we would like scanned.  I know that New Testament people will be lobbying; but classics and patristics mss would be nice.  I realise that I don’t actually know what Greek mss at the BL I would like to see.

Online version of the Codex Sinaiticus; more manuscripts to follow

We’ve all seen the PR for this online manuscript, which has even caused the servers to crash, although it is back now.  The PR has been very well managed, and it can only be a good thing that more interest is being generated in online manuscripts.  The announcement of more manuscripts at the Virtual Manuscript Room at Birmingham is well-timed.

I learn that the British Library is now beginning a pilot project to place some 250 Greek manuscripts online.  The project will be led by Juan Garces, who has been involved in the Sinaiticus project.  Clearly success begets success, and we can only hope that this marks the beginning of the end of the long hostility of the British Library to putting material on the internet.

Philip Comfort’s book Encountering the Manuscripts  – about New Testament manuscripts, including Sinaiticus – should be selling very well just now!

British Library to mass-digitize its manuscripts?

Tiny snippets, these, but here I found a report on a conference in February, which included the chance remark:

Will this community thrive? Ronald Milne of the British Library told me he was amazed at how web-active the papyrologist community is. Incidentally, Juan Garcés presented this work excitingly within the context of a recent decision by the British Library to mass-digitise its entire collection of pre-1600 manuscripts.

Meanwhile here is a conference due to happen in July 2009.  Among the papers to be delivered is:

Juan Garcés, Codex Sinaiticus and the mass-digitisation of Greek manuscripts at the British Library.

Hum.  If the British Library is really to digitise all of its manuscripts, that could only be a good thing; indeed a very good thing.  But the devil is in the detail.  I will see if I can find out more about this.  Who is Juan Garces, I wonder?  A search reveals this:

Juan Garcés is Project Manager of the Greek Manuscripts Digitisation Projects at the British Library, where he is currently managing both the Codex Sinaiticus Project (http://www.codexsinaiticus.org) and the Greek Manuscripts Digitisation Project. After studying theology in Giessen and Marburg, Germany, he received a doctorate in Biblical Studies from the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, in 2003.

He has since gained experience in the field of Digital Humanities as analyst, consultant, and adviser on digitally-based research projects, particular in the field of Greek texts. Before coming to the British Library, he was employed at the Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King’s College London, which recently awarded him an MA in Digital Humanities. He is one of the founding members of the Digital Classicist (http://www.digitalclassicist.org/), the organiser of the Open Source Critical Editions workshop, and co-author of the forthcoming article ‘Open Source Critical Editions: a Rationale’ (in: Text Editing, Print, and the Digital World, eds. Marilyn Deegan and Kathryn Sutherland, Ashgate Press, 2009).

Frankly this sounds pretty good.   A man with a background in Open Source, and digitisation.

My only worry … the BL has a history of creating digital items which it then sells access to, instead of making available to the general public.  It would be a tragedy if such a potentially useful project was prostituted in that way.