The initial upload

Over the past fifteen years, I’ve been working on translating various parts of the works of Peter the Venerable (and others). As a historian, not a translator, I generally work on these things with an eye to a project I am already working on but not complete translations. This means I have translations scattered all over my hard drive –files with extracts on friendship or on the Cistercians– but rarely do I put them all in one place. And I only have bits of most texts. Even when I am working on a project, it is much easier to skim a text for the most useful parts and then put together a proper translation only of material which is most pertinent.

Today I have have finished putting together all my translations in one place (I think – I might still find others I have squirrelled away in some subfolder). They show mixed results – something things are more polished – I have used Raoul of Sully’s Life of Peter quite a bit so it is complete and generally well done (for a first draft). For the length Two books on Miracles or his Letter Collection often I just have short extracts or the introductory address. I suspect many other historians who work on Peter for other projects have similar chunks of text which they have worked through. My hope is someday they feel like sharing them here to bulk up the translation corpus – there is so much to do, I will never get to it all.

As I move forward with this project, I am confronted with the idea that while I value the goal of giving accessibility to Peter’s writings, I am not a translator, have no background in translation and so have no clear idea how to go about doing this properly. In time, I hope to come up with an methodology/ theoretical underpinning for this project. But wonder how others do this? Does one (as I hope to) just “get on with it” or do you take steps to think about what the translation should be like beforehand? I think this is my current problem – that I want to get this done for practical reasons but feel like I lack the necessary expertise.

What I just figured out about using Gallica images

Any historian of Cluny is familiar with the Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris, which is home to so many manuscripts from Cluny, and likewise with their online digital library Gallica. An ever increasing number of their manuscripts are now available online, but accessing high quality images can be sometimes frustrating due to the current interface. While the Medieval Manuscripts: France-England 700-1200 initiative shows that the BNF is moving towards an open model of image sharing (using IIIF), the older interface makes copying high resolution images difficult. I was to provide a quick idea of how to work around their interface (and to write up a note so I remember this in the future).

The headers for the Petrus Project blog are taken from a manuscript containing several works by Peter the Venerable (Paris, BNF, ms. latin 17716, which you can consult here). The screen looks something like the following for folio 1r. Screenshoot of the Gallica display of BNF, ms latin 17716

You have the option of downloading the whole manuscript or a selection at a higher resolution. The interface, however, only lets you download a relatively small part of the image. I would suggest instead that you use the sharing function.

Detail of Gallica

This allows you to get a URL for the image to share on a website etc. but you can also use it to download the image at a higher resolution than they want to allow you to. Once you click on the sharing button, you are given the choice to “Copy code for embedding”. Click on “Part of the Image” and then select the portion of the image you want to copy, in the right side of the screen.

I selected a bit of the manuscript, and it gave me the code:

<a href='' target='_blank'><img src=',141.79358283251105,3434.915483434753,1626.380437232364/264,125/0/native.jpg'/></a>

This is useful for embedding the images in emails, html etc. But I want to just see the image, and a higher resolution. So I delete everything between the first triangle brackets

<a href='https://gall ...nk'><img src='

and the last little bit of the code:


Leaving us with:,141.79358283251105,3434.915483434753,1626.380437232364/264,125/0/native.jpg

For simplicity I am going to round up the fractional numbers of the last part of the URL.,141,3434,1626/264,125/0/native.jpg

If we take a look at the address we can break it down into parts:

Purpose Part of URL
the repository
that the image is stored in a IIIF server /IIIF
the object identifier /ark:/12148/btv1b84274413
the folio number /f9
the pixel coordinates of the image selection (making a square from the top left to the bottom right) /93,141,3434,1626
the number of pixels horizontally and vertically /264,125
degree of rotation /0
nature of image /native.jpg

If you changed the degree of rotation from 0 to 180, for example, you would turn the image upside-down. If you want to increase the resolution, however, you can increase the numbers of pixels from the current base selection:

Low resolution image capture from Gallica

to something bigger. If you increase the pixels tenfold:,141,3434,1626/2640,1250/0/native.jpg

You end up with this, or as much as the WordPress site will show to you:

Full resolution capture from Gallica.

Hope this can help you!

Our plan for the Petrus Project

As a medievalist at Carleton – a Canadian university with a small medievalist community– my opportunities for research collaboration with my colleagues are limited. The topic which is near and dear to my heart –the monastery of Cluny and its twelfth-century abbot– is an even more limited field with its specialists spread across North America and Europe. But we do exist and my hope is that we can meet up digitally to develop ways to give scholars and students greater access to (what I, at least, see as) the rich textual records of a monastic institution that was arguably the head of Christian monastic life for several centuries.

From my PhD onwards, my research has focussed on the writings of Abbot Peter the Venerable (r. 1122-1156) and members of his monastic/ literary circle. Most of their writings have now been edited, but little has been translated into English (some into French) which would allow their wider use for research and teaching. My proposal is to create a site which would both allow easy access to scholarship on Peter the Venerable, but also present draft translations which (while not complete/perfect) can provide some initial orientation to those wanting to gain insight into the works of Peter the Venerable. While my plan initially was just to create a static site for people to consult translations, my ambition has grown. I now imagine this as a place to share other resources – in particular, digital resources to help ease the process of studying and working on Peter the Venerable (and twelfth-century Cluny).

At this stage (a very preliminary stage, I admit), I have begun an initial project website and begun to plan further steps. This blog is a space for me (a team, should there be one) to write down thoughts, brainstorm ideas and talk about work in progress. At this stage, I am just using only free web services to get started, such as:

  • Gitbook: This is where I am posting an initial upload of translations; backed up to Github. The advantage of this space is that it allows for digital collaboration (where authorship is tracked) which can be worked on by a team.
  • Trello: This is where brainstorming/planning happens at its most raw.
  • Flowmap: This site records my thinking about how a polished website might look.

This is what has started. Who knows where this will end.