MEDEA. Modeling semantically Enriched Digital Edition of Accounts

MEDEA. Modeling semantically Enriched Digital Edition of Accounts

Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities Graz; University of Regensburg; Wheaton College, Massachusetts
Vom - Bis
22.10.2015 - 24.10.2016
Url der Konferenzwebsite
Arthur Haberlach, Institut für Geschichte, Universität Regensburg

The MEDEA-Project, supported by the NEH-DFG Bilateral Digital Humanities Program, aims at connecting account books, sources available to us from various times and spaces, with 21st century technology. As these accounts offer scholars the unparalleled option to analyze economic behavior both macro- and microstructurally, the projects presented at the first MEDEA-conference at the University of Regensburg, which took place October 22nd to 24th, 2015 organized by the Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities Graz, the University of Regensburg and Wheaton College (Massachusetts) and their representatives Georg Vogeler, Kathryn Tomasek, Kathrin Pindl, and Mark Spoerer paved the way to access these vital data via assembling an international group of researchers - mirroring the width of different accounts and approaches to process them digitally – to present their current encoding-projects.

JAMES CUMMINGS (Oxford) set the scene for the conference by introducing the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI), ergo the basic methods to encode financial records, applied to the Stationers’ Register, English accounts dating back as far as 1577 which illustrate ownership of the rights to print texts. The digitization fulfilled by the Stationers’ Register Online (SRO) project renders full-text transcriptions, yet has to overcome issues like converting historical currency into modern values. His second project, the Records of Early English Drama (REED), analyzes the environment of Shakespeare and his contemporaries by editing and describing historical documents revolving around means of entertainment in the period spanning from the Middle Ages to 1642. In parallel to the SRO, Cunnings also described the problems of encoding.

SYD BAUMAN (Boston) rounded out the first panel. The subsequent panel opened with BEN W. BRUMFIELD and ANNA S. AGBE-DAVIES’s (both Chapel Hill, NC) presentation on “Encoding Account Books Relating to Slavery in the U.S. South.”

In her talk about “The Practice of Personal Finance and the Problem of Debt among the Noble Elite in Eighteenth-Century Russia,” ELENA S. KORCHMINA (Moscow), illustrated her take on a more detailed exploration of debt crisis of the Russian nobility at the end of the 18th century. By analyzing various types of financial records, which then appeared for the first time in Russia, from account books to financial calculations, ergo the nobility’s means to cope with economic upheavals and novelties, e.g. banks, and order own finances these rapidly changing surroundings, Korchmina discloses the nobility’s behavior of weighing its personal income and expenditure, thus attempting to avoid bankruptcy.

Titled “Analyzing Productivity and Rationality on the Basis of Account Books – Westphalia and Rhineland 1650-1850,” FRIEDERIKE SCHOLTEN´s (Münster) presentation focused on the German feudal system, its commercially organized manorial estates and their tasks of leasing land and trading grain. Account books bequeathed by these estates and recently encoded offered the steppingstone into two projects she introduced, the first of which investigates factor land, leases and land prices, and thus tries to works out agricultural productivity. Her other project complements the first by focusing on the then displayed rationality in early modern regional trade.

PETER RAUSCHER and ANDREA SERLES (both Vienna) further extended the diversified field of account books by presenting their database fed with formerly non-processible data – due to its sheer mass - on the Danube trade in the 17th and 18th century, which offers new insights into commercial networks, goods transported, but also habits of consumption. They thoroughly expanded prior research, which mainly concentrated on single years, via their universal database, allowing the possibility to backtrace economic changes over time.

Presenting the differences in account books used in early American business transactions, those applying single- and double-entry methods, lay at the heart of SALLY M. SCHULTZ’s talk (New Paltz, NY) talk. Whereas single-entry methods were commonplace in northeastern agricultural communities due to typical asynchronous exchanges, based on seasonally induced ‘postponed’ payments by farmers, double-entry account books (first used by 15th century Italian merchants) are necessary for documentation above the level of such trading individuals. These are used to track financial position, profitability, as well as for the sake of outside investors and regulators, and are, therefore, filled with ample data, ranging from available cash to liabilities.

