General Models for Handwritten Text Recognition: Feasibility and State-of-the Art. German Kurrent as an Example

Hodel, Tobias; Schoch, David; Schneider, Christa; Purcell, Jake (2021). General Models for Handwritten Text Recognition: Feasibility and State-of-the Art. German Kurrent as an Example. Journal of open humanities data, 7(13), pp. 1-10. Ubiquity Press 10.5334/johd.46

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Existing text recognition engines enables to train general models to recognize not only one specific hand but a multitude of historical hands within a particular script, and from a rather large time period (more than 100 years). This paper compares different text recognition engines and their performance on a test set independent of the training and validation sets. We argue that both, test set and ground truth, should be made available by researchers as part of a shared task to allow for the comparison of engines. This will give insight into the range of possible options for institutions in need of recognition models. As a test set, we provide a data set consisting of 2,426 lines which have been randomly selected from meeting minutes of the Swiss Federal Council from 1848 to 1903. To our knowledge, neither the aforementioned text lines, which we take as ground truth, nor the multitude of different hands within this corpus have ever been used to train handwritten text recognition models. In addition, the data set used is perfect for making comparisons involving recognition engines and large training sets due to its variability and the time frame it spans. Consequently, this paper argues that both the tested engines, HTR+ and PyLaia, can handle large training sets. The resulting models have yielded very good results on a test set consisting of unknown but stylistically similar hands.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Other Institutions > Walter Benjamin Kolleg (WBKolleg) > Digital Humanities

UniBE Contributor:

Hodel, Tobias Mathias, Schoch, David Selim, Schneider, Christa


000 Computer science, knowledge & systems
900 History




Ubiquity Press




Tobias Mathias Hodel

Date Deposited:

16 Jul 2021 16:10

Last Modified:

12 Jun 2023 16:45

Publisher DOI:





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