When Dot Porter, co-principal investigator on the Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis project, sends you an email saying “I made a thing, ” you know it’s going to be glorious and you also know you’re about to head down the rabbit hole. Her current “thing” is a BiblioPhilly Randomizer, a sweet little script that pulls up a random image from among the tens of thousands of pages of medieval-y goodness currently on OPenn.
And oh, my, didn’t bibliophilly get lucky! The first random image to come up, pictured here, was The Temptation of Adam and Eve from Free Library of Philadelphia Lewis E123 (fol. 22v). Just feast your eyes on that! Eve is flaky, Adam needs a shave, and the serpent has breasts! (Late fifteenth-century French Book of Hours, more info at the link below.)
We’ve reached a major project milestone, with one hundred Western European medieval and early modern manuscripts now online in our Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis curated collection. The images and metadata are hosted by the Penn Libraries’ OPenn repository.
This represents a little less than 25% of the 450-plus manuscripts that will eventually be digitized and placed on OPenn. Currently more than half of the manuscripts have been imaged, with cataloging undergoing refinement and quality control.
All the BiblioPhilly images are free for the downloading in glorious high resolution or leisurely leafing through with a page-turning interface on the Library of Congress’ ViewShare site.
The actual one-hundredth manuscript, Free Library of Philadelphia Lewis E 257, is remarkable in a number of ways. Let us count them:
First, it’s written in Middle Dutch — unlike many of the Latin or French Books of Hours collected in Philadelphia-area institutions.
But wait — there’s lots more! It was displayed as part of PACSCL’s 2001 exhibition, “Leaves of Gold.” Curator and catalog editor James R. Tanis  explained the many other ways this manuscript is special:
“Uncommon in several respects, this Dutch Book of Hours begins with the Hours of the Trinity, which, like the more common Hours of the Eternal Wisdom, are almost exclusively found in manuscripts from the northern Netherlands. Three different mediums meet in this unusual opening. On the right is a traditional, fully illuminated opening initial in the so-called aubergine style, with accompanying border decoration. In the upper right corner of this page a colorful bird looks down on a monkey riding a dog in the lower margin. On the facing page a very simply drawn and colored GnadenstuhlI (Throne-of-Grace) Trinity is surrounded by a metal-cut border. The popular monkey appears in the lower border, with a deer to the left of the miniature and a bird to the right.
It all started about this time last year, when Bibliophilly cataloger Erin Connelly began tweeting out gloomy images from the Office of the Dead sections of Books of Hours during Advent. (PACSCL amanuensis objected vehemently when so many lovely Nativity images could have been used instead.)
Fast forward to late summer this year, and BiblioPhilly cataloger Diane Biunno also posted some images of the dead. Someone suggested a scorekeeping contest — and #skullsmackdown was on.
BiblioPhilly is halfway to completion, imaging-wise, with more than 220 medieval manuscripts from PACSCL member collections currently digitized. Of those manuscripts, approximately 50 have been uploaded to the BiblioPhilly collection at OPenn, with more coming shortly.
The remainder are receiving additional cataloging and quality control and will go online in the coming months. Work continues on a custom interface that will allow faceted searching and user-friendly view options.
In the meantime, co-PI Dot Porter has created a temporary interface here:
This replaces the temporary interface built using the Library of Congress’s ViewShare utility, which will be retired in March.
And be sure to take a look at the page-turner interface for these manuscripts. BiblioPhilly’s personal favorite, for sheer eye-appeal, is the page-turner for this Book of Hours from the collections of the Free Library of Philadelphia (Lewis MS 126), pictured above:
Position: Digitization Assistant, Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis (BiblioPhilly)
Special Collections Department
Library & Information Technology Services (LITS)
Bryn Mawr College
UPDATE: THIS POSITION HAS BEEN FILLED
Hours: 15 – 20 hours per week, with hours to be worked during the Special Collections Department open hours (9:00 – 4:30, M-F). This is a grant-funded position that is tied to the completion of the work on the Bryn Mawr and Haverford medieval manuscripts. The duration of the project will depend on the number of hours worked per week, but we anticipate that the position will last between six and nine months.
Pay Rate: $17/hour
Position Description: The Bryn Mawr College Special Collections Department seeks applicants for a part-time, temporary position assisting with the digitization of medieval manuscripts for the Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis (BiblioPhilly) project. Working with medieval manuscripts from Bryn Mawr College as well as Haverford College, the work will involve digitization, post-processing, and quality control as well as assistance with submitting content to OPenn, the project’s manuscript portal. The Project Assistant reports to the Digital Collections Librarian, and works with the Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts and the Director of Special Collections. This is an excellent opportunity to work closely with a large number of medieval manuscripts, and may be of particular interest to those considering a special collections career.
Required: Bachelor’s degree; experience working with special collections found within libraries, archives and/or museums; ability to work with close attention to detail; familiarity with Adobe Photoshop; good manual dexterity with the ability to concentrate on tasks that require careful handling of delicate materials; and the ability to stand for prolonged periods using an overhead book scanner.
Preferred: Currently enrolled in, or recent graduate of, Masters program in Library and/or Information Science; familiarity with digital imaging of special collections and digitization software (including Adobe Bridge) as well as overhead book scanners; experience handling special collections; an interest in medieval manuscripts.
To apply, submit cover letter, resume, and names and contact information for three references to: