3.517 marking variants (78)

Willard McCarty (MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca)
Fri, 29 Sep 89 20:08:31 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 517. Friday, 29 Sep 1989.

Date: Thursday, 28 September 1989 2201-EST
Subject: Marking Variants

The proliferation of electronic lists frustrates me in the
same sort of way that the proliferation of special interest
scholarly groups at professional conventions frustrates me --
I like to have an idea of what is going on at large, and not
be pushed into various corners ("an expert is one who knows
more and more about less and less until ultimately she/he knows
everything about nothing!"). So I am responding to a group of
related notes picked up from HUMANIST and GUTNBERG and the
Princeton-Rutgers Center lists pertaining in various ways to
the matter of coding textual variants.

There have already been some contributions to this discussion
on HUMANIST, and interested parties who did not see them might
want to review them. My own involvement with the issues is more
than peripheral -- one aspect of the "Computer Assisted Tools
for Septuagint Studies" project is to encode all published
variants to the Old Greek Jewish Scriptures ("Septuagint"),
and the NEH has seen fit to provide some new funds for the
project to finish that task during the next two years. The
Center for Computer Analysis of Texts also included samples of
various approaches to encoding textual variants on the CD-ROM
#1 produced by the Packard Humanities Insitute in 1987,
including the Latin Vulgate Bible with variants as encoded
under Wilhelm Ott's direction at Tuebingen.

In these connections, we at CCAT/CATSS have developed various
software approaches to the task of collating variant texts and
recording the variants. Wilhelm Ott and his TUSTEP package has
done similarly, especially with an eye to hardcopy output.
Doubtless there are other utilities aimed at the same sort of
goals. It seems to me that such developments may in some
situations provide a lever to break the seeming impasses
concerning availability and distribution of electronic texts.
If I have access to two or more variant electronic forms of
a given text (e.g. Shakespeare), and I prepare a new e-edition
that includes the variants of them all, have I not overcome
the problem of possible challenges regarding copyright, etc.?
And have I not created a basis from which standard software
can recreate whatever form of the text I choose? One way to
free up the availability and circulation of texts may be attack
head on the problem of encoding variants, rather than to view
the existence of variant texts as an obstacle or frustration.

As an example, I will take the three forms of Shakespeare's
first sonnet that were circulated on GUTNBERG by Michael Hart.
This is a simple variant recording format, similar to that
used for the Latin Vulgate. Other situations are more complex and
may require other formats. Although I did not prepare this example
automatically, I could have done so. I can also use it as a base
from which to recreate any of the original forms, or something new
built on their bones, largely automatically. The lawyers will
correct me if I am wrong, but I think copyright is no longer an
issue with this approach, except perhaps my rights as creator of
the new form!

Sonnet I (Q= Quarto 1609, G = Globe, R = Rath 1989)

>From {FRom Q; FROM G} fairest creatures we desire increase
That {(no indent) R} thereby beauty's {-ies Q} rose {(ital) Q; Rose R} =
= might never {neuer Q} die,
But as the riper should by time decease,
His tender heir {heirs Q} might bear {beare Q} his memory. {; Q; : G}
... ETC.

Bob Kraft (CCAT/CATSS)