12.0275 editing medieval texts

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Wed, 28 Oct 1998 19:46:04 +0000 (GMT)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 12, No. 275.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Sat, 24 Oct 1998 18:30:29 -0700 (PDT)
From: cbf@socrates.berkeley.edu
Subject: Computer Editing of Medieval Texts (fwd)

A colleague forwarded the following to me from MEDTEXTL. It is a
profoundly disturbing comment on the state of the art. Scholars who come
into editing from the perspective of their discipline have no idea how to
get started. One of the most useful things that we could do would be to
set up a site where "best practices" are set forth with guidance on
appropriate software packages.

Then the next problem is how to make it findable by those in the beginning
stages of electronic editorial projects.

BTW, if anyone has any practical solutions to the problems adumbrated
below, I will be glad to pass them on.

Charles Faulhaber Department of Spanish UC Berkeley, CA 94720-2590
(510) 642-3781 FAX (510) 642-7589 cbf@socrates.berkeley.edu

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Sat, 24 Oct 1998 11:25:46 -0700
From: "Harvey L. Sharrer" <sharrer@humanitas.ucsb.edu>
Subject: Fwd: Reply to Computer Editing of Medieval Texts

Charles, Here is Dan O'Donnell's posting of yesterday giving more
specifics about his own project and the reasons for his original query.
The URL he gives of his own site is in error. It should be




>Date: Fri, 23 Oct 1998 10:46:13 -0600
>From: "Daniel O'Donnell" <daniel.odonnell@ULETH.CA>
>I'd like to thank everybody for their interest in this topic and for
>their advice. I think a sign of the problem I was talking about is that
>I had actually already anticipated most of the advice I was given -- and
>still find there to be very little consensus about the practical
>problems of editing. Moreover, answers came about evenly from ANSAX-net
>and Med-Text -- suggesting that electronic editing is an issue that
>across the boundaries of both groups, rather than belonging directly to
>It was clear from the answers I got that I was not clear enough about
>what my project is and where I am in it. I am making a scholarly
>electronic edition of Caedmon's Hymn with my mark-up in the Text
>Encoding Initiative (TEI) flavour of Standard general Mark-up Language
>(SGML). I am trying to follow the MLA guidelines, and have been
>comparing my work to the large projects -- the Canterbury Tales, the
>SEENET Piers Ploughman Project, texts from the HTI at the University of
>Michigan Press (My project is intended for SEENET). When you buy my
>edition, you'll be able to read it using your standard web browser; like
>the Making of America Project, my text will be converted to HTML from
>SGML on the fly as you access it. The textual part of my edition is
>complete but not 100% encoded. I am busy now putting together the
>various bits and pieces into a coherent package. And I have finally got
>round to writing some content. I'm working on a Klaeber-style intro
>right now.
>The point of my original query was three-fold: First, the cloud of
>acronyms in the preceding paragraph did not come cheap. It took me
>months of fiddling around on the web and in journals to figure out the
>best language to use, which editor to use in marking up my
>transcriptions, whether or not I should try to program my display text
>in SGML or HTML, how the edition should be organised, and how one
>converts from one language to the other. And some things I never would
>have discovered if I wasn't friends with some experts in the commercial
>web publishing world.
>Secondly, even with all the fiddling around, a lot of big technical
>questions remain. For example, there are
>as far as I can see no, or next to no, examples of completed critical
>electronic editions of even moderately difficult medieval or modern
>texts out there, and almost no practical discussions about how an
>electronic edition ought to be put together (i.e. whether one should
>generate variant readings electronically or cut, paste and tag them by
>hand; where they should go on the screen; etc.). Its all very well to

>say as the MLA does that "An appropriate editorial apparatus and/or
>notes, or functional equivalent thereof" is required or that "full text
>transcriptions of all versions of the text that might carry authority
>obviate the need to report variant readings" -- but what are the best
>ways of doing this? My experience looking at other editions seems to
>suggest that everybody has arrived independently at a different solution
>to this problem (most actually avoid it by publishing either full text
>transcriptions *or* critical texts. There don't seem to be many
>witness-archives-andcritical-electronic editions out there. BTW if you
>want to see a draft version of my solution, go to
>http://www.uleth.ca/~daniel.odonnell/caedmon-job.html ). There simply
>does not seem to be a place where where people can easily discover (and
>share) successes or failures.
>Thirdly, while it is possible to figure a lot out by asking or looking
>at examples of texts, this takes an inordinate amount of time.
>Currently most projects seem to be set up by people who either have a
>dedicated computing staff available to them or enjoy and are good at
>programming computers. As electronic editions become more and more
>mainstream, we will see more and more people belonging to a third group
>coming along -- people who are interested in computer editing, but would
>rather concentrate on content rather than form (how many of us spend
>hours playing around with fonts, nowadays?). I for instance can
>program, but don't particularly enjoy it. My hobby is multi-track
>recording; computers are things I work on. I'd much rather concentrate
>on content and adopt other people's technical solutions to the problems
>of electronic editing. We probably need to set up a place where people
>like me can tap on the collective wisdom of the first two groups.
>Anyway, this is all a long way of saying that I'd like to try and set up
>some kind of web based 'cookbook' for electronic editors (I've searched
>and not found one yet). I can include links to the various projects and
>resources people mentioned in their e-mails on this thread, and will try
>to put in information and headings for the beginning electronic editor
>as well as the advanced (For example, it took me weeks to try and figure
>out what kind of editors were available for SGML mark-up; and another
>week to get up my version of GNU Emacs -- the editor I use. Perhaps I
>can save some subsequent editor this hassle). Since the whole point of
>the page would be to share our collective wisdom, I'd appreciate any
>suggestions for material or especially contributions. I'll report back
>as soon as I've got something up. In the meantime if you have
>suggestions or would be interested in helping, please feel free to
>e-mail me directly.
>Thanks again for the advice and comments.
>-Dan O'Donnell
Harvey L. Sharrer
Department of Spanish and Portuguese
University of California
Santa Barbara, California 93106

Humanist Discussion Group
Information at <http://www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/humanist/>