Archive for the ‘Gale/Cengage’ Category

Folger Digital Texts Now Online (and Other March Announcements)

March 15, 2014

This month has already seen a number of news items of potential interest to EMOB readers including Gale-Cengage’s announcement that will it offer STEM e-books from Springer and Elsevier (a potentially potent nexus of publishing forces in the subscription database world) as part of its Gale Virtual Reference Library (GVRL) and that it is launching a Proprietary Monograph Publishing Program; free access in March to Orlando: Women’s Writing Online that Anna announced here a few days ago; and a note from Dr. Ian Christie-Miller about digital imaging resources he has been developing and the interest it has received in the UK.

Just this week the Folger announced that all 38 of its digital texts of Shakespeare’s plays are now available, free of charge, online. As the homepage’s title Timeless Texts, Cutting-Edge Code suggests, a key feature of these texts is the robust coding that one can freely download. Besides the meticulously executed TEI-compliant XML structure of these plays, the texts are also attractively designed for reading as this opening of All’s Well That Ends Well illustrates. This page also displays the useful digital paratexts accompanying each work. Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine offer a brief Textual Introduction to the site.

We would like to hear from others about how they are using this new resource–both in terms of its texts and the source code.

Trial Access to ECCO and NCCO for SUNY Colleges + Essay Contests

August 16, 2013

The following announcement from Gale Cengage will interest faculty and students at SUNY schools. It’s a great opportunity to explore these resources and students’ responses to them.

We hope to hear about classroom experiences here on emob.
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This fall, Gale Cengage Learning is sponsoring an essay contest for SUNY students. Its purpose is to encourage primary source research using advanced databases like Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) and Nineteenth Century Collections Online (NCCO). We hope this experience with these key resources will help students prepare for a digital future.

We are offering free access to SUNY schools during fall 2013 through our new platform Artemis, which will contain both ECCO and NCCO. We hope you and your students will explore these tools to see how they enrich the learning environment. We also hope you will encourage your students to submit essays that incorporate these resources as part of the contest.

Two undergraduate essay awards ($250 each) and one graduate essay award ($500) will be offered for the best submissions on 18th-19th-century history and/or literature.

More information can be found at the link below: http://galesupport.com/suny/

Questions can be forwarded to Theresa DeBenedictis:

Theresa DeBenedictis
Gale, Cengage Learning
Theresa.debenedictis@cengage.com
1-800-877-4253 x 2229
Cell: 732-865-4249

JISC’s Historic Books: Searching EEBO, ECCO for meaning

March 6, 2012

This past fall JISC announced a new venture, the JISC eCollections, “a new community-owned content service for UK HE and FE institutions.” What might interest EMOB readers most is its Historic Books. This digital collection contains over 300,000 books from before 1800 and also makes over 65,000 19th-century first editions from the British Library available for the first time online. The entire corpus is accessible through institutional subscription and, most welcome, searchable over a single platform.

The pre-1800 material in the JISC Historic Books eCollection consists solely of ProQuest’s Early English Books Online (EEBO) and Gale’s Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) textbases, so some might wonder what this collection offers that is new for those working in the early modern period. One does not need to be in eCollections, for instance, to conduct searches simultaneously across both databases. Yet the Help page for the eCollections indicates that more than just the convenience of a single interface and platform is being offered:

JISC Historic Books uses meaning-based searching rather than traditional keyword searching, which is why you will notice you get different results to searching EEBO and ECCO on the publishers sites. Meaning-based searching enables you to find conceptual and contexual [sic] links betweeen [sic] related documents which aren’t possible using traditional keyword searching.

Besides returning traditional results, JISC Historic Books also delivers “meaning-based” concepts deemed relevant to the search in the form of a Concept Cloud:

Concept Cloud

The more prominent the word, the more relevant it is deemed to the search, and as the screenshot indicates, items in the cloud can be manipulated to narrow one’s search further.

Over the past three or four years (and maybe longer) I have been consistently struck by the transformations that traditional searches of ECCO, Burney, EEBO, as well as Google Books have had on the ways I think about searching, construct searches, and view my results. More specifically, these keyword searches, described here as traditional, were already encouraging me to view results in a more networked, contextual way and, as a consequence, to devise additional searches aimed at teasing out new potential relationships. The meaning-based search enabled by JISC’s mimas platform, of course, is offering something quite different, but I wonder how its use might cause rethinking of what it means to search and research.

