Joint research by experts in Computer science and the Humanities are gaining momentum, especially for accessing and indexing Cultural Heritage resources. In our experience, shared research is particularly successful when partners understand their respective aims and needs. For a few years, now, some humanists have attended conferences such as ICDAR and ICFHR. The proposed workshop intends to nurture the dialog between Computer Science and the Humanities to help identifying if scholarly practice in the Humanities may open new strategies to solve issues in Handwriting recognition and related fields or represents new research questions.

This tutorial will provide an overview of the broader research questions pursued by historians in their study of handwriting and engage participants to analyze documents by themselves, in order to gain a better understanding of the challenges and methods in the historical study. The organizers will then open the discussion on the applicability of computational approaches to different fields of study. The tutorial and its use cases are related to past and ongoing research projects and interest of the organizers, but it is not intended a presentation of the research projects of the organizers.

A first part will give an overview of the many research questions and illustrate them:

  • what is written?
    1. overcoming the difficulties in reading, explaining the ambiguities or explaining the errors
    2. identifying texts, where do they start and end? what are they?
  • how was it displayed, staged, and organized?
    1. deluxe and high-level manuscripts (decor, margins, stability)
    2. density and legibility
    3. process of copying and composing a physical book (pecia, codicological unit)
  • in which writing system and script is it written and when?
    1. evolution of forms, intra- and extra-graphic factors
    2. hierarchy of scripts, and archaizing scripts
    3. language and scripts
    4. functional and social status of the written artefact
  • who wrote it and what does it mean for the intellectual or literary history?
    1. autographs, drafts, and attribution of unsigned documents
    2. literacy and social groups (women, merchants…)
    3. physiological and cognitive aspects of handwriting

Four case studies will be introduced for the participants to engage with the historical implications and the uncertainties of cultural heritage materials. They are chosen within the range of Latin scripts in different languages, but parallels will be drawn with some other writing systems.

  • Layout of deluxe manuscripts: staging the text and the owner’s social status (use case: several copies of books of hours, a prayer book that is known as “the medieval best seller”).
  • Hierarchy of scripts in a religious or sacred context (use case: liturgical manuscripts and sermons)
  • Autographs (use case: Italian humanists)
  • Script classification and social distinction (use case: merchants and notaries)

For each case study, participants will receive digital images of the original documents for comparison as a starting point for the discussion.

Dominique Stutzmann is a senior researcher with the Institut de Recherche et d’Histoire des Textes (CNRS), where he leads the department for Latin paleography and is the PI for several transdisciplinary research project associating several teams in computer science and handwritten text recognition (LIRIS, LIPADE, A2IA, Univ. Polyt. Valencia, Teklia) and researchers the humanities (Oriflamms 2013-2016; Himanis 2015-2017; Ecmen 2015-2019; Horae 2018-2022; Home 2018-2022). The partners in the HIMANIS project created a full-text search engine for the largest Cultural Heritage data set (ca. 80.000 pages, more than the Bentham papers). Dr. Stutzmann has published or co-edited 6 books, 5 research databases, and ca. 60 articles on the history of handwriting, image analysis applied to handwriting, and on transdisciplinary research.

Irene Ceccherini joined the Department of History (SAGAS) of the University of Florence in 2018 as associate professor of paleography, after working in Paris (EPHE and IRHT-CNRS) and Oxford (Bodleian Library and Lincoln College). Her research interests and publications focus on late-medieval and Renaissance scripts and manuscript books, and in particular on the classification of cursive scripts, the relationships between scripts, texts and social contexts, the identification of autographs, the history of libraries.