We are very pleased to announce that the first annual Medieval Academy Digital Humanities Prize has been awarded to DigiPal: Digital Resource and Database of Manuscripts, Palaeography and Diplomatics. (London, 2011-14), http://www.digipal.eu/, developed at the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London, and funded by the European Research Council. Primary Creators are Peter Stokes and Stewart Brookes, and Geoffroy Noël (King’s College London).
DigiPal’s pilot database consists of records for all extant scribal hands writing English Vernacular minuscule and dated to the eleventh century. This amounts to approximately 1600 full or partial manuscripts and documents, containing about 1200 scribal hands and over sixty thousand annotated images of letters. The site is easy to use and offers explanatory search training for non-specialists; it is also enticing and aesthetically pleasing.
DigiPal combines digital photographs of medieval handwriting with detailed descriptions and characterizations of the writing, as well as the text in which it is found, and the content and structure of the manuscript or document as a whole. The project makes it possible to explore and manipulate information, such as annotated images, along with more conventional text-based browse and search functions. It therefore allows scholars to apply new developments in palaeographical method.
The greater value of DigiPal is its generalized framework for the online presentation of palaeographical materials. It is freely available to scholars wishing to create similar projects, several of which are already under way. For instance, DigiPal’s framework is already being used to study Hebrew and Greek, as well as images of later European handwriting and decoration. Recently, DigiPal’s framework has been expanded to include a new feature: users can now view palaeographical forms with the corresponding text, and thus can probe the relationship between text and script.
DigiPal’s innovative framework, collaborative origins, open access, quality design, and skillfully curated pilot collection make it an excellent model for the practice of digital humanities scholarship in the field of medieval studies.