Syriac Palimpsest Digital Release README Document

Authors: Mike Toth
Siam Bhayro
Doug Emery
Date: July 9, 2010


1 The Syriac Galen Palimpsest

This manuscript contains an eleventh-century liturgical text that is very important for the study of the hymns of Byzantine and Melkite Christianity. The manuscript's value is further increased by the fact that it is a palimpsest, with an older and very significant undertext. The undertext dates back to approximately the ninth century, and contains Syriac translations of Greek medical texts. Preliminary investigations have identified several leaves from Galen's major pharmacological treatise, known in Latin as De Simplicium Medicamentorum Temperamentis et Facultatibus, and in the Syriac and Arabic traditions as the "Book of Simple Drugs". The translation seems to be by Sergius of Resh Ayina, the great sixth-century scholar who was the first to translate the Greek medical corpus and who laid the foundations for the transmission of Greek science into the Islamic world. Part of the same text has been preserved in a British Library manuscript, which is useful for comparison, but the palimpsest is much larger. For further reading, see S. Bhayro, "Syriac Medical Terminology: Sergius and Galen's Pharmacopia" in Aramaic Studies 3 (2005), pp. 147-165.

2 Rights and Conditions of Use

The Syriac Palimpsest data is released with license for use under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported Access Rights. It is requested that copies of any published articles based on the information in this data set be sent to The Curator of Manuscripts, The Walters Art Museum, 600 North Charles Street, Baltimore MD 21201.

3 Intended Audience and Consumers

The Syriac Palimpsest Digital Product is intended to serve any interested user or party. However, its content is focused on serving the following groups.

  1. Scholars of Greek and mathematics
  2. Application providers
  3. Libraries and archives
  4. Image scientists, and scientists in other disciplines interested in the production of the images

4 Digital Project Data Set Purpose

The Syriac Palimpsest Digital Product provides all the digital information available on the Syriac Palimpsest in a single digital data set, with a standard structure. Its purposes are twofold:

  1. Serve as the authoritative digital data set of images in a standardized format that meets the needs of users, information providers, archives and libraries.
  2. Offer a standard product sustainable by users to which current or future contributors can add additional standardized information (e.g. alternate texts, image analyses or conservation information).

5 Data Set Contents

This data set consists of:

  1. a core content set digital images of the Syriac Palimpsest, each with accompanying metadata and checksums
  2. project-generated and third-party documentation of all included components
  3. supporting functional files, including XML schemas, and cascading style sheet files
  4. supplemental versions of the transcriptions by treatise and work
  5. a directory for researcher contributed content files, not a part of the core data set

5.1 Core Data Content

The core content of images and supporting metadata is the focus of the Digital Product. For each folio, a comprehensive set of registered images is provided of the palimpsest.

The core data includes:

  • Image data consisting of large 8-bit image files, including requantized raw images, processed pseudo-color images. All these files include embedded metadata and metadata files.

The following image types are provided:

  • "Pack 8" 8-bit versions of all captured images
  • "Pseudo-color" images for all folios
  • "Sharpie" monochrome versions of the pseudo-color images that show the under text with the over-text digital removed for all folios
  • A "color sharpie" image, created by placing the three sharpie images generated from the red, green, and blue filter color images into the red, green, and blue channels of a single image for all but the following folios: 197r-204v, 207v-211r, 222r, 222v, 224r, and 225v; in these six cases the color sharpie process did not generate useful images
  • A color image generated from five of the visible-light image captures for each folio
  • Principal Component Analisys (PCA) images for a select group of images

For each folio in the palimpsest, the data set provides:

  • All eight-bit raw and processed registered TIFF images for the directory's folio
  • An XMP metadata file for each of the TIFF files in the directory
  • An MD5 checksum file for each of the TIFF and XML content files

All file names follow strict naming conventions to facilitate easy identification of file type and content.

In addition to its images, each content directory provides preservation information in the form of:

  • Metadata embedded in image files
  • XMP metadata files for each image
  • MD5 checksum data for all TIFF files to ensure their fixity

The metadata for images complies with the Archimedes Palimpsest project metadata standard, which is provided with this set as documentation. The metadata provides investigative, data sharing and scientific information on the images and transitions.