It would be interesting to hear from EEBO and EECO users in the UK who have used JISC Historic Books, especially the differences between results obtained from searching using the JISC platform and those obtained by searching using the original publishers’ platform.

 

Free Trial of Gale Cengage’s British Literary Manuscripts Online

April 10, 2011

For the next three weeks, emob readers can explore Gale Cengage’s British Literary Manuscripts Online for free.  The database contains facsimile images of manuscripts digitized from microfilm.  Though the texts themselves cannot be searched, their metadata  can be.  Authors can also be browsed alphabetically.  The resolution is good, and legibility can be enhanced through digital magnification and brightness and contrast controls.   Line tools and highlighting tools allow for digital annotation.

The product consists of two parts, both of which are included in the free trial: part one includes Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts; part two includes manuscripts written between 1660-1900.

On the database’s home page, the following links to online  tutorials help with basic paleography.

Paleography: Reading Old Handwriting 1500-1800: A Practical Online Tutoria (National Archives)l

Andrew Zurcher’s English Handwriting 1500-1700: an online course

Scriptorium’s English Handwriting: An Online Course (Cambridge)

Other links on the BLMO web site include sites for portraits, maps, and digital scholarship.  As with actual manuscripts, it is sometimes difficult to know what one is reading, though the full citation link on the entry’s page sometimes helps.

It will be interesting to hear readers’ evaluations of this product, particularly how productively it can be put to use, for research or teaching or both.

Collaborative Reading: “The Joys, Possibilities, and Perils of the British Library’s Digital Burney Newspapers Collection”

May 13, 2010

Ashley Marshall and Rob Hume, “The Joys, Possibilities, and Perils of the British Library’s Digital Burney Newspapers Collection.” PBSA, 104:1 (2010): 5-52.

At forty-seven pages Ashley Marshall and Rob Hume’s article offers a substantive assessment of this relatively recent electronic resource for early modern studies. Early on the authors argue that “[d]igital Burney is amazing, but exploiting it fully is going to demand some serious rethinking and reorientation in both our research and our teaching (6-7). Their claim that this tool “will change the way we conduct our business” (7) possesses much merit; fulfilling digital Burney’s promise, however, will depend on far broader scholarly access than currently exists. Equally important, scholars need to acquire a firm understanding of its possible uses, search capabilities, and limitations. While Marshall and Hume’s piece cannot assist in matters of accessibility (though it could serve as support for the tool’s purchase), their essay does advance our knowledge of how this tool might be employed and how its features and limitations can best be navigated.

The article is usefully divided into five sections. The first considers the difficulties surrounding the use of newspapers for literary research. The next two parts detail various scholarly and pedagogical uses of newspapers afforded by digital Burney. The fourth section, making up nineteen of the article’s total pages and accompanied by five reproduced screen shots, identifies the external and internal shortcomings of the resource. The final part offers conclusions.

I. Conceptual Barriers to the Utilization of Newspapers

Noting that newspapers make a rare appearance in scholarship and teaching, this section examines the basis for such neglect.

  • A key reason stems from the simple fact that newspapers were virtually unavailable in the US until 1978 when the Early English Newspapers microfilm series made its debut. Even then, however, the series did little to bolster the already scant interest in historical newspapers among scholars. (7)
  • The reign of New Criticism and the subsequent heyday of Theory strongly discouraged the use of material drawn from newspaper content. If newspapers were consulted, the information sought was typically confined to obituaries, book and play reviews, and advertisements for books and cultural performances. (8)
  • That early newspapers either lack organized sections, including headlines, or feature very basic divisions often prove initially daunting to users. Especially in papers published before the 1760s, the lack of source information, the unacknowledged lifting and repetition of content across titles, sparseness of details, and partisan leanings also have made these newspapers seem strange and have done little to encourage their use (8-9).
  • Often scholars do not possess the knowledge needed to extract and draw conclusions about the values contained in many of these papers. Scant information about the circulation and readership of newspapers hinders a scholar’s ability to “analyze their implied readership, ideology, or socio-political agendas” (10). A broad gap exists between the literature we study and teach and the information found in these newspapers (11).
  • II. Research Uses

    The authors supply three extended examples of possible ways that digital Burney can assist researchers.

  • Book Prices: Newspaper advertisements afford us a rich opportunity to compile prices for books not otherwise available (11-12). To illustrate, the authors supply prices derived from digital Burney for satire and then offer various insights this list affords. For one, the list reveals that prices for this genre ranged widely from low to high; the affordability and greater number of lower priced titles intimate that “[t]hese works were intended to reach and influence readers” (16). Additional examples of the price information newspapers can offer include

    Collected works were considerably more expensive to buy than if one purchased the individual titles when initially published.

