Drowning in Texts

20 Oct 2012

The comments on the demo deserve a full response (although the short response is: thank you and, in almost all cases, I agree). However, for this post I want to report on progress in getting and identifying texts for the extended demo. We have made the decision to build out from the sample chapter in Bava Metsi’a to all of tractate Neziqin (the “Bavot”), a 30-chapter and 13-14,000-word base text to work with.

Michael Krupp has generously provided transcriptions of 4 orders for three manuscripts (Kaufmann, Parma de Rossi 138, and Cambridge Add. 470.1). The first is now available in an electronic version that is far better than what was available to Krupp when the transcriptions were made. The Cambridge msĀ  is presumably based on the edition of it by Lowe in the nineteenth century, and the Cambridge Libraries reported recently that that manuscript would be available on line. (At least, that’s what the Genizah Unit said on Facebook on July 4.) So there is room for improving the texts and resources available to do so. This should facilitate making substantial blocks of text available rather quickly. The problem is actually finding the time to encode the texts …

Meanwhile, with the participation of Lieberman Institute, under the direction of Shamma Friedman and the aid of Leor Jacoby, I am gradually filling out the corpus of texts available. I say gradually not because the work on the part of the Institute transcribers is slow. However, our agreement is for transcribers to provide transcriptions, and I see to the conversion to XML.

Those in the “biz” know that Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi and the Friedenberg Genizah Project recently published a three volume Thesaurus of Talmudic Manuscripts, edited by Sussman. The detailed information on joins makes it easier to prioritize fragments to transcribe. (It also leaves me feeling “scooped,” since my discoveries of joins were in most cases, possibly in all, anticipated by the Thesaurus, which was not yet available when I started working on this project.) On the basis of that catalog, the number of distinct shelfmarks for witnesses (once we include all the fragments of joined manuscripts where one or more fragment has text in the Bavot) runs to 200.

So, aside from wondering about next steps on the application that will drive the edition, I am drowning in texts. Happily, but drowning nonetheless.

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