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Digital Paleography as Pedagogical Tool for Latin/Greek

One of Dr. Jayni Reinhard's (University of Wisconsin - Parkside) favorite language-learning activities as a grad student at the University of Minnesota was reading Greek off of high-quality images of papyrus fragments. A group project introduced students to paleography and served as a much-needed and welcome reminder that the texts from ancient authors were not as neat and tidy as students might sometimes think. Poems were written down, copied, and composed on any number of media ranging from papyrus to parchment (for those lurking Medievalists out there) to funerary monuments, and more (e.g. graffiti on walls). Inscription evidence is of primary importance to archaeologists in their various forms, and can also serve as a handy and FUN method of throwing some "real" Latin and Greek at advanced levels of study in high school and college. As a group project, students can scan each line of text, can add breaks between words, check orthography, mind the grammar, play with abbreviations, and ultimately arrive at translations (not to mention reading real text within an archaeological and historical context).

So where does one locate images of these manuscripts for the aforementioned fun-filled way to spend a Friday (or a weekend)? Glad you asked:

Probably your best source for on-line Medieval Latin manuscript pages (there's Greek here, too!) is Columbia University's Digital Scriptorium. Execute keyword searches to find a general manuscript, click on the Image link, and then choose the size of image that you'd like to use.

Brigham Young University also has a few links to more recent Latin manuscripts at its DScriptorium site.

Oxford University's Bodleian Library has many manuscripts on-line. Western manuscripts are here, starting in the 11th century. Oxford is also in the midst of more breathtaking work in imaging their early manuscript collections, the evidence of which can be found here.

Beastiaries are always fun. Try the Medieval Bestiary -- click on the beastie of your choice and then click on the Manuscripts link at the bottom of the page that follows. Edited by David Badke.

You will also want to try out some remarkable, interactive paleography software from evellum.com called "Ductus", with the tagline, "paleography on steroids". They are correct. Just brilliant.

This should be enough to get you started. If anyone can contribute links to other Internet sources of high-quality images of Latin and Greek manuscripts, please leave a comment here. Having images of Catullus poems on papyrus would be of great use to teachers of AP Catullus.

And not to give away any company secrets, Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers is investigating creating an interactive eLearning tool based on the manuscript of Terence's Phormio where students can play with the text in various ways. Stay tuned!


Views: 195

Comment by David Powell on June 17, 2007 at 11:04am
Good links, Andrew, thanks!

A couple of others...the Digital Abbey Library of St. Gallen has 144 manuscripts online. The famous Vindolanda tablets are also available, including the famous birthday invitation from Claudia Severa to Sulpicia Lepidina.
Comment by David Powell on June 17, 2007 at 7:21pm
Coincidentally, About.com classicist N.S. Gill called attention to this project just this evening:

The Homer Multitext Project
Comment by Andrew Reinhard on June 17, 2007 at 10:06pm
Right! That stories been HUGE this past week, and in part prompted this posting.
Comment by Peter Sipes on June 20, 2007 at 10:26am
As I had told Andrew earlier, I actually did a lesson in paleography with my students.

When I was in Ireland, I picked up a poster of a page from the Book of Kells. I made some color copies and had my students puzzle out what it said. It was not as easy for them as it seemed at first glance.

Though there was some value in reading what the page said (I supplied some lead in text), I think the real value of this is twofold. First, it is interesting. Anything that grabs student interest is worth doing. Second, which Andrew said earlier, it helps to explain how we got these texts from earlier times.


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