    Newspapers “can turn up major fluctuations in price over time” for a given title(16).

    Information in newspapers can enable us to reconstruct marketing strategies; for example, some advertisements reveal attempts to reach multiple markets by offering several formats at different prices (16-17).

    As the authors assert, knowledge about book prices matters because “[i]f we are going to understand the works we study and the world in which they were produced and read, then the clearer we can be on price and what it implies about audience, the better” (17).

  • Reception and Reputation: Noting that dissemination contributes to our understanding of the reception and reputation of writers and their works, Marshall and Hume also caution that information drawn from digital Burney searches for prices, reprintings, marketing strategies, commentary or allusions to authors, and the like has its limitations. For one, newspapers until the late eighteenth century offer little in the way of cultural commentary; second, searching for authors’ name can be problematic for numerous reasons ranging from false hits (e.g., “Pope” yields a huge number of results, but many do not refer to the author) to problems with OCR failing to return anywhere near the actual number (18). Still, such searches can provide interesting information and, in turn, questions about the rise and diminishing of an author’s visibility in the papers, the geographic parameters of that visibility, and the contemporary existence of associations or groupings of authors (19-20).
  • Study of Individuals: The Case of John Rich: In this example the authors illustrate ways in which Burney can augment and shift our understanding of understudied individuals through an examination of theatre owner and manager, John Rich. In addition to discussing how Burney yielded fresh information about Rich, Marshall and Hume also discuss briefly the specific, various searches performed to yield hits for John Rich; they close this case study with a cautionary example of how newspapers, while often providing new facts and leads, can also on occasion provide false or erroneous information.

    III. Teaching Uses

    The authors divide their discussion of how digital Burney might be used in the classroom into two sections, one dealing with eighteenth-century economics and the other with the century’s Weltanschauung. Marshall and Hume preface their two pedagogical uses with a warning that students will need much prior preparation before attempting to use the resource. This preparation includes not only assistance with the intricacies and peculiarities of searching digital Burney but also with working with historical primary sources, especially sources as newspapers (24).

  • Economic Issues and the Value of Money: While the research section focused on book prices and dissemination, here the focus is broadened to using Burney to show “students … how things looked to eighteenth-century people” in terms of money–”a much neglected subject” (24). While we can simply tell students today’s monetary equivalents for sums of money mentioned in eighteenth-century literary works, the authors make the salient point that “hearing is not the same as comprehending” (26). What the authors recommend is having students search the prices of everyday items found in newspaper advertisements and calculate their modern monetary equivalents. As they note, their findings can radically shift our understanding about the economic references found in the literature being study and, in turn, carry implications that extend beyond the works.
  • Seeing the World through Eighteenth-Century Eyes: Near the end of this section, Marshall and Hume underscore that what they have been proposing means fundamentally “altering the way we teach” rather than merely supplementing our current methods (30). The crux of this shift entails replacing secondary with primary sources as the means by which students learn to “see[ ] the world through eighteenth-century eyes.” Among the suggested assignments is a rhetorical or ideological critique of a newspaper title during a set time or a comparative variation in which several titles are examined (27). Using ECCO as well as Burney, another possible assignment would have students explore an event or topical reference; commentary on Dr. Sacheverell’s trial, the 1745 Jacobite invasion, the 1730 trial of Colonel Francis Charteris for rape, the American war (as opposed to “Revolution”), or reviews of theatre performances represent just a few of the examples they offer (27-29). Yet another use involves investigating the reception of works based on newspaper commentary (29). Noting that the nature of the course—a survey will differ considerably from an honors seminar—will affect the assignment(s) used, the authors stress that the benefits of such exercises is not enhancing the interpretation of specific works but rather in “helping bring the works we study to life, in making real to twenty-first-century undergraduates the commitments and passions of eighteenth-century writers and readers” (29).