THOMAS FRANK´s (Pavia) presentation “Dealing with Quantitative Sources for the History of Late Medieval land markets” introduced his research on the existence of a Central European land market by analyzing 14th to 16th century ecclesiastical and charitable institutions’ dealings involving land transfer by their tenants, market integration, and effects on the rural social structure for the four regionally scattered case studies and their respective differences. The various sources are different in nature and provide distinct data on the people as well as the lands involved, thus painting a multilayered picture of the transactions. JÖRG ROGGE and SIMONE WÜRZ (both Mainz) rang in MEDEA’s 2nd day presenting their digital edition of the “Augsburger Baumeisterbücher” a profound and detailed collection of the Bavarian city’s financial records, its spending and budgets, between 1320 and 1466, offering a unparalleled view on the urban culture, both in economic and social perspectives. They hope to uncover this source’s full potential by modern editing methods, making it available more user-friendly and propel data digitization.

Turning to medieval and Early Modern Basel, SONIA CALVI and JONAS SAGELSDORFF (both Basel) displayed the wide range of available and continuous sources which shed light on the city’s financial budget, its income and expenditures, now digitally processed. Their edition offers analytical tools, enabling users to apply e.g. full-text search and quantitative analyses. While relying on XML and TEI as means of digitization, the researchers had to overcome various obstacles presented by the printed sources, among them the pure mass of accounts and recording inconsistencies, in order to guarantee easy applicability.

In his talk “Linguistic Perspectives on Medieval Account Books - The comptes de la baumaîtrie of the City of Luxembourg (1388–1500),” University of Trier’s NIKOLAUS RUGE expanded the field of presentations by concentrating on the administrative language account books are written in. In so doing he negated the predominance of archaisms within the accounts, while simultaneously highlighting the importance of their continuous and evolving contents as corpus for the reconstruction of language change and contact.

CLIFFORD B. ANDERSON (Nashville, TN) spoke on: “Abraham Kuyper as Publisher – Analyzing the Finances of De Heraut and De Standaard,” and offered a look into the difficulties to attain financial data for his early career, which are buried in various sources, often inconsistent or without common ground. Anderson strives at structuring the data and encoding it via TEI and TEI P5, thus offering users a simplified access to Abraham Kuyper’s financial management.

Joint organizer GEORG VOGELER (Graz) talk problematized the „Separation of Concerns: Modelling Economical Data in Texts.“ In her presentation “Transformation of Economic Data into Modern Digital Media – The Report of Abbot Heinrich Libler from the Year 1640,” MONIKA EISENHAUER (Koblenz) raised awareness on economic data contained within sources not strictly produced for economic intentions, e.g. legislative records of the Bursfelde Congregation. Mixed into the collection of decisions and political entries, Eisenhauer extracted Heinrich Libler’s – a witness of the Thirty Years’ War - economic report on expenses and revenues between 1628 and 1640. After processes of identifying the relevant economic data and transforming their accounting method, digitization was made possible, thus offering insights e.g. into expanded investment activity.

SUSAN PERDUE (Charlottesville, VA) talked on “Accounts and Ledgers: Retaining the Look and Feel of Thomas Jefferson’s Financial Documents.” Here, she revealed Jefferson’s lack of understanding for methods of accounting. Still, his meticulously collected financial records filled eleven notebooks, which were turned into the Jefferson’s Memorandum Books since the 1950 – and now, as part of a National Archives project, structured and digitized into TEI P5, while incorporating data on names as well as external and internal cross-references and still managing to mimic the critical idiosyncratic structure of the documents.

