Coding the Codex
Digital Codicology and the Digitization of the Materiality of Books

April 06, 2023 - 16 h 00

Campus des 2 lions - Salle A261
50, Avenue Jean Portalis
37200 Tours


Books—usually treasured for their content—are cultural objects of archaeological interest in their own right that preserve and present in their inner working technological and historical data, and their past can be thus read in their materiality. Many academic disciplines are dedicated to books and manuscripts, but the study of books as objects and cultural phenomena is typically the remit of codicology (and the archaeology of the book). 
Typically, the digitization of books is understood as capturing the page contents through photography and imaging, and the application of digitization technologies has been a real agent of change for text-based and content-centred disciplines, such as textual and linguistic studies, palaeography (the study of ancient handwriting), and the likes. However, not all features of books can be digitally acquired through standard digital photography applications, as most of the archaeological and material data is excluded in the process. Digitization can do much more than reproduce books as texts to be read, and books are much more than flat sequences of pages: there is much information in books that has been largely ignored—so far.
While digitization tends to concentrate on the remediation of the content of books, we argue for an increased interest in the transmediation of the materiality of books. Several advanced digitization techniques achieve this digital representation and manipulation of an object’s materiality, and digital surrogates created in this manner have the potency to be more than mere alternatives for the original objects. Instead, when the transformative nature of the digitization process is more fully harnessed, the digital objects transcend the originals and, working in synergy with them, make them something more, allowing for resonant and advanced codicological and archaeological investigations.


Dr Alberto Campagnolo

LE STUDIUM Research Fellow 

FROM: University of Udine - IT
IN RESIDENCE AT: Centre for Advanced Studies in the Renaissance (CESR)  / CNRS, University of Tours - FR

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