Big data, data modeling, and the history of manuscript collections

The largest personal collection of European manuscripts ever assembled was that of Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872). It is estimated to have contained up to 60,000 medieval and Renaissance manuscripts. The manuscripts had varied geographical origins across Western Europe, were written in many different European languages, and covered a wide range of different subjects and topics. Their dispersal took place gradually over more than one hundred years after Phillipps’ death, and their modern locations are spread across the globe.

In this blog, I will be reporting on a project to reconstruct and analyse the Phillipps Collection. The scale of the Phillipps Collection has proved a significant challenge to traditional research methods. Instead, this project is employing innovative data modeling and analysis techniques in order to trace the history of its component manuscripts, and to map the provenance events and networks which are embodied in the history of the collection.

This project is being funded by a European Union Marie Curie International Incoming Fellowship in the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College, London. For more information about me, go to my Web site.

Toby Burrows

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