Rongqian Ma; Week 4-5: Visualizing Decorations Information

Decoration information of the manuscripts is one of the most complex categories of information in the dataset, and to visualize it needs much work of data pre-processing. There are two layers of information that is contained in the dataset: a) one is what decorations the manuscripts include; and b) the other is how those decorations are arranged across the manuscripts. Delivering such information in the dataset may potentially communicate the decorative characteristics of the book of hours. For the what part, I identified several major decorative elements of the manuscripts from the dataset and color-coded each element in the Excel sheet, such as the illuminated initial, miniature (large and small), foliate, border (border decorations), bookplate (usually indicating the ownership of the book), catalog, notation, and multiple pictorial themes and imageries (e.g., annunciation, crucifixion, Pentecost, betrayal, and lamentation, Mary, Christ). Figure 1 demonstrates my preliminary attempt to visualize the decorative information of the manuscripts. I coded the major decorative patterns of the visualizations for the left half of the coding graph and the major pictorial themes (e.g., Virgin, Christ, Annunciation) for the right half of the graph. From this preliminary coding graph, we could see that there appears two general decorative styles for the book of hours. One type of decoration focuses on making the manuscripts beautiful and the other type focuses on displaying stories and the meaning behind them using pictorial representations of the texts. I then went back to check the original digitized images of the manuscript collection and found that the patterns were mostly utilized to decorate texts (appear surrounding the texts) while the other style appears mostly as full-leaf miniatures supplementing the texts. A preliminary analysis of the two styles’ relationship with the geographic information also suggests that the majority of the first decoration style is associated with France while the other that’s more emphasized on the miniature storytelling is more associated with the production locations such as Bruges.

For the second step, I explored the transitions as well as relationships among different decorative elements using Tableau, Voyant, and Wordle. Figure 2 is a word cloud that demonstrates the frequency of the major decoration elements across the whole manuscript collection. The Voyant Tools, in comparison, provides a way to further demonstrate the strengths of relationships among different decorative elements across the dataset. Here is an example. Treating all the decoration information as texts, the “links” feature in Voyant demonstrates the relationships among different elements. For instance, we could see that the strength of the link between the “illuminated” and “initial” is the strongest and there are also associations between different elements of decoration, such as “decorated,” “line,” “miniature,” “border,” “bookplate,” and “vignette.” The dataset has also attested that patterns such as illuminated initials, miniature, and bookplates demonstrating the ownership of the book, are the most common elements. The links, however, do not present any of the relationships among different themes.

Figure 1.

Figure 2.
Figure 3. Voyant analysis of the decorating information. 

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