A Conference about Digital Humanities: « Gestion informatisée des écritures anciennes »

I am just back from Tours (France) where a great conference on some speficic aspects of Digital Humanities took place at the Centre d’études supérieures de la Renaissance.

The conference proposed a kind of « state of art » of what can computers provide to paleographical studies. But it was not just about OCR softwares! It really tried to have a more complete look at the relationship between ancient writing and new technologies in order to see what is actually working, what maybe will work in a few years, and what will never work!
In that context, Marc Smith (École nationale des Chartes, Paris) proposed a great keynote lecture on medieval paleography and the different ways of reproducing the graphic specificities of medieval writing.
There was a real coherence in the smart organization of the program (Remi Jimenez and the CESR team did a great work). Dominique Stutzmann (IRHT, Paris) presented his new projet called ORIFLAMMS and gave a fascinating paper about what can be waited from digital analizes of medieval graphic systems, and what has to done by paleographers. Very suggestive! With Elisa Pallottini (University of Rome) and Florence Codine‘s papers, one could learn a lot about theoretical and pratical aspects of epigraphic writing and the way to transcribe a sign which is both material, object, space and alphabetical meaning.
Everything was really interesting but I think that the key point for artistical approaches was the presentation made by various character and font designers. Thanks to their work on letter form and visual aspects of writing, they actually brought accurate analizes about what a letter is and why does one letter look different from another one. Typographic history and research offer new solutions to display transcription or edition of medieval texts.
Just have a look at Andreas Stötzner‘s work and creation for example. See also Julia Joffre‘s posters . Julia is now working on a font project of medieval gothic scipt and the first draft she showed are really beautiful. Last but not least, Thomas Huot-Marchand, director of the Atelier national de recherche typographique in Nancy (France), presented his institution and announced the publication of a general catalogue of ANRT former students’ creations.

Between medieval paleography and typographic creation, between Humanities and Art, we had a great time in Tours and I really learnt a lot! The papers will be published soon.

Centre d'Études supérieures de civilisation médiévale (UMR 7302)