- The Virtual Hill Museum & Manuscript Library
The Virtual Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (vHMML) is an online resource designed to aid scholars in a variety of areas of manuscript studies. The homepage describes the site as "Online Resources for the Study of Manuscript Cultures," which suggests more than just a clearinghouse of digital images of parchment and paper. While access to high-resolution digitized manuscripts from libraries around the world is certainly the centerpiece of vHMML, the ever-expanding site also provides paleographic information and manuscript metadata, both of which can be approached and used in myriad ways.
The homepage invites the user to explore five main sections of the site: The Reading Room, School, Folio, Lexicon, and Reference. The School section is a series of introductory lessons on Paleography and Transcribing Manuscripts. The Paleography "manuscript cultures" include Latin and Syriac with Arabic, Armenian, Ge'ez, and Persian "coming soon." Using folios from digitized manuscripts, the lessons are designed to teach the basics of describing and understanding descriptions of the most common Latin and Syriac scripts and includes the historical contexts and uses for each of the scripts. For example, the Latin paleography lesson notes that Uncial was used in late antiquity and the early Middle Ages for biblical manuscripts. Both the Latin and Syriac paleography lessons provide a good introduction to describing manuscripts. The "Transcribing Manuscripts" section has lessons for transcribing (not transliterating) the same Latin and Syriac scripts included in the Paleography lessons. Each lesson uses digitized manuscript folios with added line numbers and includes an answer key for each page. This is an incredibly valuable resource, especially for new users of manuscripts or those new to Latin or Syriac. Graduate students should take advantage of these lessons before opening their first manuscript.
The Folio section is described as "Showing how writing changes over time." This section is better described as a series of annotated folios illustrating a variety of Latin and Syriac scripts. Each folio includes an overview of the manuscript from which it comes, as well as the link to the complete digitized manuscript. The folio also includes a detailed paleographic description and a line-by-line transcription of the page. [End Page 269] The Syriac transcription did not function on my computer and, presumably, requires a Syriac script to be installed. The Folio section of this site would be most valuable to graduate students learning to describe and transcribe Latin and Syriac.
The Lexicon and References pages are fairly elementary and include resources helpful to graduate students or others new to manuscript studies. The Lexicon page is a glossary of terms used in manuscript studies. The terms are limited to English and a few Latin phrases. In addition to a short definition, clicking on a term brings up related terms and, in some cases, a bibliography, and the term in other languages. For instance, the link to the term gallnut includes the definition, the related terms, ink and oak gall, the German translation Eisengallustinte, and the citation, Michelle Brown, Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts (Malibu, CA: J. Paul Getty Museum in association with the British Library, c1994). This glossary is Euro-centric in that it does not include English terms used in non-European manuscript studies. One example of this lacuna is the term vocalization which refers to the short vowels in Semitic scripts. Because the vHMML's "manuscript cultures" include Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, I assume a remedy for this omission is in the works. The Reference page is a list of nearly nine hundred monographs, theses, book sections, journal articles, and videos on topics related to manuscript studies. These resources can be sorted by author, title, or date (ranging from 1758 to 2009), and clicking on the listed brief title brings up the full citation, which the user can email. The subtitle of this page is "Searchable bibliographic resources," but, the searchability is limited to title and author, not the content of the resource. A "subject" category would be useful in this section as both a means of searching and sorting. The vHMML also includes a Data...