A few years ago, especially in Germany, one would often hear the opposite version of the above statement: “No digitization without a corresponding manuscript description.” This meant that the task of creating detailed descriptions of manuscripts following traditional guidelines would have to be undertaken first, before one could even consider putting digital reproductions of manuscripts on the internet.
However, the past ten years have shown the opposite to be true: it no longer makes sense to prepare scholarly descriptions if they are not published on the internet together with their digital manuscripts; any other course of action would hold back research. This would not only slow the pace of manuscript digitization, it would also deprive descriptions of their most important scholarly quality: direct verifiability.
It is beyond dispute that descriptions, especially ones that are more than rudimentary, remain very important. But nowadays no description can meet contemporary demands if it is not prepared in digital form, which must of course include high-quality reproductions. The development of new kinds of descriptions must be based on digital reproductions; digitization has become the central element of scholarly descriptions.