Archive for the ‘EEBO Interactions’ Category

CFP: EEBO, ECCO, and Burney as Tools for Bibliography and Book History

August 26, 2012

American Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies (ASECS) 2013 conference, Cleveland, Ohio, April 4 -7.

EEBO, ECCO, and Burney as Tools for Bibliography and Book History (Roundtable)
(Society for the History of Authorship, Reading & Publishing (SHARP) and the Bibliography Society of America (BSA) Organizers: Eleanor F. Shevlin and Anna Battigelli

ProQuest‘s Early English Books Online (EEBO) and Gale‘s Eighteenth-Century Collections Online (ECCO) and its Burney 17th- and 18th-Century Newspaper Collection are transforming the landscape of eighteenth-century scholarship and teaching. While these commercial databases are well known for affording unprecedented access to early modern works, their full potential has yet to be realized. Aimed at advancing these tools’ usefulness, this roundtable seeks four to five ten-minute presentations that demonstrate ways in which these textabases can further work in book history and bibliography. Possible topics include using EEBO, ECCO, and/or Burney textbases to uncover, amend, or enhance information about the creation, production, circulation, or consumption of texts in the long eighteenth century; employing these tools to illustrate the importance of bibliographical knowledge and practices; applying their search capabilities to trace details about authors, printers, booksellers, paratextual elements, distribution networks, illustrations, translators (and translations), readers, pricing, and more; exploring the ways these digital tools are affecting or even reconfiguring the methodologies and research practices of book historians and bibliographers. Presentations that focus on EEBO Interactions (EI), a scholarly networking forum available to both EEBO subscribers and nonsubscribers, are especially welcomed. So too are examples of classroom exercises, course assignments, or advanced undergraduate or graduate seminars designed around one or more of these databases.

Abstracts of 250-words should be emailed to Eleanor Shevlin (eshevlin “AT” and Anna Battigelli (a.battigelli “AT” Proposers need not be members of SHARP or BSA to submit, but panelists must be members of both ASECS and either BSA or SHARP in order to present. For questions about SHARP membership, please direct inquiries to Eleanor Shevlin at eshevlin “AT” For questions about BSA membership,please direct inquiries to Catherine Parisian at catherine.parisian “AT”

CFP: JEMCS Special Issue on the Early Modern Digital

August 11, 2012
The following call for papers, posted on SHARP-L, may be of interest
to readers.  Contact Devoney Looser for additional information (contact information below).
Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies:  Special Issue on the Early Modern Digital (due 15 Jan 2013)
It is well understood that “the digital turn” has transformed the contemporary cultural, political and economic environment.  Less appreciated perhaps is its crucial importance and transformative potential for those of us who study the past.  Whether through newly—and differently—accessible data and methods (e.g. “distant reading”), new questions being asked of that new data, or recognizing how digital reading changes our access to the materiality of the past, the digital humanities engenders a particularized set of questions and concerns for those of us who study the early modern, broadly defined (mid-15th to mid-19th centuries).For this special issue of JEMCS, we seek essays that describe the challenges and debates arising from issues in the early modern digital, as well as work that shows through its methods, questions, and conclusions the kinds of scholarship that ought best be done—or perhaps can only be done— in its wake.  We look for contributions that go beyond describing the advantages and shortcomings of (or problems of inequity of access to) EEBO, ECCO, and the ESTC to contemplate how new forms of information produce new ways of thinking.We invite contributors to consider the broader implications and uses of existing and emerging early modern digital projects, including data mining, data visualization, corpus linguistics, GIS, and/or potential obsolescence, especially in comparison to insights possible through traditional archival research methods. Essays of 3000-8000 words are sought in .doc, .rtf, or.pdf format by January 15, 2013<>.  All manuscripts must include a 100-200 word abstract. JEMCS adheres to MLA format, and submissions should be prepared accordingly.In addition, we would welcome brief reports (500-1500 words) that describe digital projects in progress in early modern studies (defined here as spanning from the mid-fifteenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries), whether or not these projects have yet reached completion.  These reports, too, should be submitted in .doc, .rtf, or.pdf format, using MLA style, by 15 January 2013 to  to

Devoney Looser, Catherine Paine Middlebush Chair and Professor of English
Co-Editor, Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies
Tate Hall 114
Department of English
University of Missouri
Columbia, MO 65211
FAX: 573-882-5785

“The Past Has Arrived”: NYU’s Conference on Digital Media, Teaching, and Scholarship

May 5, 2012

Martha Rust (NYU) recently organized an inspiring conference on digital tools called “The Past Has Arrived: The Digital Middle Ages and the Renaissance.”  The tools discussed usefully supplement books in both teaching and scholarship.