    IV. External and Internal Problems

    Before addressing particular kinds of problems, Marshall and Hume review the basic and advance search capabilities of digital Burney. As the authors rightly note, these two search types will already be familiar to ECCO users. Proximity searches–searches in which one uses a “W” to find occurrences of a term that follows another within a certain number of words (e.g., “Hogg w5 Giltspur” will uncover Hogg within five words of “Giltspur”) or an “N” to find occurrences of a term preceded or followed by another (e.g., “Hogg N20 Giltspur” will return cases of Hogg appearing either before or after “Giltspur” within twenty words of each other)–can be done using either the basic or advanced search. Both kinds of searches can be limited by date and publication titles; both handle wildcard searches (! represents either a blank or any single character; * represents multiple characters, and ? represents any single character); and both accommodate “fuzzy” searches (31-34). This discussion offers even more detailed advice, including remarks about potential outcomes from various search methods.

  • The first set of problems falls under the rubric “External Issues.” While issues such as incomplete runs have emerged in previous emob discussions and the EC/ASECS and ASECS round-tables on these research tools, the approach taken here differs in some respects from points raised in these forums. In addition to incomplete runs (the authors are rightfully thankful for their inclusion and also offer suggestions for locating copies not in the collection), Marshall and Hume discuss the difficulties encountered when searching for material referenced in published works due to the high error rates of citations for eighteenth-century newspapers (35-36). In doing so they also suggest ways to navigate these false citations.
  • Spread-Date Papers and Other Problems with the Documentation and Search Results:
    A serious problem with the disastrous potential for being reproduced exponentially involves the dates digital Burney currently provides for individual issues of titles not published daily. For newspapers published weekly or twice or three times a week,

    [i]f the search engine is used to go directly to a news item or advertisement, the only date the user will see is the wrong one. The correct one has to be found by taking a multi-click detour to bring up the first page of the issue and then resize it to read the printed date on the original paper–ifthe user realizes that this may be a spread-date [a title whose issues each cover a spread of days between publications] newspaper and knows to check. [Footnote 50 indicates that Gale is in the process of rectifying this problem; "Scott Dawson of Gale informs us that they have identified some 70,000 instances of the problem" as of July 2009 (my emphasis)]. (37)

    Duplication is yet another problem and comes in several forms. The Burney collection contains duplicate copies of a given issue as well as duplicate runs of a given title, which at times will result in the appearance of more hits than actually occur (37-38). Another kind of “duplication” results from the habit of newspapers publishing copy identical to that found in other papers (38).

    Acknowledging the problems stemming from OCR technology and the erratic search results these problems generate, Marshall and Hume briefly mention some of the issues already raised in previous emob postings. In terms of false negatives, they usefully remind us of the role played by the Burney search engine’s design. For example, if one’s search term appears across two pages, then that occurrence will be omitted from the results (41). Citing Jim May’s recent article, “Accessing the Inclusiveness of Searches in the Online Burney Newspapers Collection” (The Eighteenth-Century Intelligencer N.S. 23:2 [May 2009]: 28-34), the authors ruefully report that their experiences with search results correspond to May’s claim “that anything from 20 to 50 percent (or more) of what can be found by manually eyeballing the full texts of newspapers will not show up in the list of results” (41).

    Marshall and Hume offer three, serious cases of false negatives, most stemming from the poor condition of the original. Yet, they close this discussion with an example of “a dire problem in Burney’s presentation of Steele’s Tatler (1709-1711)” that arise from problems with the source material made available to Gale (42). In this case, “the first nine months’ worth of one of the foremost early eighteenth-century English periodicals has functionally been erased” because the source used mixed original Tatler issues with the front matter and other material from later book reprints (43-44). Rather than appear in digital Burney under the title “Tatler,” these pre-1710 issues instead appear under the title Lucubrations of Isaac Bickerstaff. While the authors note that this problem could be lessened via “simple relabeling and cross-referencing” (44), the problem also underscores the importance of hands-on scholarly involvement in the preparation and execution of such digitization projects.

  • Some Interface Issues: Under this heading the authors detail “nine of our pet peeves” with the current interface (44).

    1. While one can search or view results according to particular categories of publication such as “Classified Ads” or “Commercial News,” these sections are fairly meaningless, and an advertisement can easily appear under news or vice versa (44).

    2. The inability to perform case sensitive searches (45).

    3. The inability to control the elimination of “stop” words such as “the,” “a,” or “be” when one is seeking hits for a specific phrase or string of words (45).

    4. The numerous clicks one must endure to confirm the paper, date, day; the best solution to this problem would be for Gale to offer the title and spread date on each and every display page (45).

    5. Related to (4), “that title and date would appear with whatever one printed from page to page.” As the authors note, the need to record manually this information on printed copy of a given page encourages the occurrence of errors, many of which will be multiplied as erroneous citations in future publications (45).

