What I’m up to

I know there was a while, when we were in the throes of the Digital Walters Bookreader project when I was updating this blog every night! Then I had to slow down to go to the Digital Humanities 2012 conference, and the ESU Culture and Technologies Summer School, and I had to finish an article (submitted! yay!) and I haven’t really gotten back to this. I did post a long-promised update this evening describing the process of the BookReaders. And I’m planning to continue working on the Digital Walters Omeka – which if it works will be a full catalog of the works and illustrations in all of the Digital Walters manuscripts (including links both to the DW site and to the BookReaders). Hopefully Doug Emery will be willing and able to help with that as he did with the BookReaders project.

I’m currently on research leave, working on an article (maybe two, if I can swing it) on medievalists’ use of digital resources (the topic of my paper at Kalamazoo, my poster at DH2012, and related to my lecture at the ESU School and the article I submitted last month). There’s just too much interesting stuff to say about that, it’s a bit overwhelming. And then of course there is the Medieval Electronic Scholarly Alliance (MESA), which I am co-directing with Tim Stinson at NSCU… just gearing up… and my day job as well (which I’ll be back to on September 4) to keep me busy. But I will keep working here, because… well, because it’s fun.

How to set up your own Bookreader

Now that the Digital Walters BookReaders are all updated and online, I wanted to make a post documenting how you too can create BookReaders along the same lines.

The original BookReader source is available from the Internet Archive. That was the staring point. Doug Emery and I worked together to modify that code to pull most of the information needed by the BookReader out of a TEI Manuscript Description – although the same process could potentially be followed to read from some other XML file containing the appropriate information. I did have to write an XSLT to create the BookReader files themselves (one for each manuscript). Of course it would also be possible to create one BookReader file for all manuscripts to share! But I wanted the BookReaders to be able to be grabbed and used separately, rather than being dependent on server-side scripting in order to use.

You will need:

The .zip file from Internet Archive contains a License, a readme text file, and three folders: BookReader, BookReaderDemo, and BookReaderIA. The modified BookReader.js file available here replaces the BookReaderJSSimple.js file contained in the BookReaderDemo folder. The rest of the files in the folder should be unchanged. The BookReader folder is required for the system to work. We don’t use the BookReaderIA folder.

To run the sample modified BookReader.js file:

  • Replace the BookReaderJSSimple.js file in the BookReaderDemo folder with the .js file from the link above
  • Place the TEI document in the BookReaderDemo folder
  • Open the index.html document in the BookReaderDemo folder

It really is that easy. If you want to take the files I have on this site and host them yourself, please do! The relevant URLs are all formatted as above.

Now, you may want to use these files as a basis to build BookReaders for your own collection. If you have TEI Manuscript Description files you should be able to do it. The file will need to have (or you will need to be able to generate somehow):

  • Title of the book or manuscript
    • TEI/teiHeader/fileDesc/titleStmt/title[@type=’common’]
  • a URL to the official webpage of the manuscript (if there is one)
    • We generated this by supplying the base URL (http://www.thedigitalwalters.org/Data/WaltersManuscripts/) and then filling in the rest of the URL from the TEI (‘.concat(siglum,’/data/’,idno,’/’) – where siglum and idno were pulled from different areas of the file
  • The number of leaves / pages
    • We generated this by counting <surface> tags – but because some of the images were duplicates (one with flap closed, one with flap open) and also included fore-edge, tail, spine, and head images, we had to do a bit of work to keep those from being counted.
    • var surfaces = $(file).find(“surface:[n!=’Fore-edge’][n!=’Tail’][n!=’Spine’][n!=’Head’]”).
      not(“[n*=’flap closed’]”);;
      var leafCount = $(surfaces).size();
  • An indication of whether the manuscript / book is to be read left to right or right to left (we generated this by searching for the language code and specifying which languages are l-r)
    • var rtlLangs = [ ‘ara’, ‘heb’, ‘jpr’, ‘jrb’, ‘per’, ‘tuk’, ‘syc’, ‘syr’, ‘sam’, ‘arc’, ‘ota’ ]
      // get the lang from the TEI
      var lang = $(file).find(‘textLang’).attr(‘mainLang’);
      // set pageProgression if lang is in rtlLangs
      if (jQuery.inArray(lang, rtlLangs) > -1) {
      br.pageProgression = ‘rl’;
  • URLs of the location of the page / leaf files
    • These were generated using the file names that were provided in the TEI document (@url on the third <graphic> tag, which was the resolution file we wanted for the page turning)
    • var path = $(file).find(‘surface’).eq(index).find(‘graphic’).eq(2).attr(‘url’);
      var graphicurl = url + path;
      return graphicurl;
  • The height and width of page/leaf files
    • I tried many different ways to get these. In the first version of the Digital Walters BookReaders I hard-coded the height and width into the .js file (this is what is done in the demo version available from Internet Archive). Unfortunately the image files in Digital Walters are different sizes – although always 1800px on the long edge, the short edge will vary page by page, and the long edge is not always the vertical side. Eventually, the Digital Walters team very kindly generated new TEI files for me to use, with the height and width hard-coded. Ideally there would be some way to automatically generate height and width from the files themselves but if there is some way to do that, I don’t know it!
    • br.getPageWidth = function(index) {
      var widthpx =
      if (widthpx) {
      var width = parseInt(widthpx.replace(“px”,””));
      return width;
      } else {
      return 1200;
    • And again for height

