I’ve been unabashedly ludditic this week, arguing for (or, at least, expressing a love of) the handmade book. Just to reassure you that I’m every bit the modern guy, I should also confess to having spent an inordinate amount of my e-lunch-hours this week in virtual France. If you haven’t heard, a six-year project has come to fruition in which the 4,500 manuscript pages of Madame Bovary, archived at the University of Rouen, have been loosed on the Web. As the Independent reported:
The project was launched six years ago as a tool for literary scholars. The municipal library in Rouen, which holds the
Flaubert manuscripts, appealed to academics to help transcribe the hand-written texts. It was rapidly decided to
open up the transcription process to enthusiastic amateurs and to make the site suitable for the general reader as
well as the specialist.
The manuscripts were shared out for transcription between 130 volunteers, aged from 16 to 76, in a dozen countries,
including France, Portugal, Austria, Belgium, Colombia, Ivory Coast, and New Zealand. “They range from sixth-
formers to a cleaning lady and an oil prospector,” said Professor Danielle Girard, who co-ordinated the transcription
As beautifully communist as that operative approach surely is, the result for the rest of us is just as beautifully functional–the Internet at its best. To use the thing, first you go here, where you’ll see this:
Then, you pick a chapter, say Chapter One, part one, “Entrée de Charles au collège,” which will take you to the below, where, if you move your cursor over a section of the text, it gets hi-lit…
And then, once you cliquez, you get this pot of gold:
Yes, a split-screen that gives you Flaubert’s manuscript page and a transcription thereof–4,500 of them! Mais oui: c’est tout à fait extraordinaire. I propose it as your weekend read.