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  • Lotte Devoldere

Visualising the physical structure of manuscripts: VisColl

by Lotte Devoldere

For our Life of Paper project, we are using the VCEditor, a software that allows us to visualise individual manuscript structures. It is part of the VisColl (Collation Visualisation) project, a system developed by the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies. With the VCEditor the information that would usually be provided through collation formulas, can be conveniently put in a visual overview, alongside other data that may be of use in the analysis of manuscripts.

It is an accommodating tool, as it can help us show qualities which are usually only discernible when having access to the physical manuscript, and are thus often unavailable to those working with digitized versions. This applies not only to the structure of manuscripts, but also to any additional information we desire, as VCEditor has many tools. There is, for example, the option to designate if pages are original, added, or missing, to indicate stubs and various ways of leaf attachment (glued, connected as one bifolium, tipped, etc.), to attach page- and leaf numbers, to identify the material – and additionally which side of the leaf is the felt- or wire side, and to add terms. The latter offers a whole new set of alternatives, as it grants us the possibility to record anything we wish, such as data on watermarks, textual information, repaired bifolia, and more. There is also the option to add digitized images of the manuscripts.

All of this permits for a clear visualisation adapted to the individual requirements of our research, all the while being quite user-friendly!

Visualisation of the first quire of Reykjavík, The Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, AM 426 fol.: Fol. 2 is highlighted so that you can see some of the available tools and visualisations: the leaf is made of paper, was added later and is conjoined with the fifth leaf of the manuscript. We also added specific terms: it is repaired at the spine, it contains a watermark and it does not contain any text.

More information on the VisColl system can be found on The site also contains a– guidebook on how to use VCEditor, as well as a series of recordings of workshops led by Dot Porter, one of VisColl’s directors and programmers, meaning that anyone can have a hand at this convenient tool for data visualisation of manuscripts!


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