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The WayBack Recovery Method

Biblioclasm & Digital Reconstruction: from a single leaf to the complete manuscript

Dismembered manuscripts brought back to life through the WayBack Recovery Method

Our main project envisages to digitally reconstruct dismembered manuscripts from around Europe, whose scattered leaves have been sold on the antiquarian book market during the last two centuries.

Eleven of the ongoing reconstructions are presented in the special issue of Theory and Criticism of Literature & Arts, freely accessible in Open Access. The WayBack Recovery Method (WBRM) is a procedure devised by Prof. Carla Rossi, based on a philological approach to fragmentology, that can restitute, in a new digital format, manuscripts thought to have been lost forever.

Over the years, the Research Centre for European Philological Tradition (RECEPTIO) devised and developed an original method of searching for Books of Hours’ fragments. It has been called “Wayback Recovery”, and it is currently being taught to a team of post-doctoral students as part of an international university specialisation course in fragmentology. The Wayback Recovery Method enables to identify a very large number of fragments of Books of Hours, and to trace the parent manuscripts back to the original collection to which they belonged. As soon as the parent manuscript is identified, the next step is to go back to its last sale, before being dismembered by biblioclast dealers. Unfortunately, the Fragmentarium database is very poor in Books of Hours, and those present in the corpus do not allow neither the reconstruction of the parent manuscript, nor the identification of its first owner. Furthermore, the fragments in Fragmentarium are those roughly described by Otto Ege in his Fifty Original Leaves of Medieval Manuscripts portfolio, a cataloguing outdated by recent studies, also conducted by the RECEPTIO centre team, on Books of Hours. The parent mss are an invaluable source of information documenting the devotional practices of Christians in the late Middle Ages, and witness to the profound changes in the European society on cultural, religious, and political levels. The Horae/Hours project has the potential to be implemented in the near future, using the same method. It will produce both academic and non-academic publications.

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