Tag Archives: Danish

Another Copy of the 1678 Danish Ethica Complementoria and Trancheerbok in Bergen!

While looking for something entirely different (Norwegian Ex Libris), I discovered another copy of the 1678 first edition of the Danish translation of the Ethica Complementoria and Food Carving Book (Tranchierbuch/Trancheerbok)!

The Bergen Public Library has a copy in its special collections, kept in “The Vault” with the shelfmark h 194. Judging by the number of pages (322), the book seems complete. What is interesting about this copy, apart from that it is only the 4th known (the others are in the Royal Danish Library in Copenhagen, the University of Oslo Library and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology Library, Trondheim) so far, is its provenience: The catalogue metadata read:

Har tilhørt Niels Tønsberg

I don’t yet know who this person was or when the Ethica became part of the Bergen Public Library’s collection. I will have to find out during a visit, which is tentatively planned for summer 2024.

A request to digitise the Bergen copy has been declined due to a lack of capacity, and there is already a digitised Ethica: the Trondheim copy. I will investigate if I can get a few pictures of the title and owner’s mark for my bibliography.

Detail of a screenshot of the Transkribus Web App with upper part of the title page of the 1678 Danish Ethica Complementoria print on the left-hand side and the transcription and annotation on the right-hand side.

Transcribing the 1st Danish Translation of the Ethica Complementoria and the Tranchierbuch from 1678

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! 

Ethica Complementoria Digital Scholarly Edition – Revisit Pt. 1

Establishing Ground Truth

Yesterday and today, I spent some hours manually transcribing pages from the 1674 print of the Ethica Complementoria. The edition, printed in Copenhagen by Christian Wering and published by Wolf Lambrecht, survived in only one copy, held by the State and University Library Hamburg. The copy has been digitised a while ago and can be accessed and downloaded freely from their website. I have argued in my book about the print and transmission history of the Ethica Complementoria that this edition is the source for the Danish translation published in 1678 in Copenhagen. I’m preparing a bilingual digital scholarly edition of the German and the Danish Ethica.

However, with the print being digitised and available, you might wonder why I would manually transcribe it! Actually, I don’t plan to transcribe the entire print manually. I am using Transkribus to do the work for me. I have already established a transcription for the Danish print using the Transkribus app and the NorFraktur HTR model provided by the National Library of Norway. The performance was OK; however, there’s no way around a manual quality check when preparing a transcription for a scholarly edition. The NorFraktur model was trained on multilingual materials: 77 Danish-Norwegian and 23 German small blackletter prints from the mid-16th to the mid-17th century. With a CER of 2.0%, it’s quite good. However, with our print from the late 17th century in Danish, we found it underperformed a bit. We decided to improve the model by training it on manually transcribed pages from the digitised copy held by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology library. This improved the quality slightly, but a few issues remained. Since we were going for a quality check of the entire transcription anyway, we corrected all ‘misreadings’. A couple of pages are left; the first round of manual quality checks will be done by the end of September!

For the German print, we initially thought of using NorFraktur, too. However, there are now models for German print which perform significantly better than NorFraktur. Results will be significantly better. For what it’s worth, I will compare two approaches: Firstly, testing the quality of a German model, like the Transkribus Print Multi-Language model, with a CER of 1.6%. Secondly, I will train my model with manually transcribed pages to see if it can outperform the Transkribus Print model: for only this particular print.

Once I have the results, I will report back!

Ethica Complementoria Digital Scholarly Edition – Redux. Pt. 5: Sources

Day 5 of my summer research leave

On Day 5 of my summer research leave, I continued working on organising folders and files and getting a general overview of what I have on my local drive, what is already on the GitHub repository for the Ethica project and what should go into related repositories. I managed to move some files around and normalise filenames, but then I got stuck on a particular file: This, too, was very old. I last touched the file in late August 2013 – ten years ago. It’s a file I called “Quellen” (sources). It contains several phrases, sentences, poems, or concrete references from the Ethica to other texts and – where possible – their verification with contemporary sources or more modern scholarly editions of referenced texts. It’s an MS Word file; the formatting was horrific, and the document really hard to read. I converted the DOCX file into a plain text format like Markdown, using Pandoc. I hadn’t planned on working on the file’s content, only trying to tackle the layout and readability, but I got stuck on the references. Many contained links, and clicking on the first one already revealed a problem I had hoped not to have: link rot. So I spent the rest of the morning checking all links and references, which turned into checking many sources, adding them to the list, and ordering some older prints from the library to check references of not yet digitized material.

