Space Pirates & Asteroids

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Color Palette: Esch-sur-Alzette

 

Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg (January 2018)


Novel Interfaces for Cultural Heritage

I joined the Digital History & Hermeneutics Doctoral Training Unit (DHH DTU) for  in Lille, France. My colleagues and I briefly discussed our research projects and received some valuable feedback from the audience.


Color Palette: Remich

Remich, Luxembourg (August 2017)


Creating a Digital Critical Edition of a 16th Century Vatican Manuscript

User interface for BAV Neofiti 37

Presentation for IIIF 2017 at the Vatican by Amy Phillips & Christopher Morse. For the live instance of the critical edition, please visit the Harvard University IIIF website.

Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana Neofiti 37 is a bilingual manuscript in Italian and Hebrew written on paper, totaling 226 folia. It was authored by the Jewish convert Andrea De Monte (formerly Yosef Tsarfati di Fez),¹ and was written in Rome between 1576-1600. The manuscript bears the title Della verita della venuta del Messia alli Hebrei, or, Lettera di Pace—and in Hebrew, Ametot biat ha-Mashiaḥ el ha-jehudim ḥibor.

After De Monte’s death the manuscript came into the possession of Ugo Boncompagni, another Jewish convert who was formerly known as Solomon Corcos. Boncampagni was considerably wealthy and converted with his family in 1581², taking as his baptismal name the first and last name of Pope Gregory XIII. Boncampagni gave Neofiti 37, along with 125 other manuscripts, to the Casa Neofiti in 1602.³ A dedication appears on the verso of the first folio, to Cardinal Guglielmo Sirleto, who was at that time the librarian for the Vatican Library.

As the heading of the manuscript and the first folio indicate, this is an apologetic piece written in order to demonstrate that Jesus was the messiah that the Tanak (Old Testament or Hebrew Bible) had prophesied, the anointed one sent by God to his people. What is interesting to note is that De Monte names the title of his treaty Lettera di Pace, drawing attention away from the fact that during the 16th century especially, violence had been committed against the intellectual heritage of Judaismfirst through the burning of the Talmud on the Campo di Fiori in 1553, and secondly through the censuring and expurgation of commentaries and other Jewish literature in Hebrew by the Inquisition and the Congregation for the Index of Forbidden Books. Thus, Jews and their religion were constantly under attack, their thoughts and words forbidden. Peaceful though the letter may claim to be, it is an intellectual attack against the Jewish faith.⁵

Besides the indication from Neofiti 37, we know that De Monte was a famous preacher from the French philosopher, Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592). In the journal he kept of his voyage to Italy, de Montaigne writes about “that renegade rabbi, who preaches to the Jews Saturday afternoon in the oratory of the Trinita. There are always sixty Jews forced to attend. He was one of their wisest scholars and now he combats their faith with their own arguments, the words of their rabbis and the the text of the Bible.” ⁶

Another eyewitness to De Monte was the British Catholic Priest who helped found the English College in Rome, Gregory Martin (1542-1582).⁷ Martin says this about de Monte: “[his] Zeale for his brethren the Hebrews…not unlike to S. Paules in the like case, his manner of utterance to teache and convince and confound, his knowledge and readiness in the Hebrew Bible and al the Hebrewe commentaries and Chaldee Paraphrases and the Syriake and Arabike tong…Well, this man is chosen of purpose to confute them out of their owne bookes and doctors, and to confound them by their owne peevish opinions and absurde Imaginations and folish practices, which he knoweth as well as the best of their Rabbis can disclose all their ridiculous mysteries, him self having been sometime one of them, and knowing the greatest poyntes that then blinded himself, and marveling now that he could be sotted and bewitched.”⁸

Turning now to Neofiti 37: it is organized into three parts and its topic follows in the footsteps of the controversy between Jews and Christians, which is classically embodied in the dispute de Barcelone made in 1263 between the Dominican Pablo Christiani and the famous rabbi Nahmanides.⁹ The dispute focuses on two major questions: has the Messiah come in the person of Jesus or is the Messianic promise yet to be fulfilled?

In his description of the text of this manuscript, Parente describes folios 1 recto to 118 verso as De Monte making his case for the Messiah as prophesied in the Hebrew Bible. Parente remarks that De Monte uses rabbinic sources in a limited fashion, but the folios we examined have more references to the Talmud and other Jewish sources than to Biblical texts.

In the second part, folios 119 recto to 178 verso, Parente tells us that De Monte responds to objections that the Messiah has come since according to Scripture, once he returns the Jews will be returned to their homeland, the Temple will be rebuilt, a new king of Israel will be enthroned, and their observances will be restored. Of course, at the time of De Monte’s writing, none of those things had come to pass.