One last thing: because I wanted to generate many files at the same time, one per manuscript, I set up an XSLT that I could use to create those files based on information from the TEI documents. That XSLT is available here: http://dotporterdigital.org/walters/TEImsdesc2js.xsl. Aside from the body of the .js there are just a few transformations, and they are (I think) sufficiently documented.

I hope this is useful. I certainly learned a lot working on this project. Thanks to Doug Emery for all his technical help, to Will Noel for his moral support and interest in the project (and for putting me in touch with Doug!). And finally, thanks to the Trustees of the Walters Art Museum for making all of this great data available under Open Access licenses so people like me can do fun and cool things with it!

Walters Bookreaders updated!

Just a quick post to say that, thanks to Doug Emery, the Walters Digital Bookreaders have all been updated to remove the bug that was causing all of the 1-up images to appear as thumbnail size. Doug noticed that in our code, image sizes were being parsed as text and not as numbers, so the Bookreader code couldn’t figure out how to process them. It was a simple change, I was able to make it globally, and everything has been updated as of Wednesday night.

In the process of doing the global replace, however, I discovered that Oxygen (which I use for all of my XML and javascript encoding) doesn’t recognize .js files when doing a replace across files (at least, it was not recognizing my .js files). So I downloaded a tool called TextWrangler (http://www.barebones.com/products/TextWrangler/) and it got the job done in no time. I’ve actually heard of TextWrangler, about 18 months ago I did a consulting gig with some folks down at Southern Louisiana University and they were using TextWrangler for all of them find-and-replace in XML needs. I’m happy to report that it does work very well.

Over the weekend I’m planning to write up a post documenting how the Walters Bookreaders work, along with the code, so others can try setting up their own page-turning versions of open access page images.

I’m Back!

Happy August 1!

I had a really wonderful time at Digital Humanities 2012 (http://www.dh2012.uni-hamburg.de/), where I presented a poster on medievalists’ use of digital resources. Most of the presentations were recorded, and have been made available through the conference program (http://www.dh2012.uni-hamburg.de/conference/programme/).

There were several lectures I attended (and a couple I didn’t) that I’d recommend. On the first day, Lief Isaksen and Elton Barker presented “Pelagios: An Information Superhighway for the Ancient World” (http://lecture2go.uni-hamburg.de/konferenzen/-/k/13918) – proving once again that the Classics are on the forefront of digital work. It’s a bit unfair really; if there were a single gazetteer for medieval place names, we could do this too! I really believe that it’s the gathering of (high-quality, referenceable) data that’s the hard part. Once you do that work, applying technologies to the data to do interesting things is a bit of icing on the cake.

Speaking of Classicists (and because I’m a big fan of papyri.info and the folks behind it), I really enjoyed Marie-Claire Beaulieu “Digital Humanities in the Classroom: Introducing a New Editing Platform for Source Documents in Classics“, in which Dr. Beaulieu presented an extended version of the Son of Suda Online platform (which runs papyri.info), modified to enable the editor to include the image as part of the edition (something that was talked about in the original SoSOL proposal but wasn’t ever made part of that project). I’m in contact with Dr. Beaulieu and her group and will be adding this new tool to this site as soon as the final code is available! That will be fun. Unfortunately the recording of her talk is not available.

If you watch only one lecture from the conference, make it Patchworks and Field-Boundaries: Visualizing the History of English by Marc Alexander (http://lecture2go.uni-hamburg.de/konferenzen/-/k/13931). Dr. Alexander won the best paper award at the conference, and it was well deserved. His team mapped out the English Language by topic, and created several different maps comparing the language as it was a various points in history (Chaucer’s time, Shakespeare’s time, mid-19th century, and today). Very, very cool and interesting stuff. And it doesn’t hurt that Dr. Alexander is such a dynamic and engaging speaker.

Time for me to go to work. I will have another post later with some other suggestions for lectures to see (including some I missed myself, but intend to go back and watch now), and a bit about the lecture I presented in Leipzig. Then, it will be back to page turning and Omeka experiments!