    6. The Browse Publication Title inefficiently results in “a set of links to what are reported as “[X number of] issues” chopped into [X--often in the thousands] chunks of News Advertisements, Business News, etc.” and consequently requires the user to guess where “the desired date might fall.” While using the “Publication Search” is a better approach, this search is not without its problems (46).

    7. The inability to search efficiently for “Other papers for the same date.” Currently, without such a dedicated search feature for this option, one must conduct an “Advanced Search” using “Publication Date”; if multiple dates are sought, one must repeat the process for each date desired (47).

    8. The confusion between the “Previous/Next Article” (“article” here is a misnomer) and “Previous/Next Page”; the first navigates results found, while the second, which appears directly above the newspaper’s text, will take the user to the next page in the issue being viewed (47).

    9. Although one has three options of searching for particular issues of a given title, the three processes differ in their operations, primarily in whether they accept or not the inclusion of an opening article (“the”) in a newspaper’s title (47, 49).

  • Following the “pet peeves” list, the authors offer useful information and advice about the intricacies in printing one’s results. Such information is particular valuable, for as the authors also note, digital Burney’s “printing facility is neither self-evident nor at present particularly well explained” (50). Especially vexing is the failure of several print options to include title and date details.

    V. Observations and Conclusions

    Admitting that hindsight makes for easy criticism, Marshall and Hume nonetheless correctly claim that many of the problems identified in Burney might have been avoided if scholars with appropriate expertise had been closely consulted in the preparatory stages of this significant tool (50). Similarly, if the interface and search features had been tested by actual, potential users, many of the snags in searching might have been eliminated in advance of the tool’s official release. They also draw attention to the commercial nature of the enterprise. Although they do not mention affordable access here or elsewhere, they do stress the high expense and the subsequent expectation among purchasers that “when significant problems emerge … they need to be seriously addressed” (51). The efforts underway to correct the dating errors in spread-date newspapers is no doubt an example of a serious problem that is receiving attention.

    Despite existing problems Marshall and Hume celebrate the wondrous possibilities that digital Burney does afford. While they clearly view research and scholarship as the realms in which digital Burney’s transformative effects will first be felt, they also reiterate the radical alterations it will eventually bring to teaching and classroom practices (52).

    ASECS Summary of “Some Noisy Feedback” Roundtable, Albuquerque 3/18/10

    March 27, 2010

    ECCO, EEBO, and the Burney Collection: Some “Noisy Feedback” Roundtable

    Chair: Anna Battigelli (SUNY Plattsburgh)   Panelists: Sayre Greenfield (University of Pittsburgh, Greensburg), Stephen Karian (Marquette University), James E. May (Penn State University—DuBois), Eleanor Shevlin (West Chester University), Michael Suarez (Rare Book School, University of Virginia).  Respondents: Jo-Anne Hogan, (ProQuest), Brian Geiger (ESTC, University of California, Riverside), and Scott Dawson (Gale/Cengage).

    The following offers a summary of the roundtable that took place, Thursday,  March 18, 2010  at the ASECS 2010 conference in Albuquerque, N.M.  This session was the second part of a two-part series, the first part having been a roundtable discussion chaired by Eleanor Shevlin at the EC/ASECS meeting in Bethlehem, Pa in October 2009.  Copies of Eleanor’s summary of the EC/ASECS session (published in the Eighteenth-Century Intelligencer and also on this blog) were distributed at the outset of this session.  Many thanks to the members of the audience who so cheerfully presented themselves at an early hour on the conference’s first day.

    Sayre Greenfield opened discussion with detailed working solutions to problems caused by ECCO’s OCR (optical character recognition) software.  He recommended that Gale provide an ECCO OCR troubleshooting page on their web site and noted that blogs like this one would be sure to start that process (see below).  Aided by Deidre Stuffer, he found ways to correct for errors stemming from the following letter combinations that OCR typically mistranslates: s, ss, and ct.  Using the word, fishmonger, he substituted for the s every other letter, then substituted numbers, and finally the wildcard question mark.  Advice from his search results, including how best to use the question mark as a wildcard, can be found on the ECCO OCR Troubleshooting Page on the “Pages” section of this blog.  He warned that using the question mark for any medial or initial s is problematic if one is using variables elsewhere, adding that ECCO does not allow wildcards for the first letter of a word.  Additionally, letters surrounding the s seem to affect how the OCR reads the s.  The double ss, for example, frequently morphs into fl, transforming passion into paflion. Word searching within a text also proved problematic.  Though he found 32 instances of passion or passions when he read John Tottie’s A View of Reason and Passion, his electronic search using passion* yielded only half of these.  Turning to ct, he found that OCR often reads ct as t, so that objection becomes objetion.  These results suggest that ECCO would help users by strengthening its web site, which currently recommends fuzzy searches to address OCR problems.  Fuzzy searches create too many false positive results.  Including a more robust help page on this issue is necessary.  (For now, see Sayre’s ECCO OCR Troubleshooting Page on this blog.)

