In Search of the Scribe: Letter Spotting as a Tool for Identifying Scribes in Large Handwritten Text Corpora

Lasse Mårtensson, Ekta Vats, Anders Hast, Alicia Fornés


In this article, a form of the so-called word spotting-method is used on a large set of handwritten documents in order to identify those that contain script of similar execution. The point of departure for the investigation is the mediaeval Swedish manuscript Cod. Holm. D 3. The main scribe of this manuscript has yet not been identified in other documents. The current attempt aims at localising other documents that display a large degree of similarity in the characteristics of the script, these being possible candidates for being executed by the same hand. For this purpose, the method of word spotting has been employed, focusing on individual letters, and therefore the process is referred to as letter spotting in the article. In this process, a set of ‘g’:s, ‘h’:s and ‘k’:s have been selected as templates, and then a search has been made for close matches among the mediaeval Swedish charters. The search resulted in a number of charters that displayed great similarities with the manuscript D 3. The used letter spotting method thus proofed to be a very efficient sorting tool localising similar script samples.


Scribal attribution/ writer identification, digital palaeography, word spotting, mediaeval charters, mediaeval manuscripts

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