By ‘markup’ I mean the association with an image of relevant sets of information. This information must address some or all of these requirements:
  1. Identification: the papyrus must be uniquely identifiable

  2. Clarification: the markup can convey information that is not obvious from the image alone (eg traces hidden by folds)

  3. Elucidation: the markup might contain (eg) a translation of the papyrus text

There are also more specialised sorts of information that papyrologists need for serious work on an image. In the case of the Oxyrhynchus papyri, this information is already in the public domain with the published volumes. These contain exhaustive information on all the papyri appearing on this site (and many, many more). But it would be handy to be able to search subsets of this information. The sample volume we’ve put online just has papyrus numbers, and the headings they were given at original publication in the tables of contents: thus far, a stark minimum.

Routinely, people working with papyri need to ask or answer a number of basic questions. These include:

Of course, it doesn’t stop there. Papyrologists wanting to check a reading will want to know where the papyrus physically is: not all of them end up with the main body of a particular collection. Lots of the early Oxyrhynchus Papyri were distributed by a cartel, and have ended up at literally hundreds of separate institutions: see the Location-Lists on this site for the bewildering details. (Regrettably, not every papyrus that gets found has stayed found.) And papyrologists could also do with knowing whether plates of the papyrus have been published; or articles written about it; or whether their alternative reading has in fact already been proposed elsewhere. (There’s no sense in reinventing the wheel.)

One solution: APIS

There’s little I could say about APIS that its originators haven’t said better and more boldly elsewhere. POxy’s links page offers some further pointers. It’s big, it’s clever, it’s expertly organised and grandiose in scope. Meanwhile here’s me with my camera and thousands of papyri. Ho hum.

Seriously, APIS is the inspiration for a lot of what we’re about here. Collectively, the APIS sites represent a great deal of work and frightening levels of expertise. It’s a huge achievement. For an indication of the state of play, check out Duke’s most recent progress report.

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