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Montaigne at work – MONLOE

Submission summary

Montaigne à l'oeuvre/ Montaigne at Work
The BVH (Bibliothèques Virtuelles Humanistes) team of the Centre d’Études Supérieures de la Renaissance (CESR: University of Tours and CNRS), has been putting Renaissance works online since 2003, both in textual and image mode. Conceived in collaboration with the IRHT and the Ecole de Chartes, the MONLOE project (Montaigne à l'œuvre / Montaigne at Work) represents the first phase of a multi-format electronic publication programme aimed at compiling an “authors' corpus” intended for a wide audience (researchers, students, secondary school teachers, amateurs). The Montaigne corpus will eventually incorporate all the principal editions of The Essays, the diachronic copy known as the “Bordeaux copy” (annotated by Montaigne in view of a later edition), all the documents featuring Montaigne's signature (conserved in diverse public and private libraries around the world), all his other written works and a selection of the major sources of The Essays. Furthermore, it will include a 3D reconstruction of Montaigne's personal library and an audio version of The Essays. For the time being, priority will be accorded to the principal editions of The Essays, their facsimiles and the Bordeaux copy. Already a rich and complex undertaking in itself, it may be hoped that the online publication of these works will form the basis of considerable future development.
Inspired by the “Montaigne Library of Gilbert de Botton”, legated to the University of Cambridge in 2008, the international and collaborative project that is “Montaigne at Work” aims at developing the study of literary creative processes through the transcription and encoding of works in XML (eXtensible Markup Language). This enterprise promises to shed considerable light on Montaigne's compositional methods, the additions, corrections and modifications introduced in source texts and compilations, his practise of intervening, the invention of the “essay” and the most significant concepts contained in The Essays (“human condition”, “doubt”, “prudence”, “inscience”, “good faith”, “fantasy”, “que sais-je”, etc.). At the heart of the project, the e-publication of different strata of the “mixed” document (printed and hand-written) that the Bordeaux copy represents will be managed by the integral transcription of chapters structured according to the diachronic shifts. This will involve processing the graphic variation of both Montaigne's hand-writing and the different observable orthographic practises, as well as appropriate linguistic processing: lemmatisation and querying of heterographs, associated with research on lexical configuration. Both an intellectual and a technical challenge, this project will underline the value of this exceptional part of literary heritage, notably through the visualisation of the time-scale of the composition of The Essays, the recognition of the particular status of additions and revisions (published or hand-written), together with the script visualisation that this implies, and the compilation of a philosophical lexicon in the vernacular.
A vital part of the global BVH programme, the MONLOE project will use both existing resources and developing methodological approaches to explore new procedures in digital humanities: page by page parallel display of texts and images; annotated textual corpora, permitting several levels of analysis and querying; identification of Montaigne's various “hands”; visualisation of lexical configurations as well as strata. The procedures developed for the recognition of hand-writing and the processing of textual data, as well as the data resulting from the project, will be freely disseminated and thus re-employable by other teams.

Project coordination

Marie-Luce DEMONET (Centre d'Etudes Supérieures de la Renaissance, Université de Tours) –

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


IRHT Délégation Régionale Ouest et Nord
CESR Centre d'Etudes Supérieures de la Renaissance, Université de Tours
IRHT Institut de Recherche et d'Histoire des Textes

Help of the ANR 343,612 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: January 2013 - 36 Months

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