Annotation tools like Digital MappaeMundi–now re-branded as DM–allow users to annotate and link images and texts.  In the image below, downloaded from the DM web site, purple annotation selects material on the twelfth-century world map from Sawley Abbey in Yorkshire (left screen) and links it to text on the right screen.  The text can similarly be formatted or annotated to include links to relevant sites, images, or glosses, such as entries in the Dictionary of Old English.  Martin Foys and Shannon Bradshaw (Drew) and Asa Mittman (Cal. State, Chico) presented an introduction, a technological context, and an application of this tool.

Image from Digital MappaeMundi

Visualization tools, such as Mapping Gothic France, allow users to view representations of medieval buildings in staggering detail.  MGF presents twelfth- or thirteenth-century cathedrals in France “in terms of sameness and difference found in the forms of multiple buildings within a defined period of time and space that corresponds to the emergence of France as a nation state,” according to its web site.  The photographs–and there are tens of thousands of them–are strikingly clear and the site is interactive, so that one can navigate the interior of cathedrals as if one were flying through them.  Those raised on Harry Potter will be particularly happy with this feature.  The views would once have been considered nearly unobtainable.  Click on the following screen shot for a larger image.

Screen shot of Mapping Gothic France home page

What’s striking about this project is that it supplements book technology.  “Architecture doesn’t fit tidily into the pages of a book,” co-administrator Andrew Tallon (Vassar) explains in an interview with Chronogram.  Indeed, this five-year project designed by Tallon and Michael Murray (Columbia) demonstrates how digital media can provide features that a book can’t or rarely offers.  Using MGF, students can manipulate maps to see the sequence in which Cathedrals were built, zoom in on architectural details, view floor plans, read narratives associated with a building, and even use a simulation tool to experiment with the physics of stone arches.

Michael Witmore’s keynote talk “What Is Access?” provided an overview of the history of Docu-Scope, which was designed to help teach freshman English but functions in surprisingly innovative ways to annotate texts.  It categorizes words into types, and generates charts of word strings that force a re-consideration of texts, such as Shakespeare’s plays, in new ways.  Witmore distinguished between archives–that maze of material books shelved within a given collection–and the archive available by a digitized database or tool.  Docu-scope might be said to re-shelve Shakespeare’s oeuvre by suggesting surprising points of contact between plays divided generically.  As noted in an earlier emob entry, Witmore finds points of contact between Othello and the comedies.  It also exposes what is odd about a given play.  The following screen shot downloaded, not from Witmore’s NYU talk, but from his blog, Wine Dark Sea, shows how Docu-scope found a high frequency of words denoting motion and spatial relations in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Those words appear underlined in yellow below (click on image to enlarge and clarify):


The preponderance of such motion words, once we see them, makes immediate sense in a play featuring fairies and other supernatural creatures that move in ways that humans cannot.  One of Docu-scope’s gifts is to help us see formal aspects of a text that we might not otherwise see.  In this sense, digital tools can provide access to linguistic features of a text less likely to be found by human reading.

Cataloguing tools was the topic of my discussion of EEBO InteractionsEEBO Interactions facilitates “relational cataloguing,” allowing entries to link to ODNB entries, or to related texts within EEBO, or to articles, or to spaces where bibliographical  and critical issues can be discussed.  In the past, an EEBO user might have found the following entry to be something of a dead end:

Clicking on the text bubble by the author’s name calls up the corresponding EEBO Interactions page, which identifies J.V.C. as a Catholic priest and provides brief biographical information.

Scrolling down the EEBO Interactions page, one would also find relevant links.  Because users can add pertinent information for either the author or the text title, those working on little known work can, if they wish, share their expertise and enhance catalogue entries. This kind of relational cataloguing capitalizes on current technology and points the way to the future.

