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Large Scale Manuscript Digitization

Organized and run by Peter Robinson, Institute of Textual Scholarship and Electronic Editing, Birmingham University, and Marilyn Deegan, Centre of Computing in the Humanities, King's College London.

(pdf) (html) Programme
(html) Participants
(pdf) (html) Report

Advances in digital photographic technology, mass data store and networking capacity have in the last years reached the point where it is now possible to contemplate large-scale digital photography of manuscript materials. Some projects have reported costs as low as 1 euro a page, inclusive of image store and basic metadata information. Such cost levels, comparable to traditional microfilm photography, would make possible digitization of whole manuscript collections (indeed, several initiatives have achieved this) and, beyond this, digitization on a national and trans-national scale, for example within the EU I-2010 program. However, such claims need to be rigorously examined, as any large-scale digitization programme would need to ensure that it could deliver the quality required while protecting the originals from any degradation through the digitization process.

This seminar invited experts from digitization projects in Europe who have worked on large-scale manuscript digitization initiatives with UK technical experts, representatives of UK manuscript holding institutions, and interested academic experts, to discuss the possibilities and implications of large-scale manuscript digitization, examining different methods of how to best achieve a high volume of digitization in a timescale that makes it conservation safe, financially viable, and academically useful.

Questions addressed included:

  • Can digitization be done at sufficiently high standard, and at sufficiently low cost, to be both feasible and worthwhile in larger volumes than has hitherto been done?
  • Who should decide priorities for digitization?
  • How are the images to be stored and made available?
  • How far is it possible to envisage a national, or indeed, trans-European, initiative with uniform policies on image use, access, and delivery?
  • How might the image delivery systems be maintained and updated?
  • What impact will this have on existing policies for capture and use of digital images in different libraries?
  • How would content owners adjust payments for the rights to use images, and would this materially affect their revenue streams?
  • How is such digitization to be financed in both the short and the long term?

A report will be available shortly.

AHDS Methods Taxonomy Terms

This item has been catalogued using a discipline and methods taxonomy. Learn more here.


  • Librarianship and Museum Studies
  • English Literature and Languages
  • European Literature and Languages
  • Non-European Literature and Languages


  • Communication and collaboration - Textual collaborative publishing
  • Communication and collaboration - Graphical collaborative publishing
  • Data Analysis - Collating
  • Data Analysis - Collocating
  • Data Analysis - Concording/Indexing
  • Data Analysis - Content analysis
  • Data Analysis - Data mining
  • Data Capture - 2d Scanning/photography
  • Data Capture - Manual transcription
  • Data Capture - Text recognition
  • Data Capture - Usage of existing digital data
  • Data publishing and dissemination - Cataloguing / indexing
  • Data publishing and dissemination - Textual collaborative publishing
  • Data publishing and dissemination - Textual resource sharing
  • Data Structuring and enhancement - Markup/text encoding - descriptive - conceptual
  • Data Structuring and enhancement - Markup/text encoding - descriptive - document structure
  • Data Structuring and enhancement - Markup/text encoding - descriptive - linguistic structure
  • Data Structuring and enhancement - Markup/text encoding - descriptive - nominal
  • Data Structuring and enhancement - Markup/text encoding - presentational
  • Data Structuring and enhancement - Markup/text encoding - referential
  • Strategy and project management - Documentation
  • Strategy and project management - ICT project management