JENNIFER STERZER and ERICA CAVANAUGH (Charlottesville, VA) talked about “George Washington Financial Papers: Documents & Data”, while ANNA PAULINA ORLOWSKA (Kiel) gave her presentation on: “Everything in its Proper Place? – Topological Evolution in Medieval Account Books at the Example of Johan Pyre.” She emphasized that medieval account books differ from their modern equivalence, since the first were kept solely for own needs – which resulted in various styles of accounting and changes propelled by the respective environment. Orlowska focused on a 15th century Hanseatic merchant, Johan Pyre, and portrayed his evolving bookkeeping, which is problematic in terms of encoding, yet contains early signs of modern capitalist bookkeeping, since Pyre used the ‘Methode der Gegenseiten.’ Furthermore, the results shed lights on employed currencies, coins, and exchange rates.

Titled “Using the Digital Humanities to Analyse Non-Standard Information in The Late Seventeenth-Century Hearth Tax Returns”, ANDREW WAREHAM´s (Roehampton) presentation introduced the audience to his digitization project, which aims at encoding both standard and non-standard data on hearth tax from England, Scotland and Wales. As a result, Wareham wants to expand from local to national level, as well as enhancing the user-friendliness of the data-set.

In her presentation “’Bott in Partnership’ – Tracking Economic Networks in Receipt Books’”, ELLEN HARTIGAN-O´CONNOR (Davis, CA) reflected on her approach to collect economic data via 18th century receipt books – a medium not to portray profits and loss, but rather to describe a business. Here, she recognized that Mary Coates, the author of the receipt book, collaborated with other shopkeeper in buying goods at auctions, distributing them amongst themselves and sell it respectively. To focus on these fairly unknown bidding partnerships, she digitized the data and attempts to work out women’s’ roles in commerce.

GUDRUN GLEBA (Rostock) enlightened the audience with her talk “Urban Accounting in a Medieval Town – Road Ahead for Editors,” since she underscored the importance of medieval councilors and their individual compilations of town finances. Put together their accounts formed a sequence of expenses and revenues, which were kept over the next years, only to be changed in small manners. New techniques in digitization will render themselves helpful in detecting important nuances and changes in the huge amount of data available in the account books of medieval Osnabrück. With “The Dawn of Accountancy – The Gallerani London Ledger 1303,” KATARINA STULRAIJTEROVA (Oxford) enriched the MEDEA-conference by first emphasizing the socially universal 13th progresses in accounting and mathematics – induced by Italian merchants, eager to record data on their long-distance trades, like the Gallerani - leading to keeping of e.g. ledgers. Stulrajterova attempts to reveal this rather uncharted family – both the workings between their Siena Headquarters and branches, such as the one in London, as well as their influence on the spreading of double entry-bookkeeping – via creating a complete edition of the Gallerani Lodon Ledger.

ØYVIND EIDE´s (Passau) presentation concentrated on space – more precise: the space of a document page, both archival or digital. Whereas oral accounts constitute linear structures, narratives may differ in their interface. Account books, however, appear to be linear on a micro-level, yet if looked at the whole page, the linearity of its content blurs into shapes equal to tables, without their clear distinctions of cells. Furthermore, Eide is interested in the account book record and its real world equivalent, which is, to him, a relationship of events – a text in the document space of the account book is interconnected with an extratextual event, a financial transaction.

The conference was concluded by KURT FENDT (Cambridge, MA), who, in his presentation titled “From Manuscript to Data API: The Comédie-Française Registers Project – Lessons Learned,” demonstrated the ample data collected by the Comédie-Française – the only theatre troupe to perform plays by French playwrights between 1680 and 1791 – via their box office receipts, now digitally processed. With various tools thus available, e.g. a faceted browser, Fendt’s project enables researchers to penetrate the borders of the former disclosed realms of 18th and 19th century cultural world of Paris. Now, questions on most popular playwrights or genres can be answered quickly and easily.

Constructive discussions on the diverse approaches to transcription, markup, and analysis have beared fruits at the subsequent workshop, which has taken place April 6th to 8th, 2016 at Wheaton College, where the next stages of the respective projects were presented. A report will follow.

