Collaborative Work

The impact of digitization on manuscript scholars has been immeasurable. Instead of depending on photostats, microfilms, regular trips to libraries abroad and a steady diet of library vending machine snacks, anyone can now compare manuscripts from multiple libraries before getting out of bed. Keeping track of research materials used to require an excellent memory, exceptional bookkeeping skills or blind luck; now we have databases.

Digital technology has facilitated another revolution in manuscript scholarship: teamwork.

The generations before us kept their notes to themselves. In the PGP, dozens of researchers have pooled their metadata and transcriptions. Paleography and transcription are often a collaborative process.

There are texts so difficult that they can be read to 85% accuracy or without complete confidence. Working collaboratively means that we no longer have to suffer alone in an asymptotic nightmare. Instead of criticizing other people’s editions after they are published, we can more easily help each other along the way. Reading texts together allows paleographers to admit their fallibility; it is also much more fun than the solo work for which many of us were trained.