I really love this kind of detective work: trying to find the source of an odd-sounding phrase or a cryptic reference, verifying citations, and revealing the literary, theological, and philosophical foundation of this book on good manners and easy conversation. We can also see the frame of reference for a contemporary: what would they have known to use the book? Were they familiar with the works of Plato, the classic authors like Sallust, Horace and Cicero, early medieval philosophers like Boethius, the church fathers, and more contemporary writers like John Owen? Probably. Studying the intertextual references in the Ethica can help us re-create the target audience, perhaps even the model reader/user of the guidebook. 

The overview of sources and references is not complete by far. My work many years ago was discontinued after chapter 2, most likely because I decided to prioritise another part of the scholarly edition. The original edition plan did not include a commentary, so this is ‘side work’, which I thought would be nice but not mandatory. But now I’m intrigued again! I want to dig deeper into it and learn more about the intertextual references and what they might tell us about the Ethica and its appeal. I have uploaded the revised document to the GitHub repository, so I can add things on the way – and have a public reference in case I will not finish this side-work and someone else wants to pick it up instead.

After a much-needed iced coffee break in the sun with my colleagues from the Digital Scholarship Center at the University of Oslo Library, I returned to my office to find one of the youngest prints of the Ethica Complementoria waiting for me on my desk! This second edition of the Danish translation was printed in Copenhagen in 1708. The book, together with the first Danish edition from 1678, was a gift from the Royal Danish Library in Copenhagen to the newly founded University of Oslo in 1811. Together with 45.000 books from the Royal Library’s collection, it made the rootstock of the Univesity Library – and the National Library of Norway – today. An incredible feeling for a researcher interested in the Ethica: to have two rare editions “in-house”. I was unaware of this when I moved to Norway 11 years ago, so I guess we found each other at the right time and place.

A detail photograph of the 1708 edition of the Ethica Complementoria. The book is half opened, and a printed double page is visible. On the right side, the second chapter begins and the page is framed with ornaments.
Detail from the 1708 print of the Ethica Complementoria, UBO UHS Sikring 97

Training HTR-Models for a Bilingual Digital Edition of the Ethica Complementoria

In mid-June, I will start a small sub-project and finally get to work with the Ethica Complementoria again! I won a small grant from the University of Oslo’s “Teksthub+DH“, a network to support digital humanities focusing on language and textual sources. The network itself is part of a university-wide endeavour to strengthen IT in research. With the grant money, I was able to hire a research assistant. This is what we are going to do:

We aim to create a dataset to be used as the basis for a bilingual (Danish/German) digital scholarly edition of one of the most popular books on ‘etiquette’ in early modern Germany and Northern Europe: the Ethica Complementoria.

Originally written in German, the book made its way to the Nordic region through the Danish translation from 1678. This first Danish print will be published in parallel with the German version used for the translation.

The transcription project is part of a larger project on the book and revision history of the Ethica Complementoria, led by Annika Rockenberger and will be conducted by Håvard Loeng. An overview of all editions has been published digitally at the Herzog August library: http://diglib.hab.de/ebooks/ed000738/start.htm.

Manual transcription of two 300+ page texts is not feasible anymore. However, traditional Optical Character Recognition (OCR) yields inferior results for older printed books. Therefore, we aim to test, evaluate, improve, and build upon the NorFraktur model from the National Library of Norway. NorFraktur is a public Handwritten Text Recognition (HTR) model in Transkribus. It was trained on the HTR algorithm developed by READ Coop to recognise manuscripts and older prints automatically.

The development project contributes to both a digital scholarly edition with open access (planned as part of the publications by the Norwegian Language and Literature Society at bokselskap.no) and to the improvement and expansion of an open HTR model that the scholarly community can reuse for early modern prints in Norwegian (including Danish and German).