The third and final part is from 179 recto to the end, folio 224 verso. Parente describes this as primarily an exhortation for conversation, in addition to listing prophecies that could address any final objections to the legitimacy of Jesus Christ as the Messiah or to the Christian faith.¹⁰

Our interest in this manuscript is threefold: first, as a research interest, Amy has been studying Jewish-Christian relations in 16th century Italy in light of the Reformation and the Council of Trent. She is interested especially in the censorship of Hebrew books by the Congregation for the Index of Forbidden books, and their goal to create a preaching manual for sermons to be delivered to the Jews of Rome. That Jewish converts played a decisive role in both of these activities is striking and their motivations for their conversion presents a perplexing yet fascinating social and religious phenomena. Understanding the documents written by the converts themselves provides critical insight to their social, intellectual, and spiritual transformations.

Second, as a digital humanist and pioneering IIIF proponent at Harvard University, and also a graduate of the Harvard Divinity School, Christopher wanted to explore test cases for a digital critical edition of this manuscript following the work of Apollon, Bélisle, and Régnier in their recent publication Digital Critical Editions, which challenges the fundamental neutrality of technological approaches to manuscript scholarship, and calls for a reassessment of the field in light of the ubiquity of the digital.¹¹ Of particular relevance to this argument are the two digitized versions of Diderot’s Encyclopédie, which British academic Philippe Stewart decried as a “fragmented galaxy” of discrete words and bytes, a database rather than a critical edition proper.¹² IIIF functionality provides scholars with a unique opportunity to work directly with the text alongside the traditional critical apparatus, rather than in spite of it.

Finally, there is to date no existing translation, critical edition, nor any in-depth analysis, linguistic or theological, of this manuscript. Thus our work will fulfill an existing need for a better understanding of this text, as well as the historical context of the situation for the Jews of Rome in the late 16th century in light of their forced sermon attendance.

We have chosen to present the first 18 and a half pages as a sample of the work we are undertaking. In our first stage, we have transcribed the text in a diplomatic fashion. That is to say, we transcribed the letters, words, mistakes, and marginalia as they appear.

 

Hover-activated annotations and corresponding references section.

 

In Hebrew Manuscripts in the Vatican Library: A Catalogue issued in 2008 (Città del Vaticano: BAV, 2008. pp. 554-555), Benjamin Richler, Malachi Beit-Arié, and Nurit Pasternak identify De Monte as the scribe as well as the author, indicating that this manuscript is “autograph”. They comment that the Hebrew is in “Italian square script”. Previously, in 2007 Fausto Parente claimed to detect three different hands for the Italian text and two hands for the Hebrew text. This does not necessarily contradict Richler, Beit-Arié, and Pasternak because one could imagine that corrections inserted above or in the marginalia after the text was written, would appear different, if for no other reason than the script size needed to be altered to fit in the space remaining on the page.

Regarding the Hebrew corrections, they may appear different since Richler, Beit-Arié, and Pasternak describe the Hebrew script in B.A.V. Neofiti 35 as “Sephardic-Oriental-current semi-cursive-script” (p. 553) and they conjecture that this manuscript is written by Andrea De Monte. Moreover, about this script they say: “The writing…is identical to Andrea’s glosses in the margins of MS Neofiti 37.” (p. 554) In any event, we document changes in the text through our transcription and provide annotations on how those changes may differ between the Italian and Hebrew texts. These are located in the “translation” tab, imprecisely but to be improved in our ongoing work on this site.

In our creating a translation, we are still at the initial stages of this and have not provided one for this presentation, though we will most likely create an eclectic text. In the case of B.A.V. Neofiti 37, we know it was authored by Andrea De Monte, but this does not eliminate the problem of which “witness”, whether the Hebrew or the Italian, will be the base text of our translation. The manuscript is presented as an entire unit and is the only one that was made so there is no need for a reconstruction as such. It should be noted, however, that there are some minor translation variants between the Hebrew and the Italian, so annotations need to be made so as to explain where they occur. Since the stated audience is the Jews (of Rome), one might want to give primacy to the Hebrew text. It may be the case, however, that the presentation of the Italian text would have been for those who did not know Hebrew, namely, the ecclesiastical authorities in Rome, especially those members of the Congregations for the Roman Inquisition and Index of Prohibited Books, most notably Cardinal Sirleto, the manuscript’s dedicatee. At this point, we are hesitant, nonetheless, call the Italian text a “translation” of the Hebrew text.

With regard to the Jewish audience, it would seem, given de Montaigne’s and Martin’s descriptions, that the sermons were given orally in Italian, since they appear to have listened and understood them and neither of them would have had command of Hebrew well enough to comprehend an oration. The Jews of Rome, of course, would have also known Italian, so they could have understood either text. On the other hand, since the document is called by the author, a “letter” it might have been meant to be read by Jews and thus the Hebrew text could have been intended to be the preferred mode for this reading. Of course, this level of conjecture is highly problematic when faced with a text of this nature.

