Making and Breaking Books: Reconstructing Matthew Parker's Manuscripts

Anne McLaughlin - Parker Library, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (United Kingdom)

Presentation type: Presentation


Though we continue to work towards interoperability as a community, IIIF took root at individual institutions, each digitising their own content, and creating manifests that mirrored their physical collections. However, as more and more material has become IIIF compatible, it is now possible to do more than simply create a digital surrogate of a physical item. This paper seeks to examine this possibility using the collection of Matthew Parker, a sixteenth-century Archbishop of Canterbury who is famous for breaking apart manuscripts in order to ‘make’ new compilations of material. Using two case studies of these ‘reconstructed books’ -- the first a combination of two manuscripts from the Parker Library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge and the British Library, the second an attempt to reconstruct a pair of codices that were famously scrambled by Matthew Parker, now held at the Parker Library and the Cambridge University Library -- this paper seeks to move beyond the objects themselves. It will question not only the rationale behind the assembly of composite digital surrogates but also will seek to address the technical questions that arise when no single repository can be responsible for the digital object. Though the technical compilation of multi-repository manifests can be easily done via the Bodleian’s IIIF Manifest Editor, who owns these objects? Who is responsible for their preservation? Are digitally composite manuscripts, by their very nature, a new class of ephemera? And what would happen should one of the participating institutions fall out of the IIIF universe? Though this paper does not pretend to have the answers to these questions, it aims to move the community to think critically about the possibilities and problems that may arise as we move towards an ever more integrated IIIF framework based upon two built-out case studies.


  • Interoperability in IIIF contexts,
  • IIIF communities (3D, archives, museums, manuscripts, newspapers, etc.)


  • Manuscripts,
  • Metadata,
  • Longevity