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Mandragore is the database of iconographic collections held in BnF's Department of Manuscripts (Département des Manuscrits). Created in September 1989, its purpose is an exhaustive inventory of historiated and ornamental iconographic decoration from the collections of the department.

This database provides complete information about images including captions, indexing, abstracts of headings and inscriptions, and any descriptive notes. It also includes related data, text content, date and places of production, and, when possible, the artists' names.

Although Mandragore mainly focuses on graphic information, it also allows you to search for other criteria, such as text, author, historical period, geographical area, and artist. Moreover, multi-criteria search helps you locate the most relevant documents.

Search is made easier thanks to captions and descriptors going with iconographic materials :

  • Captions are headings created to give a general idea of the subject matter of the image. You can use them to find materials related to a specific event (for example, the coronation of Charlemagne) or images connected to the same topic (such as, coronations). Conceived as a data aggregation tool, this search field makes it possible to find images related to specific subject areas (botany, mineralogy, and music for example) and iconographic themes. For instance, you can retrieve all images regarding the Old and the New Testament using a single search query.
  • Descriptors describe various elements that compose an image, such as person, animal, object, type of event, etc. They also list certain concepts that may not be obviously accessible, but are part of the narrative and, implicitly, in the portrayal. Descriptors often create relationships that do not actually exist between the text and image. This can be the case when they list material elements, such as objects, persons, and places that are not mentioned or identified in the text. This is also true for inherent concepts, which sometimes stem from ideological and iconographic traditions, such as specific kinds of typology.

The data contained in Mandragore have been standardized to maintain internal consistency, ensuring the database's efficiency. This is why data standards were created using specialized software tools and specific reference materials that have been widely used over a long period of time.

Authority lists are updated on a regular basis as the database grows. When appropriate, they serve as reference sources, allowing you to search for texts, sources, artist names, captions, and descriptors. Descriptors also contain deleted terms, footnotes, references, and, if necessary, definitions (for example, in the case of homonyms).

An image bank, without which a database like Mandragore would be unable to meet its objectives, is being developed.

Thursday, March 18, 2010