 

Works Cited:

¹ Variants of his Christian name are: Del Monte, Dei Monti, Di Monte. Variants of his pre-Christian name are: Josef Zarfati, Yosef Tsarfati di Fez.

² Encyclopedia Judaica claims his year of conversion was 1573.

³ R. Le Deau, Jalons pour une histoire d’un manuscrit du Targum palestinien in Biblica, xlviii, 1967, pp. 517-521.

⁴ Parente, F., “Notes biographiques sur André De Monte” in Les Juifs et l’église romaine: à l’époque moderne: XVe-XVIIIe siècle. Paris: H. Champion, 2007 p. 199.

⁵ Cf., Phillips, Amy, “Censorship of Hebrew Books in Sixteenth Century Italy. A Review of a Decade of English and French Language Scholarship” in Bibliofilia: Rivista di Storia del Libro e di Bibliografia 2016, anno CXVIII n. 3, pp. 409-425.

⁶ van Boxel, P. Jewish Books in Christian Hands: Theology, Exegesis and Conversion under Gregory XIII (1552-1585), Citta Vaticana: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 2016, p.13.

⁷ Martin, Gregory Roma Sancta translated and edited by George Bruner Parks (Rome, 1969, quoted in van Boxel Jewish Books in Christian Hands…, p. 14).

⁸ Quote taken from van Boxel Jewish Books, p. 14. Van Boxel quotes from Martin, Roman Sancta, p. 77.

⁹ Parente, “De Monte, Andrea” http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/andrea-de-monte_(Dizionario-Biografico)/

¹⁰ Ibid.

¹¹ Apollon, Daniel, and Claire Bélisle, and Philippe Régnier, Digital Critical Editions, 2014, pp.10-11.

¹² Ibid, p. 61.

¹³ Cf., van Boxel’s Jewish Books…

 

Bibliography:

Other works by De Monte

Città del Vaticano:

Neofiti 35 (Sermons to Jews)

Vat. Lat. 6236 1r-13v (Commentary on Isaiah 53)

Vat. Lat. 3161 (letter to Pope Julius III)

Vat. Lat. 14627 (Libro chiamato confusione de’ Giudei, e delle lor false opinioni)

Sources Referencing Contemporary with De Monte

Città del Vaticano:

Vat. Lat 3561

Vat. Lat. 6207, fols.186r-187v, 188r-189v

Vat. Lat. 6236, fols. 47r-50v (i.e., 50v-47r)

Vat. Lat. 6792 I, fol. 1, 75rv

Roma:

Bibl. Vallicelliana, cod. O. 18, fo.s 55v-57v

National Library of Australia, Ms. 1097/33 (Martin, Gregory. Roma sancta (1581).)

Secondary Sources:

Apollon, Daniel, and Claire Bélisle, and Philippe Régnier, Digital Critical Editions. Chicago; University of Illinois Press, 2014.

Bartolocci, Gulio, Bibliotheca Magna Rabbinica, vol. 3. Romae: ex Typographia Sacrae Congregationis de Propaganda Fide, 1663. 818a-819b.

Le Déaut, R., “Jalons pour une histoire d’un manuscrit du Targum palestinien (Neofiti 1) in Bibica xlviii, 1967, p. 509-533.

Ludovico, Gian and Masetti Zannini, “La Biblioteca di Andrea Del Monte (Iosef Sarfath) e Altre Librerie di Ebrei nel Cinquecento Romano” in Studi di biblioteconomia e storia del libro in onore di Francesco Barberi. Roma: Associazione italian bibloteche, 1976, pp. 391-405.

Parente, Fausto, “Notes biographiques sur André De Monte” in Les Juifs et l’église romaine: à l’époque moderne: XVe-XVIIIe siècle. Paris: H. Champion, 2007.

_____________. “De Monte, Andrea” in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani vol. 38 (1990). accessed online http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/andrea-de-monte_(Dizionario-Biografico)/

Richard, Benjamin, M. Beit-Arié, and N. Pasternak, Hebrew Manuscripts in the Vatican Library: Catalogue. (Studi e testi 438), Città del Vaticano: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 2008, pp. 554-555.

van Boxel Piet, Jewish Books in Christian Hands: Theology, Exegesis and Conversion under Gregory XIII (1552-1585). (Studi e testi 498), Città del Vaticana: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 2016, p.13

Wood, Carolyn H. and Peter Iver Kaufman. Tacito Predicatore: the Annunciation Chapel at the Madonna dei Monti in Rome” in The Catholic Historical Review vol. 90, no. 4 (Oct., 2004), pp.634-649


Distant Readings of Japanese Literature

Aozora Bunko is a hub for Japanese literature in the public domain. The website hosts thousands of stories by hundreds of authors, all free of charge. In addition, the site's GitHub account provides access to the entire corpus, thereby allowing users to perform various kinds of text analysis on the data. For more information on how to get started, as well as a discussion about some idiosyncrasies within the corpus, please see my past article: Digital Japanese Literature: Aozora Bunko.

