EAGLE 2014 International Conference: The inscription between text and object

What is an inscription? There are different ways to consider what an inscription is:

  • Signifiers on a physical support [linguistic perspective]
  • An artifact bearing text [archeological perspective]
  • A text carved or painted on a durable material to be posted [historical-literary perspective]

In the past, scholars opted for just one of these viewpoints and most of them approached inscriptions as texts. But now the new positive trend is to mix disciplines and see the inscription between text and object as a semantic system to describe, read and interpret by means of at least a threefold approach: archaeological, textual and historical.

The task we now have is to restructure the epigraphic edition, not just by switching from the paper to the web, but by relying on a model that combines the textual as well as the material dimensions of an artifact bearing text, and that helps to determine:

  • The arrangement of an inscription on the support;
  • The textual cuts made by epigraphers on the base of different criteria.

In this endeavor, we have to keep in mind a trivial but essential notion: editing an inscription is, from start to finish, an interpretation and a matter of personal choice.

In a digital representation, a distinct markup is utilised to encode the physical and textual dimensions. In order to combine them, we submit a definition of some epigraphic notions, which supports the theoretical model of an encoding schema compliant with the EpiDoc guidelines. This model is designed as a part of the IGLouvre project lead by Michèle Brunet (Professor of Greek Epigraphy, University Lumière-Lyon 2), which aims to publish a digital edition of the Louvre collection of Greek Inscriptions.

The project’s guidelines specify some recommendations for the representation of 3 base structures. In the <teiHeader> of the EpiDoc files, a text is represented with a <msItem> element while a physicals part will be described in a <msPart> element. The surface, which bears the inscribed words, is analysed as a physical feature, that is to say a non-detachable part. It must be explicitly represented using a texpart subdivision of the <div> containing the transcription (e.g. div[@type=’textpart’][subtype=’face’]). Texts, objects, physical features and transcriptions are related with a combination of correspondence attributes (@corresp) and milestones (<milestone unit=’block’/>) for the representation of physical and textual boundaries.

Our encoding strategy permits us to meet the following requirements:

  • The material and abstract dimensions of the items in the Louvre collection are taken into account in an EpiDoc markup, exploiting its capacity to provide fine grained identifiers and linking mechanisms that are required to build on an interface showing inscriptions not just as decontextualized texts;
  • The scientific editors keep full control on the editorial choices they made beyond the structure of the printed or digital publication;
  • The deconstruction of the notion of ‘inscription’ will also provide help for designing and implementing several extractions and data exports that will have to be developed in the near future to ensure the interoperability of the digital collection and its re-use for other projects.

You will find more information about this work in our paper:

Emmanuelle Morlock, Eleonora Santin, The inscription between text and object, in Silvia Orlandi, Raffaella Santucci, Vittore Casarosa, Pietro Maria Liuzzo eds., Information Technologies for Epigraphy and Cultural Heritage Proceedings of the First EAGLE International Conference, Rome (forthcoming).

 

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