Pedagogical tools were the focus of several talks. These included the Medieval Narrative Project, designed by Evelyn Birge Vitz and Marilyn Lawrence (both at NYU), which collects video clips of performances of medieval texts.  Other teaching aids included Second Life, which Martha Driver (Pace) had her students use to construct avatars engaged in medieval contexts.  The afterlives of these projects, which continued to be used beyond the end of a given course, suggest that students enjoyed imagining medieval life through this technology.

Theoretical and practical issues were also probed.  On the practical side, Consuelo Dutschke, Curator of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts at Columbia University, argued eloquently for the value of projects like the Digital Scriptorium, which, in addition to collecting images segregated by disparate archives into one database, also allows a “diverse community of medievalists, classicists, musicologists, paleographers, diplomats and art historians” to help strengthen cataloguing.  Similarly, Stephen Nichols (Johns Hopkins) and Nadial Altschul (Johns Hopkins), editors of Digital Philology: A Journal of Medieval Cultures, discussed some of the technical and pragmatic issues that emerged regarding digital publication, including the difference between a link to a work of art and its printed reproduction, or how royalties affect what can be included in digital publications.   More theoretical speculations included concerns expressed by Alan Galey (University of Toronto) regarding textual variation: how can interface design help organize text, textual notes, and commentary?  The Visualizing Variation project demonstrates how digital media provides innovative features, such as animated variants, for textual editing.  Nicola Masciandaro mediated on how digital tools produced “textual shapes” other than the article or the monograph.  Bill Blake discussed keywords, a topic he broached at the ASECS meeting in April and developed further here.  How can searching be conceptualized so as to explore, rather than reproduce an archive?

A final keynote delivered by Stephen Nichols on “The Anxiety of Irrelevance: Digital Humanities and Medieval Literary Scholarship” probed the ambivalence prompted by digital humanities projects.  He argued that there need not be a disconnect between the goals of Digital Humanities projects and those of traditional humanists, but that more attentive listening and understanding of questions at hand is necessary.  The day-long conference and the discussions that it fostered well into the evening, including at a lively dinner, helped advance that needed conversation.

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EEBO Interactions and Bibliography: Linking the Past to the Present

February 5, 2012

“Even as more and more texts become widely available through digital surrogates, studies of the book remain grounded in physical bibliography.”

–Stephen Tabor, “ESTC and the Bibliographical Community”

This is a heady time for literary scholars using digital tools.  Visualization and text tagging software offers new ways to analyze old texts’ rhetorical and linguistic features.  Docu-scope, for example, is being used by Michael Witmore, Director of the Folger Shakespeare Library, to chart maps of Shakespeare’s plays using 1000-word strings.  The resulting maps posted on Witmore’s blog, Wine Dark Sea, reveal that Othello, for example, shares linguistic features, such as frequent first-person forms, with Shakespeare’s comedies.  Asking why this is so may provide a more detailed understanding of Shakespeare’s craft.

Other data mining projects, underway at Matthew Jockers and Franco Moretti’s Stanford Literary Lab, broaden and transform the practice of literary study, in part by advancing what Moretti calls “distant reading.”  These projects forgo traditional “close” reading of individual texts to analyze computer-generated data derived from running thousands of texts through specific programs.

Elsewhere, annotation tools, such as Digital Mappaemundi, allow annotation of digital artifacts such as, in DM’s case, medieval maps and geographic texts.

Aggregating platforms, including 18thConnect and NINES, create virtual environments where digital work can be shared.  Digital texts, images, maps, data, video, and audio can be collected and annotated for projects difficult to imagine just a few years ago.

Finally, the digital world has nourished new participatory models of scholarship, advanced, for example, by Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s Planned Obsolescence.

These new and often visually alluring scholarly ventures chart new avenues of inquiry and reshape literary studies as we know it.  Stanley Fish has blogged about them; Witmore has been interviewed by Forbes, introducing them to the commercial world; and granting agencies like the NEH have responded by dedicating specific funds for such projects.

