Musisque Deoque

(From Manca, M., L. Spinazzè, P. Mastandrea, L. Tessarolo and F. Boschetti. 2011. “Musisque Deoque: Text Retrieval on Critical Editions.” Journal for Language Technology and Computational Linguistics 26: 129-140)

The Musisque Deoque Project (MQDQ) aims at creating a digital archive of Latin poetry, from its origins to the late Italian Renaissance, equipped with critical apparatus and various exegetical and linguistic information. This project is focused on the study of synchronical and diachronical intertextuality as illustrated, e.g., in Cicu (2005). For this reason, we give strong attention to formal and material aspects of the text that actually played a relevant role in the poetical tradition. The fixed text of printed critical editions, aimed at the reconstruction as close as possible to the lost originals, provides just a snapshot of the tradition, which is intrisically dynamic, and gives to the modern reader a distorted image of what an ancient text was in fact.

Fully searchable digital collections currently available are based on traditional critical editions, which are, as we just said, authoritarian texts; this authoritarianism is emphasized by the conversion from printed text to database, because usually the critical apparatus is cut away and there is no way for the reader to check a variant different from the one the editor put in the main text, often dubitanter, simply because he had to choose a variant. Limiting lexical searches to editor’s choices drives unavoidably both to false positives and false negatives, which need to be verified back on printed critical editions. False positives are due to possibly wrong emendations made by modern and contemporary scholars, provided by the text retrieval systems among the genuine occurrences, whereas false negatives are the likely variants excluded by editors biased by prejudices against specific linguistic and stylistic phenomena (such as the short-term repetiton, systematically emended by philologists of the last centuries).

The purpose of Musisque Deoque is to overcome these limitations, retrieving not only the word keys quoted in the reference edition, but also the variants lying in the critical apparatus. In this way, further knowledge on the accomplished itinerary – from ancient operas during the subsequent ages until the Humanism and the Renaissance – can emerge.


Musisque Deoque is the result of the continuous evolution of projects focused on the digitization of the Latin poetry: Almae Latinitatis Bibliotheca (Classical Latin Poetry), Poetria Nova (Medieval Latin Poetry) and Poeti d’Italia in Lingua Latina (Humanist and Renaissance Italian Poetry in Latin). Along the decades, additional information has been encoded to the text-only documents related to metrical genres, to biographical data of the authors and other information and, consequently, features have been added to the search engines available on CD or online (in particular, Poeti d’Italia and Musisque Deoque). Important projects that deal with digital variants have been developed in the last decades: see, in particular, Calabretto and Bozzi (1998) and Calabretto et al. (2005). These projects are focused on the collation of manuscripts and are aimed to provide tools that help the philologist to check variants on the images of the manuscripts or to produce an automated collation of digital diplomatic editions. On digital philology and Medieval texts, see Stella and Ciula (2007).

The Perseus Project stressed out the importance of a cyberinfrastructure for the classical studies able to deal also with variants. See, for instance, Crane (2009) and Crane (2010).

Peter Robinson, the promoter of Interedition and Virtual Manuscript Room, considers the process of editing digital editions as a collaborative enterprise: see Robinson (2010) and Babeu (2011); see also Price (2009) and McGann et al. about digital scholarship. In this perspective, the main purpose of Interedition is offering a sort of public, social and sharing context in order to improve, compare and discuss first of all the tools for digital scholarly edition publishing. Very similar ideas about the future development of digital scholarly editions are asserted by Gabler (2010).

MQDQ does not aim to the constitutio textus nor offers new protocols for publishing digital editions; its goal is rather to offer a tool to study the literary influences among the tradition. The ideal end-user of MQDQ is a scholar interested in analyzing the Fortleben and the mutual relationship of texts at a more deeper level than the one allowed by the common authoritative databases.

Even if MQDQ takes into account the theoretical models and the practices to represent variants, as expressed in recent contributions, such as Boschetti (2007), McGann (2010), Gabler (2010), Marotti (2010), May (2010), Mandell (2010), the main goal of MQDQ project is to achieve a very extensive database, which includes almost all the Latin poetry with a wide range of variants.

