Soon after starting at the Library (in the former Department of Manuscripts) during the early days of the junior Bush presidency, I was given my first task. This was to number the pages (that is, the folios) of the Bowood House Papers, a large collection of the paper of the Marquesses of Lansdowne which had been purchased a few years before. Since historical archives in those days were intended to be bound into volumes for reasons of ease of delivery to the reading room and for security, they had to be divided into volumes of roughly 200 folios. Too many, and the volume could barely open; too few, and the volume was too thin. A double-century was the Goldilocks point of manuscript foliation. But, of course, series of correspondence never quite ran to that exact amount, so the art was to find a natural break in the run of papers and find a harmonious organisation to effect this, in an attempt to give a volume some sort of natural unity. The Bowood House papers, like many archives, already came with their pre-existing arrangement, and a history of citation, and reorganisation. Students of manuscripts will be familiar with the series of numbers usually pencilled at the top right hand side of folios, sometimes erased, sometimes crossed out; a palimpsest speaking of the attempt to apply order to the historical record.
I was never much good at it. The volumes were checked after you had foliated them, and someone always kindly pointed out that 127 came after 126, and not 125, or whatever blunder of numeration I had committed. It is possible that my mind had wandered during the process. Once this had all been sorted out, a slip was countersigned added to the back of the volume, and the number of folios settled on for future generations to refer to: 'Add. MS. 70200, f.211', and so on. There are also a whole set of complications; is a blank leaf foliated? What about folds of paper? Is a stamp on an envelope another folio? And what about notebooks in which the author has started at the front, but has another series of notes starting at the back? The rules of cricket and LBW pale in comparison.
I mention all this, as some of the sharper-eyed readers of this blog and visiters to the www.bl.uk/manuscripts site may have noticed a discrepancy in the recent volume of Layard Papers (which are full of material on the British view of the Civil War, since Layard was Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs). All is fine until you reach folio 48; thereafter, all hell breaks out in terms of foliation.
I receive digital images of the manuscripts (in Tiff format) from the library's imaging studio. These are numbered from 001.tif to 800.tif (for example), but foliation reflects rectos and versos of manuscripts, so these have to be renamed 001r.tif to 400v.tif before they are tuned into zoomable images and added to bl.uk/manuscripts. The image number also has to match the folio number in the drop down box on the right of the viewer, and, in so doing, matching the way that that the manuscript has always been cited.
There are two ways of doing this; manually renaming the files, which opens the door to a number of potential errors; and venturing into the world of batch renaming, which still leaves the door ajar, but in my book is a bit safer, and certainly faster. Bindings, flyleaves and other idiosyncratic parts of the volume are renamed by hand (waiting for the Tiffs to open, then using F2 to rename the file), then I separate out all the odd numbered files, and use a piece of software called AntRenamer to renumber and rename them: 001.tif to 001r.tif and 003.tif to 002r.tif and so on. The evens are renumbered and renamed 001v.tif, 002v.tif etc. Once I've done this, checked every ten or so, I recombine them into one folder, check them again, and send them on their way to be turned into zoomable images (.dzi at the moment, but perhaps Jpeg2000s in the future), and thence to be linked to the Manuscript Catalogue record and viewable on bl.uk/manuscripts.
So far, the process has been fine, if somewhat time consuming. But last night, I noticed the foliation errors in Add. MS 38988. Three hours later, and they've been refoliated, in a digital fashion, and should be filtering their way onto the site. Clearly, I need to figure out a modern-day equivalent of the countersigned slip to be found in the back of the volume.