Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is a footprint?
We’re so happy you asked! In short, it’s an instance in time or place when a book moved. For the long version (with plenty of pictures), take a look at our Footprints Description page

I’ve been entering footprints for a few days, and I have some questions.
Please be in touch with us at We also have a Footprints tutorial page that might be helpful as well!

What are the parameters of this project? Are manuscripts included?
For now, we are interested in looking at books printed from the beginnings of Hebrew printing to the early nineteenth century, more or less the “handpress” era. But the architecture of the database should enable future phases to include books printed after 1850 as well as manuscripts from all periods.

Will I be able to find information about the contents of the books in your database?
At the outset, we do not include information about the contents of the works. However, in the future, we plan to add some information about content, particularly subject and genre, in order to create the dataset that will enable us to do statistical analysis showing the likelihood of particular types of texts reaching different areas. Although changes in literary genres are of interest to us, our project is not primarily concerned with the same kind of mapping of literary history.

We hope to design the database in a way that will enable information to be added in the future by scholars interested in other questions. For example, we may in the future indicate whether there are illustrations in the material. This will enable us to perform the kind of statistical analysis on dissstrongination we are interested in, but would also be of help to future researchers interested in the “content” of the illustrations.

Is this a digitization project? Will I be able to use the public interface to do keyword searches of digitized material?
No. We are not planning to digitize rare books or manuscripts. We plan to provide links to digitized copies or to websites/libraries with digitized material.

How does one cite Footprints in publications?
Format: … in Footprints: Jewish Books Through Time and Place, ed. Michelle Chesner et al, Footprint [”footprint #”], entered by [”Creator”], revised by [”Last Modified by”]. [”URL”]. Viewed [”date viewed”].

Example: See: Opp 4o 856: David Oppenheim, Inscription to Abudarham (Amsterdam, 1655), in Footprints: Jewish Books Through Time and Place, ed. M. Chesner et al., Footprint #24601, entered by Jane Javert, revised by Eponine Ploni. [URL]. Viewed July 18, 2017.

Will I be able to perform statistical analysis and mapping through the user interface?
We hope to be able to say yes eventually, but not at first. For now, statistical analysis and mapping will most likely be possible only with access to the “raw” data underneath the user interface platform.

Why would a junior scholar or a graduate student want to contribute data to this? Won’t he or she want to hold back data for their own dissertation or tenure monograph?
There are several reasons a junior scholar might join our work. First, the “trusted crowdsourcing” model is based on the idea that many of us uncover data that would be useful to this project in the course of pursuing research on other questions. In the past, such data ended up in file folders or computer files “for future use” and the future often never comes. This offers an opportunity to put that material to use immediately. Secondly, while we don’t anticipate changing the entire culture of the humanities, we look to the sciences where collaborative research is more common and where individuals can be recognized for varying degrees of contribution. We also anticipate that some scholars may choose to share data with us after publication on the model of some scientists and social scientists who make datasets available after publication. Finally, those who choose to get involved with the project will have the opportunity to frame research questions and use the database to answer those questions generating new publications that would not otherwise be possible.

Will your dataset be a representative sample? Will your results be statistically valid?
We hope so! We plan to work with statisticians and computer scientists to design the process of obtaining data and the framing of research questions to make statistically valid inferences. The pilot phase is meant to explore these questions.

Is Footprints an open-source tool? Is the data freely accessible?
Footprints is an open-source and open-access tool. Our source code is available on Github with a GNU GPL3 license. Software code may by freely copied, distributed and modified as long as changes are tracked in source files. Any derivative work must also be available under the GPL3 license. Our data is under a Creative Commons Attribution + Share Alike 4.0 license. Content may be freely copied, distributed and modified as long as credit is given to the original author and changes are tracked in the source. Any derivative work must also be available under the Attribution + Share-Alike license.