Sifting and Sorting: An Introduction to Database Methods and Pedagogy using Humanist Texts Abstract
As the axiom goes, data is king. While the qualitative description of observed phenomena holds an important function in humanist studies, a vital (and often over-looked) methodology of document evaluation relies on quantitative analysis. Data-driven studies of humanist documents can reveal what lies beneath the surface of these documents, and help to unfold the history they hold. The Baumfylde manuscript provides a unique opportunity for data collection, collation, and visualization since it is formulaic in nature. Recipes have discrete and distinct parts, and each part invites a new angle for data analysis. In this essay, I will explicate the methods I used to create a rudimentary Baumfylde database. While this database is not exhaustive, it functions as a useful case study in how humanist documents can be broken down quantitatively, what is gained from such methods, and the place of data in humanist study. I will also lay out teachable steps and exercises for humanists looking to bring these methodologies into their classrooms. The database itself will be released as an accompanying document, inviting the reader to try their hand at database compilation and continue this work on the Baumfylde.