The Hebrew Manuscript in the Digital Era

26 February 2013, 13:00 to 18:00

Workshop at the School for Philosophy and Religion
The Hebrew University


(To the original description in Hebrew)


 Following an overview of new developments in the field of digital tools for manuscripts, and presentation of a number of tools and innovations in Israel, we will discuss the following questions:
megila– The pros and cons of Digitalization: what is gained and what lost in the tranfer to the digital image?

– What are the issues and problems unique to the transition of Hebrew manuscripts to digital format?

– How can the computer and the Internet change the practices of research and study of manuscripts?

– What is the status of the original manuscript in light of the existence of digital copies?

– What would we want from an ideal virtual environment for manuscripts research and study?

With the transition to the digital format and the Internet, the world of letters is undergoing a revolution . Its cultural, social and political dimensions, only some of which can be fathomed at this point, are reminding of the media revolution which started with the invention of printing, at the early modern period. In the world of manuscripts, this revolution is evident primarily in the fact that more and more copies are scanned, uploaded and, in some cases, exposed to the public eye for the very first time.

Manuscripts are unique in the sphere of digital texts: the difficulty in automated character recognition (OCR) and the conversion of images to digital text is, in fact, a blessing in disguise, as the scan allows us to preserve those rich and important aspects that are so often lost when the text is converted to a digital form: visual aspects, material information, the book’s history and many paratextual elements. Digital manuscripts, then, are special in the way they draw are attention to intellectual, cultural and historical contexts in which the text was written, copied and transmitted.

In the current phase of large digitalization projects, the scholar may still be found in quite a similar position vis a vis the the digital image and the actual manuscript: without the ability to touch, flag, annotate, comment, cut and paste or intervene in any way. Recently, however, the digital revolution has advanced a s step forward in the creation of virtual research and learning environments, containing tools for collation, transcription, text and image annotation, XML markup, collaboration, online discussion and more (see examples in the list of links on the right). These tools facilitate contemporary critical scholarship, but may also help to recover ancient manuscript work practices, and on the other hand open new horizons in our attitudes towards manuscripts.

In recent decades, the end of the era of the printed book, researchers attempted to recover the universe of manuscripts that preceded it: the experience of writing, reading, study and criticism that revolved around the manuscript, the nature of the relationships it constructed and the intellectual, cultural and social experiences that it carried. On the threshold of the era of digital and online text, we wish to ponder, looking ahead, what new places the manuscripts may inhabit in it.

Confirmed Participants:

Yaacov Choueka

Malachi Beit Arie

Simcha Emanuel

Roni Shweka

Carl Posy

Nachum Dershowitz

Lior Wolf