DS07 - Société de l'information et de la communication

Hours - Recognition, Analysis, Edit(ion)s – HORAE

Submission summary

HORAE (Hours - Recognition, Analysis, Editions) is a cross-disciplinary research project studying religious practices and experiences in the late Middle Ages through the books of hours, the absolute medieval best seller. In a public-private partnership, it gathers three partners in the Humanities and Computer Science: the Institut de Recherche et d’Histoire des Textes (IRHT, UPR 841), the private company TEKLIA and the Laboratoire des Sciences du Numérique de Nantes (LS2N, UMR6004).
Books of hours forms, with more than 5000 preserved manuscripts, a vast and crucial ensemble to understand the medieval mindset. Yet, their textual content is very scarcely studied, although the massive production of such a large number of manuscripts is a pivotal cultural and industrial phenomenon to the profound changes in the medieval religious life. Not only a proto-industrial book production arises and the economics of demand shifts to the economics of offer, but also the awakening of the individual and the internalization of faith take places in an increasingly church controlled world. Books of hours are at the same time deluxe objects, implying social staging, and intimate objects, with devotional, memorial and eschatological challenges.
HORAE combines the research and expertise of all three partners in artificial intelligence applied to Computer Vision and image analysis, in Natural Language Processing (NLP), and in book history and religious practices. The research project aims at creating an integrated chain from image treatment to producing new knowledge by placing the end user at the center of the developments, by managing formats, interoperability and long term preservation, but also ergonomics and data visualization.
The aims encompass: (1) re-using the many digitized manuscripts, which are online but underused resources; (2) new open source software for Handwritten Text Recognition (HTR); (3) tools for segmentation and plagiarism detection, adapted to the transcription of medieval manuscripts produced by the machine in order to identify the texts in the books of hours; (4) identifying and editing unpublished texts; (5) visualization of manuscript clusters, which share the same textual characteristics in the order of the different parts (Officium Beatae Mariae Virginis, votive offices, suffrages, prayers), but also in the order of textual units to identify the liturgical use; (6) studying the diffusion and circulation of devotional and liturgical texts at the end of the Middle Ages in order to better understand the cultures and faith in the 13th c.-16th c.
With its aims and methods, HORAE profoundly changes the ways of doing research in auxiliary sciences and tackles the challenges of big data. Books of hours have been too scarcely studied until new because they are too numerous, too complex and their text is very repetitive: now, their very number, repetitions and complexities make possible for this project to develop new and efficient technologies and methodologies and gain new knowledge on the Middle Ages.

Project coordinator

Monsieur Dominique Stutzmann (Institut de Recherche et d'Histoire des Textes (UPR 841))

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 Institut de Recherche et d'Histoire des Textes (UPR 841)
LS2N (ex-LINA) Laboratoire des Sciences du Numérique de Nantes

Help of the ANR 402,120 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: December 2017 - 36 Months

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