How can I use the Database Marginal Scholarship?

The database is a Graph Database system, which allows for complex queries without having to use a complex language for these queries. (For more technical details about the database, click here.) In this section, the way in which the database can be queried is described. The data input in the database are sorted under four tabs that are placed under the title on the home site of the database: ‘Codex’, ‘Text’, ‘Margin’, and ‘Persons and Places’. Clicking on any of these tabs unrolls a series of observation fields on the left side of the screen that allow you to find manuscripts with certain properties. You can either tick off a box in the drop-down list or type a search term in the box next to the header of the observation field. Numbers next to the listed items indicate how many manuscripts with the given property are currently in the database.

Many of our observations fields can be used as a filter. Under the tab ‘Codex’, for example, it is possible to click on a particular place of origin, select a certain dating range, or to choose a certain type of script (and if you opt for the latter, you will automatically see manuscripts in which several script types were used). Each filter will give you a selection of records that match your criteria. The filters you chose are visible at the top of your result list. In the observation fields set ‘Text’, it is possible to look for manuscripts with texts from a certain author (Augustine), or from a certain genre (exegesis, liberal arts). In ‘Margin’ it is possible to look for manuscripts with glosses in a certain language (Old Irish) or for certain specific phenomena (Tironian notes, diagrams).

The selection produced by your choice of filter is immediately processed by the database. Thus, the selection of a certain author narrows your dataset down to the manuscripts that have a text from this author. As a consequence, the database allows you also to see interaction between different manuscript features. If you select Augustine, for example, and go to the observation category ‘Margin’, you will see that in many of these Augustine manuscripts technical signs are used, but in only one diagrams/sketches. Thus the choice of a filter already gives you information about what is rather common in the manuscripts included in the database, and what is odd. In most cases, the fields are automatically ordered by number: the more frequent a certain value is encountered, the higher it ranks in the list. Thus the effects of a certain filter are easily visualized: when Lorsch is selected, for example, theology ranks high in the list of genres.

Several observation fields can, furthermore, be combined to form more complex searches. One could look for manuscripts from Corbie with texts of ancient authors, for example, and examine the list of results generated by this combination to see what kind of profile such a selection of filters gives in terms of annotation practices.

Apart from a list of search results, the database allows you to explore manuscripts included in the database and the appearance of the marginalia they contain in detail. A click on any item in the result list in the right part of the screen will take you to the full manuscript description we entered in the database. Just as in the case of observation fields, you can use the tabs at the top of the screen to browse through details about the codicological properties of the manuscript (‘Codex’), texts (‘Text’) and marginalia (‘Margin’) it contains, and about persons and places with which it is associated (‘Persons & Places’).

Many of our manuscript records are accompanied by an image of a typical page of this manuscript. They should provide you with a visual impression of the annotations in the manuscript.