TRADITIONAL DOCUMENTS

Post 561 by Gautam Shah

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Traditional documents were once hand written compilations, and as a result the format of information presentation was so abridged and compact that made the interpretation of the text a complex issue. In traditional libraries every work of classical nature was accompanied by several ‘firsthand’ commentaries, interpretations and translations, and even larger number of corollary ‘studies’. The original work and its lineal volumes were connected by referencing the stanza or section identifiers. These methods remained workable within limits of a single author, subject, period of history or a locality, and in many instances the availability of all documents at a particular location.

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Geet Govinda  Odisha, India early 18th C

Few of the accesses related problems to traditional documents were solved, when famous libraries began to hand copy documents for their own access. But, now it is found that every writer (or rather the manuscript copier) copied it by minutely editing a spelling, phrases and expressions. This created variegated versions of original works, making it extremely difficult to determine which one is reliable-authentic one. Printing of documents and wide distribution solved the problems of individualized copying of books, but authenticity of the work remained questionable.

escribano

Scribe

Compiled documents of the past have been fixed assets entities. The pages of manuscripts or bounded books were tied by a thread (French=fil), wire, or metal-rod as a folder to avoid disturbing the order of placement. Manuscripts and books were organized or compiled, where its subsections had some cohesion on two counts: sequential placement and page numbers. So once compiled, it was not easy to add upon it. In future when more information was generated, if small in size, it can be placed as an addendum or appendix, or as a sequential volume.

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A book on astronomy and mathematics of 10th C Flickr image by shafraz.nasser  (https://www.flickr.com/photos/shafsky/8680992443)

A Document was perceived to be unitized set of information, Documents such as: Books, manuscripts, articles, letters, reports, drawings, specifications, procedures, instructions, records, purchase orders, invoices, process control charts, graphs, pictures, movies, photograph albums and audio-video cassettes etc. holistically represent a concept or ideology. These are stored as whole entity in their order of arrival, subject matter, author, and format (paper, books, tapes) etc. and the individual content is also identified similarly.

buddhist_manuscript_ngfa

Buddhist manuscript on metal plates

Storage modalities demand some consistency of size, shape and density for the documents, whereas access considerations for the document and its content, require some form of cataloguing. Natural sub-divisions like chapters, sections or parts and preset strategies like, keywords, summaries, content lists, indices, etc. are designed for sequential and restricted random access. Cataloguing for access has changed more over two millenniums, in comparison to very little improvisations in the storage modalities.

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An card division in Library of Congress Washington DC 1900

A catalogue is pre sorted listing. Such cataloguing was formed within the documents through projected tags, coloured edges, notched pages or insert floats. These methods were widely used for manually accessing sections of database documents such as account ledgers, address books, address registers etc. For very large databases such as police records, library records, census data, such manual access was unmanageable. Such documents first needed sorting to reduce the size of the search. For sorting and search operations, cards with projected tags, notched or marked corners or edges were used, first through manual and later mechanical processing.

old_kardex_file_cabinet

Kardex index-card filing cabinet Wikipedia image by Pete Birkinshaw (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

Mechanical punched card reader systems were the precursors of digital computing. Database documents gained a degree of transparency when formatted on marked or punched cards. These were used for sorting the information into known classes and search out anomalies of data. Many statistical tools were used for the purpose. Other written and printed documents in prosaic form, however, were too opaque for dissection and analysis. Such documents however, when considered as database with elemental units of letters, words and ‘constructions’, provide new insights into meaning, grammar and syntactical structures. This was the pioneering effort that was to become the word processing of digital technology.

Wooden_file_cabinet

Tabbed files Wikipedia image (cropped) by Pptudela at en.wikipedia

A document was perceived to be a lot of related knowledge which when referred to, provide the intended data. It was ‘a storable format of information’. Like other units of storage systems documents are modulated according to, what it is to contain, where and how it is placed, referred and retrieved. In modern information technology such modulated information lots or documents are called files.

books_on_shelves

Incoming books identifiers at Smithsonian Libraries Wikipedia image by Metta3001

‘Filed’ information carries several identifiers that help in storage, identification and access. The contents of filed information also carry internal and external attachments (links and references).

Identifiers for files

  • time (of origin)
  • size (of storage, transmission time & effort)
  • author, contributors
  • content (index, key words, summary)
  • place of origin
  • place of destination, identity recipient
  • authority to create, read, write, alter and delete the contents of a file
  • affiliations, linked documents, preceding and following documents
  • references
  • embedded codes
  • signs, symbols
  • language
  • style
  • mode of communication
  • limits and conditions of relevance
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