MQDQ is a work in progress and its features and improvements have been illustrated in several conferences and articles, such as Zurli and Mastandrea (2009), Manca (2009) and Mastandrea (2011).


Babeu, A. (2011). Rome Wasn’t Digitized in a Day: Building a Cyberinfrastructure for Digital Classicists. CLIR Reports.

Boschetti, F. (2007). Methods to extend greek and latin corpora with variants and conjectures: mapping critical apparatuses onto reference text. In Proceedings of the Corpus Linguistics Conference.

Calabretto, S. and Bozzi, A. (1998). The philological workstation bambi (better access to manuscripts and browsing of images). J. Digit. Inf., 1(3).

Calabretto, S., Bozzi, A., Corradini, M. S., and Tellez, B. (2005). The eumme project: towards a new philological workstation. In ELPUB.

Cicu, L. (2005). Le api il miele la poesia. Dialettica intertestuale e sistema letterario greco-latino. Roma.

Crane, G. (2009). Cyberinfracstructure for classical philology. DHQ, 3(1).

Crane, G. (2010). Give us editors! re-inventing the edition and re-thinking the humanities. In Online Humanities scolarship: the Shape of things to Come, <>. Mellon Foundation, Jerome McGann, ed.

Gabler, H. W. (2010). Theorizing the digital scholarly edition. Literature Compass, 7(2):43–56.

Manca, M. (1999). Nabuzardan princeps coquorum. una lezione vulgata oltre la vulgata.

Quaderni del Dipartimento di Filologia, Linguistica e Tradizione Classica (Università degli Studi di Torino, (13):491–498.

Manca, M. (2009). Database and corpora of ancient texts towards the ”second dimension”: theory and practice of musisque deoque project. In P. Anreiter, M. K., editor, Computational Linguistics and Latin Philology. 15th Colloquium on Latin Linguistics., pages 697–702.

Mandell, L. (2010). Special issue: ‘scholarly editing in the twenty-first century’– a conclusion. Literature Compass, 7(2):120–133.

Marotti, A. F. (2010). Editing manuscripts in print and digital forms. Literature Compass, 7(2):89–94.

Mastandrea, P., editor (2011). Nuovi archivi e mezzi d’analisi per i testi poetici. I lavori del progetto Musisque Deoque, Venezia 21-23 giugno 2010. Hakkert.

May, S. W. (2010). All of the above: The importance of multiple editions of renaissance manuscripts. Literature Compass, 7(2):95–101.

McGann, J. (2010). Electronic archives and critical editing. Literature Compass, 7(2):37–42.

McGann, J., Gabler, H. W., Wolfson, S. J., Pratt, L., Curran, S., Marotti, A. F., May, S. W., Ezell, M. J. M., O’Donnell, D. P., and Mandell, L. Literature Compass, (2):134–144.

Price, K. (2009). Edition, project, database, archive, thematic research collection: What’s in a name? Digital Humanities Quaterly, 3(3).

Robinson, P. (2010). Editing without walls. Literature Compass, 7(2):57–61.

JLCL 2011 – Band 26 (2) 139Manca, Spinazzè, Mastandrea, Tessarolo, Boschetti Spinazzè, L. (2011). Risalire alle fonti: dall’edizione mqdq ai testimoni manoscritti. In Mastandrea, P., editor, Nuovi archivi e mezzi d’analisi per i testi poetici, pages 59–71. Hakkert.

Stella, F. and Ciula, A., editors (2007). Digital philology and medieval texts. Atti del seminario, Arezzo 2006. Pacini.

Zurli, L. and Mastandrea, P., editors (2009). Poesia latina, nuova E-filologia. Opportunità per l’editore e per l’interprete. Atti del convegno Internazionale. Perugia 13-15 settembre 2007. Hedder Editrice e Libreria.

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