Monthly Archives: March 2014

British Library, Royal 14 E I f. 3: Vincent of Beauvais at his writing desk

The mysterious scroll in the portrait of Vincent of Beauvais

While preparing next weeks lecture at the Berlin State Library I remembered a miniature which was drawn to my attention by a tweet of @melibeus1 which shows Vincent of Beauvais at work (online source is the Catalogue of Digitized Manuscripts of the British Library:

British Library, Royal 14 E I f. 3: Vincent of Beauvais at his writing desk

British Library, Royal 14 E I f. 3: Vincent of Beauvais

The miniature stems from BL Royal 14 E I, a late fifteenth century manuscript which according to the BL catalogue was made in the Southern Netherlands (Bruges?) for Edward IV (death 1483), king of England and lord of Ireland and which contains a French translation of the Speculum Historiale by Jean de Vignay.

I find it very intriguing that a vernacular (here French) version of this originally very erudite Latin compilation for Vincent’s fellow Dominican brothers for preaching purposes would evoke the interest of a king, after all a laical reader. Also the Spiegel Historiael, the Middle Dutch version of the Speculum Historiale by Jacob van Maerlant, Philip Utenbroecke, and Lodewijk van Velthem, was originally made for members of the nobility and can be traced in quite some laical libraries (on manuscript transmission of the Spiegel Historial see Biemans). Last but not least, the Medieval High German translation of the Spiegel Historiael was part of the library of two Nuremberg merchants and a South German nobleman (the count of Öttingen), although we do not know yet who commissioned it.

I find one detail of this portrait of Vincent of Beauvais at work particularly interesting. We see him writing on his desk and the things hanging from his desk are there to hold down the parchment, as he was not writing in a book, but on loose parchment and the mirror at the right side is probably there to catch some extra light. The books behind him (his sources) are quite anachronistically bound 15th century style. (Also he was not working alone, but had many helpers for compiling the sources).  If you are interested in the making of the Speculum Historiale have a look at Voorbij 1991. This and many more useful publications and information about Vincent of Beauvais and his works can be found on the website which is maintained by Hans Voorbij en Eva Albrecht. Also very useful is the site of the Atelier Vincent Beauvais (, where amongst others an edition of a manuscript of the Speculum Historiale is provided. As I am not a specialist for medieval art I owe the information on the iconography of the miniature to Eef Overgaauw. Some other pictures of medieval writers and painters at work can be found on Le Blog Enluminure by Claudine Brunon.

Unsolved is still the funny scroll that is rolling out of Vincent’s desk. His “printer”? No seriously, is this a sign for his productivity? I am interested to know if somebody else has seen something similar.

Upcoming: 25.03.2014, Lecture at Wissenswerkstatt Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin

I am very happy to announce that at the end of my up to now fantastic weeks at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (Berlin State Library) I will be giving a lecture about the ‘Spiegel Historiael’, Lodewijk van Velthem, his vanished Middle Dutch continuation of the Vierde Partie, its High German translation, and how a digital edition of this complicated transmission should look like.

At the center of my presentation will be, naturally the manuscript Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, ms. germ. quart. 2018.

You can find a more detailed announcement in German on the website of the Wissenswerkstatt (

Hope to see you there!

Impressions from WebMontag Göttingen / Einstein-Zirkel Berlin

Just in time before the weekend some impressions from WebMontag Göttingen and the Berlin Einstein-Zirkel Workshop.

Once a month a group of Digital Humanities enthousiasts gathers in the Göttingen Centre for Digital Humanities (GCDH) for Webmontag or Webmonday. These  informal meetings have the aim to offer a meeting point for people interested in issues relating to Web 2.0 and especially the active Göttingen DH scene  (
I was invited to join the March meeting which focussed especially on digital editions and next to my Vierde Partie project for which I am staying at the moment at the Berlin State Library ( as bursary of the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz, several running and future Göttingen based DH projects were presented (
During the lively discussion after my short presentation which acted as a kind of kick-off, I got some very useful tipps concerning the issue of how to represent in XML-TEI the loads of special characters and abbreviations in medieval manuscripts. The main point of critique was that using characters in the PUA of Unicode might conflict with the aim of general compatibility. I intend to adress this issue in a later blog entry more profoundly as I still have to think how to actually solve this problem and decide on a reasonable compromis.
The running projects presented at this WebMontag were the notebooks of Theodor Fontane ( and Blumenbach online ( It was really impressive to get an insight into the progress of these projects. One of the future Göttingen projects will be a Mayan dictionary, which will have to deal with the problem of how to code the highly complicated graphical Mayan hieroglyphs that are transmitted mainly as inscriptions on building and on archeological objects like vases etc. (as during the conquest of South America most manuscripts were destroyed). Some information can be found on the website of the project ( The other project is an editionproject on the Geschichte der Neologie, which aims at digitally editing important works in this field and showing the development of specific thoughts in these works during a longer period.
As the focus of this evening on digital editions was concidered very succesful by its participants, the idea is to have in future more often digital editions as special theme of the Göttingen Webmontag. This would offer a possibility to discuss problematic issues that emerged during the discussion as the citability of digital editions and if a only machine-readable edition is still a edition in more detail.

During the general discussion Jörg Wettlaufer also gave a short account of the third workshop of the Einstein-Zirkel Digital Humanities Berlin ( which took place on 28th of February at the Freie Universität Berlin. This workshop was at least concerning the numbers of participants a huge success. I was very lucky to be at this moment in Berlin and therefore able to attend to the meeting as well and talks to many of the poster presentators and participants. A setback was the rather undecided vision of some big DH players in Berlin during the plenary discussion to act together to strengthen Berlin’s DH infrastructure. You can read Jörg Wettlaufer’s more detailed account of this event on his blog ( and the book of abstracts (more than 60! projects) can be downloaded as PDF (