Ukigumo Hakaze (浮雲葉風), floating clouds and rustling leaves*, is a project designed to explore the linguistic underpinnings of the corpus by means of word frequencies and vocabulary profiling. The fundamental question that served as inspiration for the project was relatively straightforward: what is the vocabulary level required to read the entire corpus?

Scholars of Japanese outside of Japan often elect to take a proficiency exam known as the Nihongo nōryoku shiken, the Japanese language proficiency test (JLPT). It consists of five difficulty levels that assess the fluency of a speaker, with the highest level asserting a near-native proficiency with the language. Statistically speaking, passing the highest level requires knowledge of at least 2000 kanji (Chinese characters, e.g. 感), and a vocabulary size of approximately 10,000 words. Obtaining fluency in a language is certainly far more complex than the mere memorization of words, and generally speaking, the average vocabulary size of a Japanese person far exceeds the limited scope of the exam itself, but the question remained whether the Aozora Bunko corpus could be understood using the JLPT as a basis for measurement.

The process of evaluating vocabulary levels in the corpus began with a Python script designed to parse individual stories for the frequency and diversity of characters used. For those unfamiliar with the language, Japanese uses three distinct scripts. Take for example the opening line to Miyazawa Kenji's famous story about a clumsy cellist who performs with his local town orchestra, Sero hiki no Gōshu (Gauche the Cellist):

ゴーシュは町の活動写真館でセロを弾く係りでした。

The first word of the sentence, ゴーシュ gōshu, is written in a script called katakana. It is an angular script reserved for foreign words and also used at times to create emphasis. In this case, it is the main character's name, Gauche (a play on the French gauche, meaning unsophisticated or socially awkward). Later in the sentence another katakana word appears, セロ sero, an older way of writing cello.

The second word in the sentence, 町 machi, means town and is written using kanji. Kanji typically represent nouns, verb stems, or adjective stems, among others. Another kanji that appears later in the sentence is 弾 hi, a verb stem meaning to play, as in, to play the cello. Kanji are fixed, meaning that they are always drawn using the same stroke order and number of strokes. Therefore, in order to conjugate the verb correctly hiragana characters are added, such as the character く(ku) in the verb 弾く (hiku, to play). Hiragana are often used as grammatical elements such as verb and adjective endings, or to denote the function of a word in a sentence (subject, object, etc.).

With this in mind, the Python script iterated through the entire corpus and produced a total of 6097 unique kanji**, far surpassing the required amount for a test like the JLPT. The characters are the following:

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While lists of kanji out of context may be limited in their ability to reveal the content of stories, what is particularly fascinating is the ability to experience one entire view of the vocabulary profile of the corpus within a single screen. This is significantly more complex than the same concept applied to English:

abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz

All words in the English language can be created using varying combinations of 26 letters, and therefore an abstracted form of the entire vocabulary profile of English can be represented in a very short string. In contrast, kanji are each imbued with meaning, both conceptual and concrete, partial and complete, that have evolved in shape and context over time. Reflection on this evolution led to the data visualization Ukigumo Hakaze at the first ArtTechPsyche symposium at Harvard University. The visualization animated the characters to behave as floating clouds passing over a rolling sea, a visual celebration of Japanese literature.

 

Projection: Ukigumo Hakaze, visualization of all kanji in the Aozora Bunko corpus.

 

Thereafter, additional visualizations were created to explore the content of each story, examining the most frequently used kanji in addition to a breakdown of non-Chinese character usage. Take for example Higuchi Ichiyo's short story Tsuki no Yo:

 

Character breakdown of Tsuki no Yo.

 

These visualizations, created with D3js, made it possible to summarize the general complexity of stories from the perspective of kanji usage. Again, this is only one measurement of complexity within the Japanese language, as there are many grammatical structures and words written only in hiragana or katakana which may be considered difficult to parse for non-native speakers. Literature is as much about context as it is about the prose itself.

The project, though still in its infancy, endeavors to compare the change of language usage over time. Do certain kanji disappear (or reappear) as we approach the 20th century? Do certain authors tend to use particular characters or grammatical structures on a regular basis—a kind of literary fingerprint? In what ways can author detection algorithms or other NLP-esque analysis illuminate the hidden features of Japanese literature?

 

* The term ukigumo hakaze is made up of 浮雲 (floating clouds) and 葉風 (a poetic term meaning wind that rustles the leaves), thus the title of this project takes some poetic license to thus render 'floating clouds & rustling leaves

** 6097 unique characters as of mid-2015 when the initial project began. Each year new stories enter the public domain, increasing the likelihood that this number has increased (though likely not by much).