Guest article by Håvard Loeng, research assistant in the project “Training HTR-Models for a Bilingual Digital Edition of the Ethica Complementoria,” University of Oslo, 2023.
As a research assistant, my main task has been to provide a complete transcription of the Danish translation of the Ethica Complementoria and the appended Trencheerboc, published in 1678 in Copenhagen. Based on the copy held at the Gunnerus Library at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, I have worked with a digitized version of the book in the automatic text recognition and transcription tool Transkribus, which made the process much easier. Transkribus enables automatic transcriptions of digitized material based on public AI models and lets you create models on your own. For the Ethica, we trained a model based on approximately 30 manually transcribed pages of the book and used the public AI model NorFraktur as a base model. The NorFraktur model was created by the National Library of Norway and is trained on 16th and 17th-century Danish and German prints, which fit well with the Ethica print. Our model achieved an estimated error rate of 2.5%, a satisfactory result. I ran our model on the entire book and began proofreading the transcription provided by the model.
Having Norwegian as my first language was an advantage in the proofreading process. As the main written form of Norwegian (bokmål) is basically reformed Danish, modern written Danish poses few difficulties to Norwegian readers. 17th-century Danish, however, is more challenging. The spelling is somewhat recognizable, but it is not always consistent and may take some time to get used to. For example, the Norwegian word hode (English head) is in modern Danish spelled hoved, but in the Ethica, it is spelled hoffued, hofved, or hoffved. The vocabulary and phrasing ring archaic to modern ears, and the sentence structure is sometimes hard to follow. Both the historical Danish dictionary ODS (https://ordnet.dk/ods) and the online library of the National Library of Norway (https://www.nb.no/search) have been beneficial in cases of uncertainty, like finding occurrences of outdated words and phrases.
The digitized version I worked with was of a copy of the Ethica located at the Gunnerus library at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim (https://ntnu.tind.io/record/149690). The print in this copy and the digitization are of good quality, making the work process reasonably smooth. Some instances of weak impressions and damage to the book were the main issues, as this reduced the legibility. Also, there are a few pages where some words and letters have disappeared in «the fold» when scanned. I could assume what was missing in most cases, but these pages must be checked with the physical book.
In addition to the transcription, I have equipped the text with tags denoting structural elements, such as headings and page numbers, changes in fonts, etc. This is to prepare the text for the planned digital edition.
Working with Ethica has been both challenging and fun, and I thank Annika for all the good support and advice along the way!