The Realization of the Digital Library

The realisation of the digital library of the Mont Saint-Michel is based on two areas of action: the manuscripts digitalization during three campaigns and the drafting of XML-EAD catalogues.

The manuscripts digitalization campaigns of the Mont Saint-Michel

For the digital reproduction of 205 manuscripts of the Mont Saint-Michel preserved in the Heritage Library of Avranches, three digitalization campaigns, between 2004 and 2016, were required. This long lead time, along with the technological advances in the digital world it generates, the drafting specifications by the various authors and the carrying out of the work by different providers lead to a certain heterogeneity between the images produced from one manuscript to another. Each manuscript descriptive note thus specifies the relevant digitalization campaign of the reproductions online.

The digitalization campaign of the year 2004 (Arkhenum Society)

The first digitalization campaign was initiated by the opening up of the Scriptorial in 2006. 47 manuscripts, identified as priorities, coming from the abbaye of Mont Saint-Michel were digitalized in 2004 by the Arkhênum Society, at a resolution of 300 DPI (resolution reference applicable at that time).

During this campaign, each manuscript was scanned starting from its back then its front cover and ending up with its back cover. The blank endleaves weren't reproduced systematically. The background-colour is black. The white gloves by the operator are apparent on some images.

The digitalization campaign of 2009 (Institut de Recherche et d’Histoire des Textes)

Asecond digitalization campaign was undertaken between december 2008 and janvary 2009 by the Institut de Recherche et d’Histoire des Textes (IRHT), as part of its campaign of microfilming and digitalisation of manuscripts of the Lower Normandy. 72 manuscripts of the Mont Saint-Michel were thus digitalized. The resolution reference applicable at that time was still 300 DPI. Some ornate letters were also digitalized at a resolution of 600 and 1200 DPI.

During this campaign, each manuscript was digitalized starting with its front cover (landscape view) and continuing or finishing with its back cover (landscape view; back generally not reproduced). The blank endleaves were not reproduced systematically. The background colour is uneven (prescan tab is visible).

The digitalization campaign of 2016 (Azentis Society)

The third and final digitalization campaign was led between October and December 2016, in partnership with the Equipex Biblissima which financed the campaign. The Azentis Society was selected to carry out this operation. 84 manuscripts of the Mont Saint-Michel were digitalized on this occasion at a resolution of 500 DPI.

During this campaign, each manuscript was digitalised starting with its front cover and concluding with its back cover then its back. The background colour is white.

Catalog establishment in XML-EAD

The early stages of this catalog was drawn out of two files. A word processor document, referring to a part of the catalographical litterature on the manuscripts and a spreadsheet breaking each manuscript into as many of works contained in it. In 2010, a conversion test of the existing datas into XML-EAD was made. The digital library was gradually developed from this base. This initiative enabled to get a grant from the ministère de la Culture et de la Communication (Service du livre et de la lecture) within the framework of the national project calls Patrimoine écrit in 2011. The grant allowed to produce in one hand a website prototype for the consultation of the datas encoded in EAD through the progiciel Pleade, and on the other, to design the workspaces in XML-EAD for the input of the cataloging datas.


The software used is XMLMind XML Editor, developed by Pixware. We have set up a specific workspace within the framework of the pôle Document numérique and downloadable here..

This workspace enables to encode in XML-EAD the description of printed books and manuscripts. The manuscripts were encoded in XML-EAD, respecting the guidelines of the Culture ministry. The printed books were also encoded in XML-EAD so that the two types of the corpus be searchable simultaneously. These volumes being generally encoded in Unimarc, the conversion of the datas were already planned, especially for the deposit of datas in the collective catalog of France.

The workspace shared by the pôle Document numérique includes:

  • templates: blank template for the descriptive note of both printed and manuscript volume;
  • different reading views : content, data entry form, proofreading;
  • stylesheets : EAD into Unimarc ; EAD to Pleade;
  • tools : shortcuts for the typographical enrichments (WYSIWYG type); scroll-down menu for the list of defined vocabulary.

Encoding of descriptive notes of manuscripts

The manuscript description tries to reconcile the recommendations of the Guide des bonnes pratiques de l’EAD en bibliothèque and the description recommendations of the medieval manuscript established by the IRHT. This description in XML-EAD has been the subject of the choice of vocabulary and organisation of datas, that were compiled in an instruction manual, downloadable here.

Encoding of descriptive notes of printed works

The description of printed volumes respects the french standard (on a provisional basis since 1986) AFNOR Z 44-074, but the description is done in XML-EAD, rather than in Unimarc, format generally used for the description of these works. An équivalence was maintained between the two formats, in order to enable the data transformation, with some limitations for multipart monographs during this transformation (as Unimarc does not allow the tree structure). All the methodology was compiled in an instruction manual that can be downloaded here.



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