Tinderbox Forum

Beginner working with ancient texts and translations

So I’ve had Tinderbox for a while, and am just beginning to use it for some serious work. As background, I’m working on a doctorate in biblical studies, focusing on the Hebrew Bible and its ancient versions (Greek, Syriac, etc.). I prefer to write in Scrivener, and I’ve got a huge collection of notes in DevonThink, mostly referring to my reference list in Zotero. What I’ve found is that things go into DevonThink, and its search functionality is amazing, but I can’t actually look at relationships between things in it — and now the project has progressed to the point where I can’t remotely remember any of that non-text info, much less figure out how the notes I’ve collected could coherently fit into my thesis. Hence looking at Tinderbox, and I’m looking for some advice as I get started in Tinderbox. Apologies in advance for any stupid questions!

I’m thinking of two parts:

  1. my textual corpus. Basically this will be verses (or groups of verses) from the Hebrew Bible or other ancient biblical and non-biblical texts. I am interested in such things as various proposed dates of the text, key words and phrases, and the differences between different translations of the same textual material (for example, the difference between a Hebrew verse and the Greek translation). Ideally, if I am interested in a verse, there would be a way to see the various translations of interest to me clustered together — is the best option for this a Composite? And am I right that attributes are probably the best way to note some of the other things such as interesting dates or key terms/phrases?

  2. my notes on secondary literature. By and large these are in RTF or more recently MD in DevonThink. I’m actually wondering whether to move them across to Tinderbox but it occurs to me that I don’t need to, plus I like DT to Go on my iPhone. I realise that this might be obvious, but if I bring notes in from DT do the tags come across too? And if I add attributes or links to an imported note, and then update the text in DT, is there a way to bring the updated text from DT to the Tinderbox note without disturbing the extra attribute info I’ve added manually in Tinderbox?

Any help much appreciated!

I think your approach is sound and well thought out.

Composites would work well for this. Another possibility is a parent for the original verse and children for its translations. A consideration when using composites is that if you wanted an agent to locate all JPS translations, then the agent will not grab the other elements in the composites, just the JPS notes. Using agents with composites gets you two good approaches.

If you watch DEVONthink notes ($AutoFetch is true) then the text of the note will be updated if the text changes in DEVONthink. Be careful not to add text in Tinderbox (including text-to-text links) since that text will be overwritten when the content to the note is fetched from DEVONthink. Attributes you add to the note will not be removed. Sometimes is useful to have a set of notes that are autofetched from DEVONthink, then turn off autofetch when you know you will not be changing the text again. Or, duplicate autofetched notes.

Thanks for this - much appreciated. I’ll give it a go with DevonThink but on initial attempt it looks like it all works rather nicely!

Apologies for my confusion, but say I have a verse (Isaiah 58.6). I have two interesting ancient language texts (MT/Hebrew and LXX/Greek) for this verse. In each case I will also want to attach at least one English translation to the ancient text. If I want an agent to be able to do cool as-yet-undefined stuff with Isa 58.6 then would I be better putting the texts as children of a parent, or just clustering them together in a composite? It’s important to note that I don’t want to privilege one ancient version over another - from a research point of view they are all interesting and valid alternatives.

I think you could have a composite like this (note the verse citation is used for the composite’s name):

But definitely play around in a test file with composites, different ways of compositing, and different ways of using containers and children.

Remember, the best use of Tinderbox is incremental formalization – evolve your way to the structure of your documents rather than commit to a structure from the beginning. You will probably benefit in your doctoral research and writing if you use multiple documents with different approaches, rather than a single all-encompassing document.

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Dear lyndondrake,

I am afraid a bit run out of conversation topics.

Suppose, for instance, a comparative expression is most significant thing for you.

All things considered, I think it will be advisable for you to use SILE.

I extend to you an invitation to visit here in those site.

( First, have a look at the show-off file.)
[ https://github.com/simoncozens/sile ]

(SILE Examples - Global Scripts)
[ http://sile-typesetter.org/examples/global.html ]

Using SILE.app, you will be able to put down with Bible
include Hebrew, Greek and Syriac in same page.

( In such instances you need to use
" triglot.lua " from classes, not a " bible.lua ".)

I hope it could not harm, rather than help you.

Everything turn out good, and will be OK.

Faithfully yours, WAKAMATSU from Japan.

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The problem and approach you describe are familiar to me. I’ve been working on a French source text with English translation, but occasionally the requirement to refer to an Ancient Greek source text that is translated in the French source text. This last point about the Ancient Greek text is an instance of a more generalised requirement which is wanting sometimes to include another text side by side with the source and translation.

For this reason, I did not find the composite approach useful to me. It is fine if you want simply to “glue” notes together. But if you want its being a composite note to have some meaning of its own, e.g. because it is a composite of a particular type, then I found this to be inflexible. I could not find one type of composite (or even a few) to fit various circumstances. Another complication is my desire to attach arbitrary notes to source or translation in which I comment on some aspect of the text, e.g. translation difficulty, peculiarities of the text, remarks about variations in mss, etc.

The approach I took was to break the source text into sections, creating a container for each section. Inside the container I organised the various relevant notes (source, translation, side text, comments) visually in map view for the most perspicuous survey.

The key step was to add attributes such as language (e.g. French or English) or parent text (i.e. the text of which this was a section) or sequence numbers (that reflect the order of the sections). These were not added to my comments or side texts. This meant that using an agent, I could see all the notes that comprise the source text or all the notes that comprise the translated text. So despite the fact that the notes were in containers, I could make a continuous read through. I’m pretty sure I could do some of this using the Attribute Browser view too–I just haven’t tried yet.

That is where I have got to so far. And I arrived at it, as Paul suggested, by an incremental approach as I discovered new ways I wanted to work.


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Yep I had a mess around with composites and couldn’t see how it would work for me. For the moment I’m using child notes. The only downside is it seems a bit fiddly in the UI but that’s probably just me being new.

Your point about the attributes is very helpful. I’m just beginning to realise that Attribute Browser view is going to be wonderful, as long as I put useful info in the attributes.

When in doubt, try the attribute browser. I find it by far the easiest and most powerful way to array the information I’m looking for in useful, flexible ways.