What's New in Papyrology

Recent publications of papyri & ostraca 4th BC-8th AD; conferences, lectures etc. from Papy-L and other sources as noted. PLEASE SEND SUGGESTIONS

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Integrating Digital Papyrology

(1) The Andrew W. Mellon foundation has very kindly agreed to bring our proposal for “Integrating Digital Papyrology 3” to its Board on 10 December. Nothing is certain or guaranteed, but we are hopeful that the proposal will be funded. Should it be, we shall post the proposal online (as we have done with the previous two efforts (see www.duke.edu/~jds15/DDbDP-APIS-HGV_propRedacted.pdf <http://www.duke.edu/%7Ejds15/DDbDP-APIS-HGV_propRedacted.pdf> and www.duke.edu/~jds15/IDP2-FinalProposalRedacted.pdf) <http://www.duke.edu/%7Ejds15/IDP2-FinalProposalRedacted.pdf%29> .

(2) As I mentioned in Geneva, the Papyrological Navigator is in process of being overhauled. The new version is now live atpapyri.info <http://papyri.info/> . It features a great many enhancements, including much improved browse features, and concurrent metadata-and-text searching. Optimization of the interface will be part of the work we shall conduct under IDP3. Papyri.info <http://Papyri.info/>  is the single home of both the search interface and the new editing interface. We are fixing bugs as they are reported. If you encounter problems, please alert Hugh Cayless (hugh.cayless@nyu.edu); best also to copy Rodney Ast, James Cowey, and Josh Sosin.

(3) Apart from the new initiatives that we shall push forward under IDP3, we are very pleased to announce that, based on the generous and excited input of colleagues who attended the session in Geneva (especially Alain Delattre), we are now in the first stages of embarking on a pilot project to add Coptic material to the DDbDP/HGV. We shall begin with those Greek/Coptic bilingual texts, whose Greek is already in the DDbDP and whose metadata is already recorded in HGV. We’ll see what happens!

(4) As promised in Geneva, this message will be followed with invitations to senior scholars to serve as Senior Editors for the newly collaborative DDbDP. We shall alert papyList to the outcome.

We shall be in touch as developments arise.

Now, on to the new editing platform for the DDbDP. The following is a lightly edited version of the talk delivered at the Congress in August.

First some background. I don’t need to tell you very much about the history of the Duke Data Bank of Documentary Papyri. It was founded nearly 30 years ago, as a collaboration between William H. Willis and John F. Oates of Duke University, and the Packard Humanities Institute. Some 14 years later, around the time, as it happens, that APIS was also starting, the Perseus Project, from Tufts University, very kindly agreed to host a new online DDbDP, to develop a search interface, to convert the data from old Beta code to a markup language called SGML. The new home was great, free to the user. But the change meant the end of regular revenues to support data entry and proofreading, and also the end of internal control over the search interface. Within a few years the DDbDP was behind in data entry and the search interface was not growing and maturing as papyrologists wanted.

So, in 2003/4, I started a process meant to fix this problem. In 2005 The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded us a modest grant to discuss possible solutions with small groups of papyrologists and technologists. Shortly thereafter James Cowey and I began mapping the HGV and DDbDP to each other, with a view to creating the possibility of technical integration of the two databases. A year later, we began working on a proposal to Mellon to implement the results of those earlier discussions and the new collaboration with HGV. Now, in the meantime, a separate initiative, under the leadership of Roger Bagnall, had begun to develop the Papyrological Navigator, as a tool for searching and browsing the DDbDP, HGV, and APIS. Mellon very generously supported our proposal and we spent 2007/8 (1) converting the DDbDP from the by-then outdated SGML to an open and transparent markup standard known as EpiDoc <http://epidoc.sourceforge.net/> —devised for use with inscriptions, but easily extensible to cover papyrologists’ needs, (2) creating a technical framework for assembling HGV records with the corresponding Duke texts and, where they exist, APIS records—I want to say here, that absolutely critical task was made much easier by the very generous collaboration of Mark Depauw and the entire Trismegistos team, whose TM numbers are in an important sense the glue that holds our software together, and (3) finish the work started on the Papyrological Navigator.

We had begun to solve the puzzle. The DDbDP had a powerful search interface. HGV and DDbDP were on a path to technical integration; APIS records could now be displayed alongside Greek texts; Greek texts could be displayed alongside images. So there was progress. But we had not solved all of the puzzle. The DDbDP was slipping farther behind on data entry, and new rules made it difficult to hire students to enter texts. So, how were we to solve this problem? We proposed to build an online environment that would allow the worldwide community of scholars to enter texts into the DDbDP. The system would allow them paste in Word files, make some alterations, and then submit the texts to a board of editors who would proofread them and then push the texts into the database.

This began as an economic problem: we could not afford to pay for data entry. But once we started thinking about a new group-based platform a whole new vista of ideas and questions opened up to us. Why should Duke be the sole authority of what goes into the databank? Couldn’t the community do this? Why should the DDbDP only reflect scholarship that had already appeared in print publications? Could it become a forum in which, for example, emendations are proposed, discussed, approved by Editors just as, say, journal articles are?

And so, we proposed to the Mellon Foundation to, among other things, build a web-based platform that allows users to add texts to the DDbDP, correct typos, add or change translations, propose additions or emendations to HGV records, add emendations found in the BL or in other publications, even propose emendations directly to the databank, so that control of this central scholarly dataset would grow to reside with the community. Mellon generously funded the project and we spent 2008 to 2010 building it. We have tested it with small groups of colleagues; it is now live.

