Event report: Digital Approaches to Text Editing – 15 May 2018

Our second workshop of this semester recently took place in partnership with DH@Manchester, as part of Digital Humanities Week (the original date for this workshop was in March but snow necessitated rescheduling).

The afternoon workshop showcased three areas of digital scholarship at Oxford, and concluded with a discussion about how similar initiatives might be developed at Manchester.

First up, Pip Wilcox, Head of Oxford’s Centre for Digital Scholarship, talked us through how digital scholarship sits in relation to various layers of University strategies at Oxford: from the top level University strategic plan that includes global reach, to the Bodleian Libraries strategy that includes unlocking its collections, to the mission of the Centre for Digital Scholarship itself (which sits within the libraries). The Centre for Digital Scholarship exists to enable “translating innovative digital technologies into multidisciplinary academic practice and public engagement.”

Pip went on to tell us about some of the digital editing projects that the Centre has supported, including a digital edition of Percy Shelley’s Poetical Essay and two digital Shakespeare editions: the Quartos Archive and the Bodleian First Folio. All of these editions include digitisations of the documents, and text editions in TEI, making them machine-readable and sustainable.

A challenge in digitally encoding in TEI is that the process is very time consuming and is therefore expensive to create. Pip highlighted some of the funding models that have supported the Centre’s projects, which have included partnerships with other institutions, crowd funding, and private donors.

Our second speaker was Rupert Mann of Oxford University Press, who discussed Oxford Scholarly Editions Online (OSEO). OSEO are critical editions of canonical texts that support a variety of functions that add value to the possibilities of the printed book.

For example, whereas in a printed book, critical notes are usually found at the back of the volume, in OSEO, it is possible to display notes alongside the text. The reader can also view two versions of a text side-by-side, such as a Latin text and an English translation. Another panel shows ‘extras’, which include a variety of material relating to the given passage in the text, such as links to secondary scholarship in OUP online content, to dictionaries to translate terms, to images from museums, and recordings of readings of passages of the text. Hence, the digital edition acts as a jumping off point for discovering a variety of content; other OUP content enables jumping in to OSEO texts, such as the online Oxford English Dictionary, which links to passages in OSEO editions where relevant example usages of terms are given in a definition. Thus, OSEO texts are much richer resources than the printed book by interlinking material from a range of sources.

Our final speaker was Miranda Lewis of Early Modern Letters Online (EMLO; see Katharina’s report on our seminar ‘Networks and Individuals’ where Miranda spoke about EMLO), who discussed Bodleian Student Editions — an initiative that runs workshops for students in manuscript and textual editing, resulting in online editions of letters hosted by the EMLO database.

Now in its second year, the workshops are hosted twice a term (six a year) and are open to students from any discipline and level of study. The full-day sessions begin by introducing students to working with manuscripts (including palaeography), and to different types of transcription and editorial decisions. The students then work in pairs on a single manuscript letter, which they transcribe and add metadata for its inclusion in EMLO. Later in the day, pairs swap letters and check each other’s transcriptions, thus engaging with material with an editorial hat on.

The initiative has been very successful, with high demand for the workshops, participants reporting that it has given them new skills, and new letters are added to EMLO. Although the workshops are a big ask of time for everyone involved (those running the workshop, and the student participants), the success of the project makes the case for them continuing!

Our workshop concluded with a discussion about how similar projects to the three Oxford initiatives that we heard about might be pursued here at Manchester. It is an exciting time for DH@Manchester, with a new Minor in Digital Humanities to be offered to students as part of Flexible Honours, and new staff being recruited to teach this programme and support Digital Humanities initiatives. Watch this space for future developments!
Naomi Billingsley, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, The John Rylands Research Institute

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