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Between Composition and Reception : the Authority of Medieval Charters – BeCoRe

Between Production and Reception : The Authority of Medieval Charters

BeCore (2020-2024) aims at a comparative study of the textual and graphical signs of authority and validity in late medieval charters in France and Austria, basing on the resources given by Monasterium (http://Monasterium.net). It will allow for the serializing and comparative studying of the marks of authority, along several lines of research: the signs of authority and their nature, the circulation of models, and the relationships between graphical and textual signs.

Authority and Reception of medieval acts

The scribe laying down a charter did so in the expectation of its (maybe fictive?) reception by a third part, a third part which had to be convinced of the charter's validity, beyond the judicial control of formal authenticity. A charter was also the carrier of the outward expression of validity, and a of (self-)representation. Assessing the various ways and means to achieve this will lead to a phenomenology of the expression of power and authority, even if it may not be possible to establish a firm and strict typology, as the practices did vay too much. Instead, the combination of the possible elements to express this will tell us more about organisational, regional, chronological and individual contexts. <br />The project will give insights into this development over a long time period (12th – 15th century, by creating large scale datasets (metadata, classifications....). The selected datasets will contribute to testing hypotheses on the models of authority in formal documentation in monastic orders (esp. Benedictines and Cistercians). The major expected outcomes of the project are: 1) Increase the size of actual relevant corpora, 2) Enhance the Monasterium data structure in relationship to diplomatic and historical classifications, 3) Enhance the Monasterium metadata structure to allow for research questions considering the graphical features in their historical context, 4) Integrate existing tools for the automatic analysis of graphical features into Monasterium, 5) Study of the relationship between visual appearance of documents used in monastic live (secular and clerical) in the late Middle Ages and their production context.

The project will achieve its results by a combination of manually curated database entries and automatic analysis to combine case studies with general observations. The work process is divided into four tasks:
1) Building the corpus, with late-medieval charters from the abbeys of Cluny, Fontenay, Lambach, Göttweig, Lilienfeld : digitisation (if necessary), image ingest in Monasterium, transcription and scholarly edition.
2) Data modelling: enhancement of the data model to include a typology of authorities issuing the charters (Emperor, king, bishop, pope, lay princes, monastery, municipal representative, notary, other clerics, other laymen…) and a typology for the status of the source (original, copy, edition), through controlled vocabularies, to ensure data consistency and interoperability; enhancement of the data in Monasterium on this basis, by mixing human action with semi-automated execution and some machine leaning.
3) Automation of graphical analysis: generic classification tasks by training neural networks to identify charters with specific features (illuminations, notarial signs, litterae elongatae, capitals, monograms, etc.) and for classification by categories defined in the project (social status, monastic order of issuers and recipient, basic method of authentication, time periods and area); layout analysis and text-image alignment. – All software solutions will be integrated into the MOM-CA framework, the software behind Monasterium.net, via APIs.
4) “Phenomenology” of authority. It aims at establishing a phenomenology of the different graphical tools that could be used to express authority, along the following topic.

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BeCore aims at a comparative study of the textual and graphical signs of authority and validity in medieval charters, basing on the resources given by Monasterium (<http://Monasterium.net/mom/home>), an edition and diffusion portal containing more than 600 000 charters from all Europe, of which some 270 000 are linked to images of the original documents. In addition to adding some new corpora to it, tools for the semi-automated in-dexation and searching in images of handwritten texts, as well as of graphical and ornamental signs, will be implemented in Monasterium, basing on the results of previous projects (projects ORIFLAMMS, ANR-12-CORP-0010, and HIMANIS, European project Heritage plus). This will allow for the serializing and comparative studying of the marks of authority, along several lines of research: the signs of authority, the circulation of models, and the relationships between graphical and textual signs.
Going beyond the mere aspect of authentication, seen from the eye of the detective trying to assess a falsification, also implies questioning the exchanges between the realisation of the documents and their reception. The scribe laying down a charter did so in the expectation of its (maybe fictive?) reception by a third part, a third part which had to be convinced of what it would see, this not being limited to a judicial control of formal authenticity. In that regard, a charter was also the potential carrier of the outward expression of validity, as well as a pos-sible mean of (self-)representation.
Assessing the various ways and means used will lead to a kind of phenomenology of the expression of power and authority – the fundamental hypothesis being that it may not be possible to establish a firm and strict typology, as the practices did vary too much in their use of the few possible elements, and it may in consequence be better to work on the level of the observation of graphical phenomena and the reconstruction of their possible reception; but strictly typologising these might be more confusing than revealing.
The project will give insights into this development by studying datasets over a long time period (12th – 15th century and by creating large scale data sets. The selected data sets will contribute to testing hypotheses on the models of authority in formal documentation in monastic orders (OCist, OSB). Therefore, the major expected outcomes of the project are threefold:

1) Increase the size of actual relevant corpora
2) Enhance the Monasterium.net data structure in relationship to diplomatic and historical classifications
3) Enhance the Monasterium.net metadata structure to allow for research questions considering the graphical features in their historical context.
4) Integrate existing tools for automatic analysis of graphical features into Monasterium.net
5) Study of the relationship between visual appearance of documents used in monastic live (secular and clerical) in the late Middle Ages and their production context

Project coordinator

Monsieur Sébastien Barret (Institut de recherche et d'histoire des textes)

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.

Partner

ZIM Karl-Franzens Universität Graz / Zentrum für Informationsmodellierung - Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities
IRHT Institut de recherche et d'histoire des textes

Help of the ANR 473,898 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: February 2020 - 48 Months

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