John Wycliffe was a 14th century English theologian and translator who headed one of the early movements against the domination of the Roman Church. Wycliffe pioneered the idea of access for English speakers by translating the Latin vulgate into the common language of the day. English speakers today can still read many of the words on the pages in the Wycliffe Bible – a triumph for literacy and access. Researchers studied the Wycliffe New Testament, dating from 1410 C.E.
During Wycliffe’s lifetime, he was insulated from persecution in Oxford. However, he went against church doctrine later in his life, and after his death the English Church pressured the government, destroyed his gospels, and declared them illegal. After this, the Wycliffe Bible became a hidden gospel. Though many copies did not survive the ban, the Lichfield Cathedral in England holds a copy. Scholars have not extensively researched the Lichfield copy of the Wycliffe Bible – the Lichfield Wycliffe Bible did not appear on lists of existing Wycliffe Bibles until 2007.
Researchers from the Vis Center were drawn to preserving the Wycliffe Bible because of the opportunity to connect an image set semantically. The Wycliffe Bible is a set of gospels – one version of the gospels among many. Thus, it is a resource to explore multi-instance imagery. All variations of the gospels tell the same story, but are written by a different scribe or in a different language. Studying the differences between these versions is valuable to scholars in the humanities, while solving the problem of how to represent and display these different narratives challenges computer scientists.