Saturday, April 14, 2018

Celebrating Parker on the Web

Celebrating Parker 2.0 Participants
Stanford Text Technologies' fourth Collegium focused on a celebration of Parker on the Web 2.0 (Parker Library on the Web), which was launched as an Open Access resource in January 2018. Hosted at CESTA by Benjamin Albritton, Georgia Henley (the main, and brilliant, organizer), and me, we had twenty-five speakers here at Stanford for three days, from March 25th to 28th, culminating in a Mirador workshop led by Ben. Our format was unusual; months in advance, we gave our participants a manuscript from Parker's collection at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge to work on, and each session paired up colleagues to see what, if any, connections could be made between the assigned manuscripts. Everyone was encouraged to tweet as #Parker2, so that our conversation can be discovered alongside tweets from the Parker Library's own #Parker2 conference held earlier in March.

The manuscripts described and analysed by our participants ranged in date from the sixth-century St Augustine's Gospels (MS 286, presented by Mateusz Fafinski) to the fifteenth-century Troilus and Criseyde (MS 61, presented by Sian Echard). We worked with Latin, English, Welsh, and French texts, focusing on materiality--paper, membrane, ink, bindings--and scribal practices, artistic signification, communities of readers, textual transmission, medieval pedagogy and pastoral care, the act of collecting, and modes of display and reception. Major themes emerged over the three days, though discussion of these didn't always elicit intellectual consensus. Some of these were highlighted on our whiteboard (including the semi-visible 'role of conservation', 'technology-in-practice', and 'making'):

Many speakers noted the elitism and connoisseurship of book collecting and manuscript studies-- unfortunate modes of scholarship and commodification that result in a fixation on the 'lollipops' in the repository, the de luxe volumes and canonical, known-author texts. We had some of these on our list, too (Matthew Paris in MS 16 and 26, presented by Joey McMullen and Cat Jarman, respectively; MS 4, the Dover Bible, presented by Catherine Karkov; and MS 98, a scroll, presented by Anne McLaughlin), but the majority of manuscripts that colleagues talked about were the utiliarian, the everyday, as if such a category could really exist for these extraordinary survivors of the past.

A variety of Ss from Parker on the Web manuscripts, dated from c.1060 to 1220, and extracted using machine learning techniques (Stanford Global Currents)

Calls were made by Orietta Da Rold to "set the data free", or, as Alexandra Bolintineanu pointed out, for the Parker resource to be used to help expand the possibilities of scholarly investigation into medieval manuscript production that include a deeper understanding of the role of digital data in mediating these materials. Standardisation of repositories' metadata seems a major desideratum going forward, as does some effort to standardise the ways scholars describe features of manuscripts (especially script, as Peter Stokes demonstrated). As Erica Weaver suggested in her analysis of MS 422, 'deeply felt textual experiences' are as evident in our early literary materials as they are now, and whether in the flesh or on the screen, these manuscripts are as fascinating, moving, and compelling now as they surely were a millennium and more ago.

Thanks to Matthew Parker! Thanks to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, Stanford University Libraries, and Cambridge University Library, and to all the teams, who have worked to collect, preserve, digitise and display these fabulous manuscripts. Thank you to Vice-Provost and Librarian, Mike Keller. Much gratitude to Georgia Henley, CESTA's Rani Sharma, Celena Allen, Amanda Bergado; Jon Quick, Peyton Lepp, Jeanie Abbott, and Max Ashton.

Participants and Topics

Andrew Prescott, “Form”; Suzanne Paul, “Function”; Orietta Da Rold (210) and Cat Jarman (26); Elizabeth Boyle (153) and Alexandra Bolintineanu (162); Benjamin Albritton (260) and Anya Adair (383); Catherine Karkov (23 and 4); Lindy Brady (144) and Carla María Thomas (402); Katie Lowe (178) and John Gallagher (320); Peter Stokes (367) and Erica Weaver (422); Sharon Rowley (41) and Mateusz Fafinski (286); Elaine Treharne (201) and Joey McMullen (16); David Johnson (322) and Abigail Robertson (161); Anne McLaughlin (98) and Siân Echard (61); Julia Crick, “Reflections”.


  1. Thank you very much Elaine, Ben and Georgia for organising such an enjoyable and stimulating workshop. It was an enormous pleasure both to catch up with old friends and to make the acquaintance of so many lively and insightful young colleagues. I thoroughly enjoyed having an opportunity in my contribution to think about the Armenian, Arabic, Persian, Russian and Chinese manuscripts which were of such importance to collectors such as Matthew Parker and Robert Cotton, who we think of as preoccupied with medieval England. The global and trans-national elements of collections like Parker and Cotton are too often forgotten, and, in the case of the Cotton collection, sent into bibliographical exile as they are now in the British Library's Oriental Collections and separated from the rest of the collection. I was glad to have the opportunity to include these among our discussion of the neglected and overlooked components of these famous collections. I was particularly struck to find that one of the users of Parker's Armenian Psalter was William Patten, an Elizabethan scholar who compiled the first English-Armenian wordlist. I used to live in Stoke Newington in North London, where Patten restored the beautiful sixteenth-century church and is commemorated in the name of a local school. It seems appropriate to honour the memory of Patten and of Parker's non-European manuscripts in one of the most diverse areas of London.