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Towards a typology of Visigothic script: the Beatus British Library Add. 11695 and its potential for dating and localising Visigothic script manuscripts

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ViGOTHIC (Towards a typology of Visigothic script: the Beatus British Library Add. 11695 and its potential for dating and localising Visigothic script manuscripts)

Reporting period: 2015-09-01 to 2017-08-31

The main aim of the project ViGOTHIC was to establish a point of reference for the digital analysis of Visigothic script, the primary carrier of Latin writing in the Iberian Peninsula from the eighth to the fourteenth centuries. To date, most palaeographical analysis of Visigothic script has been conducted using a traditional manual methodology and following not standard but heterogeneous criteria which has led to subjective results that are difficult to share or evaluate. In contrast, my research created a computerised database of quantitative data by applying an efficient and specially designed method, a starting point that allows codices written in Visigothic script to be described, compared and placed in their socio-cultural context. Innovative techniques for digital analysis of manuscript sources acquired in the host institution, as well as continuous training in palaeography among other skills, has allowed me to gain new insights into the analysis of the script, its regional graphic characteristics and evolution, and its environment, while opening new avenues of research by applying digital tools to its study. The knowledge generated results of great practical importance for future palaeographical and textual research establishing criteria upon which advanced studies can build. It offers a means of understanding the script, the manuscripts produced in it, and its chronological, geographical and cultural context. At the same time, it constitutes a significant contribution to society for it offers an OA online platform through which the general public can access and understand better the extant medieval sources.

Project ViGOTHIC built on the systematic analysis of one of the few codices written in Visigothic script that can be dated and geographically located with certainty: the copy of the Apocalypse of Beatus of Liébana kept at the British Library (BL Add. 11695). Project ViGOTHIC proposed two main tasks. First, by applying traditional methods of palaeographical research, to revise the state-of-the-art on the codex BL Add. 11695 aiming at determining who were the scribes involved in the process of copying the manuscript, when and where did they do it. Second, by applying new digital methods of palaeographical research, to evaluate how the implementation of a specifically design software, VisigothicPal, could benefit palaeographical analysis using as test the aforementioned codex and its study. Both tasks were completed. The first part of the project also offered crucial evidence to (i) reconstruct one of the most prominent scriptoria of the Iberian peninsula during the Middle Ages, analysing the scribes who worked in that center, the patrons, and the relationships with other Iberian and European centres; (ii) re-evaluate the dating and placing of manuscript sources produced in northern Iberia from the eighth until the twelfth centuries and the division of this written production by scriptoria, institutions, areas and regions. The second part, once finalised, also offered significant results, (i) allowing a thorough evaluation of the pros and cons of digital versus traditional palaeographical analysis, (ii) setting the basis of an online database of Iberian manuscripts classified by writing system, chronologically and geographically.

The results of the project have been disseminated in several national and international events, published or in the process of being published in OA peer-reviewed journals, and in the website as blog posts. Likewise, the online platform developed, VisigothicPal, is being promoted in Spain and is going to be adapted to form part of current (RecerCaixa, Juan de la Cierva) and future projects (ERC).
WP1. 1.1: BL Add. 11695 was thoroughly analysed following the methodology determined in the project proposal. I also updated codicological and bibliographical data which was lacking in the archive’s file.

WP1. 1.2: I continued my research by establishing the periodisation of graphic characteristics for the scriptorium in which the codex was written, that highlighted the needs of expanding the project to cover the codicological and artistic characteristics shown in the codex.

WP1. 1.3: The project expanded to cover a total of nineteen codices; previously unknown hands can now be dated and placed with certainty allowing thus to contextualise many of the other codices analysed and not just the one upon which this research project was based.

WP2. 2.1: A new software derived from DigiPal called ‘VisigothicPal’ was set up as a means to allow the digital analysis of the codex and ease the dissemination of results achieved during the project.

WP2. 2.2: The software was adjusted to the needs of the project by refining the methodology and terminology of palaeographical analysis (see figures 1 to 9). The next step was the digital palaeographical analysis of the codex.

WP2. 2.3: Full report available if requested. Conclusion: DigiPal allows to work with a bigger corpus quicker, efficiently, and adding much more objective detailed graphic information. It also improves comparisons among sources, a fundamental part of the palaeographical research. Besides, it classifies all the relevant information the user considers important providing information that helps solve specific research questions while at the same time creating new ones.

WP2. 2.4: Further testing of terminology, incorporation of more and varied graphic samples, improvement of the platform, study of historical contexts, and dissemination.

WP3. 7 publications in press (articles etc) and +40 blog posts; 10 presentations as invited speaker; 6 conference papers.
The results of the project are of vital importance in the fields of Iberian palaeography and digital manuscript studies. My research provided an enriched cultural and historical context for manuscript production in Iberia; I have successfully reconstructed one of the main scriptoria, dated and placed a significant number of previously not contextualised codices, and identified several hitherto unknown master calligraphers and illuminators. These results provide valuable information to conduct further research. Also, by developing the platform VisigothicPal provided objectivity in the interdisciplinary study of Iberian manuscripts.

1) Enhancing research: Attended more than 35 conferences and seminars and 14 courses.
2) Public engagement: Newspaper interview readers: 120K; Radio interview listeners: 127K; Invited conference 73 registered attendees; online work +15k visits from 100 different countries.
3) Further funding: Awarded Juan de la Cierva Incorporación and RecerCaixa.
4) Potential impact: networking with different research groups to evaluate whether to incorporate the software into their projects and with archives and museums to promote cultural activities open to the general public.
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