To get started
Feel free to consult the very brief guide
<https://docs.google.com/document/edit?id=1w0TXTq5VuIzQxGYq9vO0CJRER3JJr6tKmwwaCzyGrXs&authkey=CKnGk_ML&hl=en#> , prepared by our colleague Paul Heilporn and others:https://docs.google.com/document/edit?id=1w0TXTq5VuIzQxGYq9vO0CJRER3JJr6tKmwwaCzyGrXs&authkey=CKnGk_ML&hl=en# <https://docs.google.com/document/edit?id=1w0TXTq5VuIzQxGYq9vO0CJRER3JJr6tKmwwaCzyGrXs&authkey=CKnGk_ML&hl=en#>
By 31 December 2010, there will be a much more exhaustive online presentation to consult. But in the meantime:

(1) Go to http://papyri.info/editor/signin <http://papyri.info/editor/signin> and sign in (you will be presented with instructions).

(2) You will be brought to your ‘dashboard’, where you will see options allowing you to emend an existing publication (say, correct / emend a text already in the DDbDP, or add a text where there is now only an HGV record, but no DDbDP text) or create a new publication (to publish directly to the DDbDP, or add records for newly published texts that are not yet even in HGV).

(2b). to add a text where an HGV record exists but the DDbDP text does not yet. Under ‘Emend Existing Publication: select HGV, select series name, enter volume number (leave blank if no volume), enter text number. Click ‘Emend.’ This will open a view of the HGV record. Click on ‘Overview’; on the overview page, click ‘create new text’. (To see whether anyone has already decided to enter this text, check the ‘Overview’ page; please request also access to the googleDoc <https://spreadsheets1.google.com/ccc?key=t89MG70BXJ_dgGhUlfYrgCg&hl=en#gid=0> to help us keep track of progress: https://spreadsheets1.google.com/ccc?key=t89MG70BXJ_dgGhUlfYrgCg&hl=en#gid=0 <https://spreadsheets1.google.com/ccc?key=t89MG70BXJ_dgGhUlfYrgCg&hl=en#gid=0> . In this page we are keeping track of what needs to be entered and what is being entered ... even now, via SoSOL).

(3) You will be brought to a window containing a slightly strange looking representation of the Greek text. Much will look normal (say, ἐπιμ[ελὲς δέ σ]οι); some will look odd (say, <:πεπονηκέναι|orth|πεπονεκέναι:>). This unusual syntax is called Leiden+, since it is basically the standard Leiden sigla, plus a number of others that are necessary in order to mark up the DDbDP more fully.

(3a) Why do we need Leiden+? In order to be able to display, say, πεπονηκέναι in a text followed by a footnote and accompanying apparatus entry indicating that the scribe wrote πεπονεκεναι, the computer needs to be fed quite a lot of information. The underlying markup for this bit of papyrological logic is “
πεπονηκέναιπεπονεκεναι.” Now, we assume that no DDbDP user will want to enter all of that, and so we use Leiden+ as a kind of shorthand, to facilitate entry: <:πεπονηκέναι|orth|πεπονεκέναι:>. So under Leiden+

  • (ἰσιεί(ου)) is the shorthand for ἰσιείου and is displayed by the PN as ἰσιεί(ου)
  • κ.2[.8] is the shorthand for κ and is displayed by the PN as κ  ̣  ̣[   ̣  ̣  ̣  ̣  ̣  ̣  ̣  ̣]
  • <#κϛ=26#> is the shorthand for κϛ is displayed by the PN as κϛ.

(3b) Comprehensive documentation of the Leiden+ conventions can be found online: http://papyri.info/editor/documentation <http://papyri.info/editor/documentation> .

(4) Once you have added your new text or proposed an emendation or correction to an existing one, and have saved your changes, you may submit it to the Editorial Board by clicking on “Overview” justifying the changes/additions that you have made, and clicking “Submit to Boards.” Then the rotating DDbDP Editorial Board (currently Rodney Ast, James Cowey, Paul Heilporn, Todd Hickey, Cisca Hoogendijk, Josh Sosin) will vote on the change and either add it to the canonical copy of the publication, or else return it to the submitter (in case of error). A Board of Senior Editors (still in formulation) will be consulted in case of especially puzzling problems in texts, on the model of journal referees.

(5) Similar processes can be followed in the case of HGV metadata records and translations of documents.

Rather than continue at length, I’ll just offer the following invitation: next time you spot a typo in the DDbDP, log on to SoSOL, call up the text, make the correction, and submit it to the editors. If you aren’t quite sure whether you have used Leiden+ correctly, just let us know in your submission comments. We’ll have a look, and the system will automatically send you our comments. The first few times are a bit confusing, but the fastest way to get comfortable with the system is just to use it. It is pretty intuitive once you are familiar with it. If you need help, feel free to email any or all of the editors. If the demand is sufficient, we shall be more than happy to hold web seminars or the like. And, as part of IDP3 we shall hold 2 training sessions in London in the Spring/Summer of 2011.
Associate Professor, Classical Studies, Duke University
Director of Undergraduate Studies
Associate Editor, Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies
Co-Director, Duke Data Bank of Documentary Papyri