For many antiquarian books and manuscripts, the inevitable consequence of increased value over time results in an unfortunate fate: they are taken apart, "broken" into pieces, sold for profit among various owners and institutional collections. As scattered fragments, however, detached leaves present to scholars frustrating glimpses of historically significant texts and decorative programs that cannot be fully studied without evidence of the original work and the context in which it was produced. Our site allows for the virtual reconstruction of these broken books so that any book can be digitally recaptured, reordered, and reconstructed, at least as much as pieces of it are found.
The first test case for the Broken Books project is a famously broken, pre-modern manuscript known as the Llangattock Breviary. Although originally made for Leonello d’Este (1407-1450), Marquis of Ferrara, the manuscript derives its nickname from a later owner, John Allan Rolls (1837-1912), the 1st Baron Llangattock. Although somewhat damaged through preceding ownership,the Llangattock Breviary remained undisturbed in the Rolls family collection for several generations until it was sold at Christie's, London on Monday, December 8, 1958. After the sale, this manuscript was broken apart and the separated leaves were sold on the American market by Goodspeeds, an antiquarian book dealer from Boston.
Working with collaborative partners, including many members of Digital Scriptorium, we have collected digital images of this book's leaves from institutions and private collections all over the world, including Harvard, U.C. Berkeley, the American Academy in Rome, University of South Carolina, Michigan State, Dartmouth, and the Hill Monastic Manuscript Library, Washington University in Seattle, the Louvre Museum, and the Museo Schifanoia in Ferrara. Dr. Debra Cashion, Co-PI and lead scholar of the project, has textually identified and cataloged all of the leaves discovered thus far, and created an online exhibit about them.
The Broken Books OMEKA exhibit, however, does not represent the complete Broken Books project. Developer Bryan Haberberger has built a digital resource to enable outside users to contribute leaves and metadata to help rebuild the manuscript. The power behind the digital reconstruction is shared canvas technology and the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF). Using these innovative tools we can create canvases that hold the digital images of the relevant leaves and annotations to store metadata about them. These canvases will be grouped in pairs so that users can attach annotations, including cataloging metadata, to individual images or to a whole leaf, with the goal of virtually reconstructing the original manuscript.
One important component of Broken Books is the ability for anyone to contribute at any level they want. The interface offers a multitude of fields for metadata, image upload ability and the ability to place the leaf within a structure a scholar-administrator has prepared. Users are required to submit at minimum ONE piece of information about the leaf they want to add, which means they can fill out as much or as little information about the leaf as they wish.
Scholars-Administrators in Broken Books are given the ability to construct and set up the organizational structure of the book or manuscript they want to rebuild. This structure then receives uploaded leaves that can be placed within it. Leaves that are contributed are reviewed by the scholar-administrator and once approved can be placed within the publicized structure, which continually redefines where leaves are still missing.
The publicized structure with its recovered leaves can be viewed online by any user who would like to read or study it. Broken Books uses the Mirador viewer for these purposes. You can view a leaf through the demo on this page.