Statistical Approaches to the Diplomatics of Institutional Topography

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Gervers Michael, Gelila Tilahun (University of Toronto).
Using statistical methods, researchers at the DEEDS Project (Documents of Early England Data Set) at the University of Toronto have successfully developed the means to date medieval English charters issued without dates. The training source used consisted of acts which were dated internally or externally and which included the name of the issuer and place of issue of the document. The Project is now extending such methods to determine a diploma’s place or region of issue by classifying differences in word and phrase usage. It may also prove possible to infer the religious order, and possibly the specific scriptorium responsible for issuing an individual document; that is, by using an expanded DEEDS database, to provide a means to identify the institutional promulgator of individual documents and their place of issue.

It is further anticipated that statistical approaches will provide the means to recognize the diplomatic parts of a document which may have been modified or added over time, hence facilitating the identification of ‘forgeries’.

A new DEEDS website is presently being prepared whereby researchers may upload charters which they wish to date and/or, if current experiments prove successful, whose place of issue and the religious house responsible for drawing them up they seek to identify.

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