Metadata are data elements about the content, quality, condition, and other characteristics of the data sets that make up the digital holdings. Metadata records are produced according to rules and definitions governing several subtypes:

  1. Identification Information
  2. Spatial Data Reference Information (images and spatial indexes, only)
  3. Imaging and Spectral Data Reference Information (images only)
  4. Data Type Information
  5. Data Content Information
  6. Metadata Reference Information

5.2 Documentation

Documents are provided to fully describe the contents of the data set and facilitate their use. There are both external and internal documents. External documents detail data standards, file specifications, and technologies used by the project, such as the TIFF specification, MD5 checksum algorithm, and various XML-related technologies. Internal documents detail project data standards and practices, image processing algorithms, and information required to use the data set not detailed in the external documentation.

5.2.1 External Documentation

External documentation includes:

  • CSS 2.1
  • Dublin Core - rfc5013.txt
  • GIF89a
  • ITU Recomendation T81 (JPEG)
  • HTML 4.0
  • MD5 hash - rfc1321.txt
  • PDF 1.7
  • PNG
  • SVG1.1
  • TIFF 6.0
  • XHTML 1.0
  • XML 1.0
  • XML Schema
  • XSL1.1
  • Unicode - Unicode Code charts - Unicode specifications and technical reports
  • ZIP file format specification 6.3.2

5.2.2 Internal Documentation

Internal documentation includes:

  • Archie Image Manipulation software documentation - Manual
  • File Naming Conventions
  • Folio Index
  • MD5 How-To
  • Metadata Data Dictionary
  • Metadata Standard

5.3 Supporting Functional Files

The data set provides supporting files needed to share or work with the Digital Product content data. Primarily these files are XML schema documents used to validate and process transcription, spatial index, and metadata files in XML format. The following supporting file collections are included.

  • Archimedes-Palimpsest: Custom XML schema files for working with project metadata XML files and custom mapped transcription formats
  • Dublin-Core: XML schema files for the Dublin Core metadata elements

5.4 Supplemental Files

The purpose of the Supplemental material is to provide alternate presentations of source material used to generate text and other content supplied with the core data. There are no supplemental files for the Syriac Palimpsest.

5.5 Contributed Research Files

This Contributed Research data is intended initially to include useful and specialized images contributed to the project by image scientists. These are images useful to scholars, but not integrated into the core data set because, for example, they are not registered to core image dimensions or they are not accompanied by complete metadata. Over the life of the data set, this directory may be used to include carefully vetted contributions that provide critical contributions to the data set, such as conservation, codicological, and other information.

6 How to Use This Data Set

This data set contains supporting documentation to enable discovery of the data and available access tools. The files named below may be located by using the file 1_FileList.txt which accompanies this ReadMe file.

6.1 General Orientation

For General Orientation to the data set, see

  • 0_ReadMe.txt: this file
  • 1_FileIndex.txt: list of files in the data set
  • FileNamingConventions.txt: a description of naming conventions for image, XML, and MD5 files
  • FolioIndex.txt: a list of the Syriac Palimpsest folios by over-text folio
  • MD5_README.txt: a brief how-to on using MD5 files to confirm the integrity of content files

6.2 Metadata

Metadata information for the images and transcriptions is described in several supporting documents.

  • Image_Metadata_Standard.pdf: The projects imaging metadata standard document.
  • MetadataDataDictionary.txt: A complete dictionary of the metadata elements used in all contexts
  • rfc5013.txt: Dublin Core metadata elements
  • DCMI_Metadata_Terms: Dublin Core metadata term specification

6.2 Computer Access Tools

For machine access to the files in this data set the following files can be used.

  • XML schemas and DTDs for working with content XML files, including TEI, DublinCore, and custom schemas created for the data set

6.3 Scientific Information

The included scientific texts provide descriptions of image capture and processing techniques used to create the data set.

  • Archie_1.0.pdf: Documentation of the Archie 1.0 image manipulation software suite