But in the shadow of these projects, runs a slower, methodical, far less glamorous digital task on which all other projects rely: ensuring that digital texts retain bibliographical integrity.  As Stephen Tabor put it in a 2007 comment used in the epigraph above, “even as more and more texts become widely available through digital surrogates, studies of the book remain grounded in physical bibliography” (The Library 8:4, 369).

EEBO Interactions offers a unique venue for scholarly dialogue about bibliographical matters.   Though it describes itself as a “social network for Early English Books Online,” it might be more accurate to think of it as a site for asynchronous conferencing about bibliographical matters.  A broad range of readers–Proquest editors, graduate students, theologians, literary scholars, historians, philosophers, independent scholars, curators, librarians and library administrators, digital editors,  undergraduates, bibliographers, and textual critics–have already posted queries or comments, often correcting bibliographical entries or expanding our understanding of a given text.  The comments appear under the following rubrics:

Comments about this copy: Comments include requests that missing title pages be restored, or that two variants counted as the same copy by both ESTC and EEBO be distinguished.  They range from providing resolutions of complex pagination problems, to asking general book history questions.

About this work:  This section allows readers to suggest the broader context of a given text.  Nick Poyntz of Mercurius Politicus fame identifies one pamphlet as an advertorial for a cup lined with antimony and notes that two customers died after using the cup.  Other readers correct publication dates, post questions about attribution, note additional authors not mentioned in the EEBO or ESTC entries, or track the evolution of a text from one edition to the next.

Notes:  Aliases can be discussed here, something helpful in reading recusant literature.  This is also the space to discuss a text’s plurality–its relation to other texts it cites or responds to, and its reception.

Suggest a link: This space allows for links to ODNB entries or to pertinent articles, particularly useful for acquiring a fuller understanding of little known works. 

Perhaps most innovatively, EEBO Interactions invites scholars and librarians to talk with one another and with representatives from the commercial world that produced EEBOEEBO Interactions is the only purpose-built space designed to bring together members of the bibliographical community–normally working in isolation and apart from one another–to collaborate for a moment or two on the joint endeavor of linking the past to the present.  This is the kind of experiment that benefits everyone. 

It would be great to hear readers’ responses to EEBO Interactions.

EEBO Interactions as an Interactive Guide

July 5, 2011

One of the things I really like about EEBO Interactions is that unlike so much of the digital world, which prompts us and scolds us and reminds us and worries us into action, EEBO Interactions offers readers an opportunity to correct, tweak, and probe the digital world. Readers can post queries. They can email other contributors. They can correct incorrectly dated title pages, note cross-referenced material, suggest attributions, refer readers to pertinent sources, such as ODNB entries, articles, or books. Where these sources are electronic, links can be provided so that subsequent readers can check those sources instantly from within EEBO.

This interactive function points the way forward to a more mature and more robust resource, not just because entries themselves become more substantial–though that is one significant consequence–but because the database itself becomes more relational, more flexible, less static.

We have not yet discussed the power of electronic resources to go beyond their fixed print relatives. It would be great to hear from readers about the nature of this new relational power–and of how it might best be put to use within EEBO Interactions to strengthen EEBO, not just as a provider of texts, but as an evolving bibliographical database in its own right.

Making Use of EEBO Interactions

February 24, 2011

We have discussed EEBO Interactions frequently on emob.   EEBO Interactions is an innovative digital networking space within EEBO that allows for bibliographical and critical dialogue.  Its twin goals are attractive: EI facilitates discussion between readers and EI editors; it also allows readers to talk directly to one another within EI.  When the editors recently asked me to serve as an editor for EI, it seemed like an opportunity to help expand that dialogue.

Before accepting the appointment, I made clear my commitment to emob, and to its frank and candid assessment of digital resources, including EEBO.  Once I realized the editors had no problem with that, I gladly agreed to serve as an editor.  The new digital universe requires dialogue between commercial and scholarly interests: emob fosters such discussion; EEBO Interactions provides a second and different kind of forum for such dialogue.

I hope some of you will consider taking a look at EEBO Interactions and perhaps even experiment with becoming contributorsI also look forward to ongoing discussions of EI on emob and to hearing suggestions from you about the potential of this promising academic network and ways it might  best be put to use.


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