Conference Overview:

Welcome / Introduction: MEDEA project team

Panel 1

James Cummings (University of Oxford): Encoding Financial Records in TEI: Two Case Studies

Syd Bauman (Northeastern University; Boston, MA): What do you need?: Data Structures for Modeling Digital Editions of Accounts

Panel 2

Ben W. Brumfield, Anna S. Agbe-Davies, (University of North Carolina; Chapel Hill, NC): Encoding Account Books Relating to Slavery in the U.S. South

Elena S. Korchmina (National Research University – Higher School of Economics; Moscow): The Practice of Personal Finance and the Problem of Debt among the Noble Elite in Eighteenth-Century Russia

Friederike Scholten (Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität; Münster): Analyzing Productivity and Rationality on the Basis of Account Books – Westphalia and Rhineland 1650-1850

Panel 3

Peter Rauscher, Andrea Serles (Universität Wien): The Danube Trade in the 17th and 18th Centuries: Digital Editions of Mass Sources

Sally M. Schultz (School of Business, State University of New York at New Paltz; New Paltz, NY): Compiling Data on Early American Business Transactions

Thomas Frank (Università di Pavia): Dealing with Quantitative Sources for the History of Late Medieval Land Markets

MEDEA discussion time

Panel 4

Jörg Rogge, Simone Würz (Johannes Gutenberg-Universität; Mainz): The Digital Edition of the “Augsburger Baumeisterbücher” (1320-1466)

Sonia Calvi, Jonas Sagelsdorff (Universität Basel): Annual Accounts of the City of Basel, 1535-1610

Nikolaus Ruge (Universität Trier): Linguistic Perspectives on Medieval Account Books: The comptes de la baumaîtrie of the City of Luxembourg (1388-1500)

Clifford B. Anderson (Vanderbilt University; Nashville, TN): Abraham Kuyper as Publisher. Analyzing the Finances of De Heraut and De Standaard

Panel 5

Georg Vogeler (Karl-Franzens-Universität; Graz): Separation of Concerns: Modelling Economical Data in Texts

Monika Eisenhauer (Koblenz): Transformation of Economic Data into Modern Digital Media – The Report of Abbot Heinrich Libler from the Year 1640

Susan Perdue (Virginia Foundation for the Humanities; Charlottesville, VA): Accounts and Ledgers: Retaining the Look and Feel of Thomas Jefferson’s Financial Documents

Panel 6

Jennifer Stertzer, Erica Cavanaugh (University of Virginia; Charlottesville, VA): George Washington Financial Papers: Documents & Data

Anna Paulina Orlowska (Universität Kiel): Everything in its Proper Place? – Topological Evolution in Medieval Account Books at the Example of Johan Pyre

Andrew Wareham (University of Roehampton): Using the Digital Humanities to Analyse Non-Standard Information in the Late Seventeenth-Century Hearth Tax Returns

Ellen Hartigan-O’Connor (University of California; Davis, CA): “Bott in Partnership”: Tracking Economic Networks in Receipt Books

MEDEA discussion time


Kathrin Pindl (Universität Regensburg): Regensburg´s Hospital Archives and their Series of Books of Account from 1354

Panel 7

Mathieu Bonicel (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris): Double Entry Accountings in Avignon at the End of the Middle Ages and Linked Data Models: a Practical Use-case

Gudrun Gleba (Universität Rostock): Urban Accounting in a Medieval Town – Road Work Ahead for Editors

Katarina Stulrajterova (University of Oxford): The Dawn of Accountancy: The Gallerani London Ledger 1303

Panel 8

Kathryn Tomasek (Wheaton College; Norton, MA): Encoding Gendered Work

Øyvind Eide (Universität Passau): Event-based Modelling of Accounts: from Document Space to Events

Kurt Fendt (Massachusetts Institute of Technology MIT, Cambridge, MA): From Manuscript to Data API: The Comédie-Française Registres Project – Lessons Learned

Medea project team (Wheaton College, MA/ Universität Regensburg/ Universität Graz): Modeling semantically Enriched Digital Edition of Accounts (MEDEA). An Outline

Plenary discussion

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