    Steve Karian began by acknowledging the indispensability of ESTC for bibliometrics, but he also identified four problems that need to be addressed if the ESTC is to become the powerful tool it can be for the twenty-first century.  The first is the ESTC’s unit of measurement: the ESTC record.  Users often equate an ESTC record with an imprint, title, edition, or an issue.  Because of variations in the correlation of record to item, one cannot simply assume that two parallel sets of search “hits” can be compared reliably.  As he puts it, “one is constantly comparing apples to oranges.”  Additionally, field records vary, limiting or complicating the kinds of searches that can be done.  These need to be standardized if searching is to become reliable.  The two ESTCs—one at UC-Riverside, the other at the British Library—use the same data but different interfaces.  Dates are complicated because they appear in two MARC (Machine-Readable Cataloguing) fields.  Steve recommended deleting the MARC record entirely and replacing it with a new database structure, one designed to expand and grow.  He called for a new stage of innovation, allowing the ESTC to transform itself from a bibliographical catalogue into a bibliographical database.  Only through such a transformation will the ESTC become the powerful tool it promises to be.

    Jim May discussed the Burney Collection, which he argued should be called the Burney Collection of Newspapers, Periodicals, and Other Printed Matter.  Its material was first collected by Charles Burney, subsequently increased by the British Library, and eventually microfilmed before being turned over to Gale/Cengage.  It includes material dating back to the 1620s and beyond  1800 and material printed in Barbados, India, Ireland, and North America.  Citing James Tierney’s comments at the Bethlehem meeting, Jim noted that the collection includes 237 newspapers and 161 periodicals, 60 of which are partially available in Adam Matthews Eighteenth-Century Journals series or ProQuest’s British Periodicals.  Burney allows one to read an entire issue or study issues by year or month, and it offers searching, though this is problematic.  According to Jim’s results, searching sometimes yields only 10% of the relevant items.  Searching for “Tatler” between 1708 and 1712 yields 80 hits.  Though he has found hundreds of advertisements of Smollett’s Continuation of the Complete History of England, only few of these can be found through an electronic search.  Similarly, only a third or fewer of The London Evening Posts published 1760-61 turn up when you search for “London Evening”.  Robert Hume and Ashley Marshall have an essay forthcoming in Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America discussing Burney and noting, among other problems, how definite and indefinite articles interfere with searches.  Jim also cited Simon Tanner’s article in D-Lib Magazine (July/August 2009), which found the following accuracy rates for Burney: character 75%, word 65%, significant word 48.4%, capitalized word 47.4.% and number 59.3%.   The magnification feature enlarges pages by 100% and would be more useful if it magnified by 33%.  Spread dates are misrepresented, due to the lack of editorial apparatus explaining when newspapers were actually issued.  Burney’s lack of editorial apparatus, cross references, comments, and so forth is a deficit.  Having a scholarly editor–perhaps a graduate student or postdoc intership– would improve its utility.  Also needed is a review of the entire database.  A page dedicated to errors encountered by users would help, something EEBO is now working on with in its “EEBO Interactions, A Social Network.”

    Eleanor Shevlin identified three pressing needs: 1) fostering greater awareness of the context of texts; 2) encouraging collaboration among users; and 3) cultivating greater access to these electronic resources.  She pointed to the need for bibliographical training in order to use these resources accurately and called for an examination of the cognitive effects these tools have on research processes.  Specifically, she wondered how EEBO’s TCP transcriptions or ECCO’s searching mechanism affects research methodology.  Noting that these tools provide opportunities to correct bibliographical inaccuracies, she urged the need for a more standardized process through which corrections could be forwarded to the ESTC or to commercial databases.  She also cited examples of productive collaboration among members of the bibliographic community, including her own experience correcting an error in Kansas’s Spencer Research library, a correction made possible by sending ECCO’s image of the British Library’s copy of a text to Kansas.  Finally, she noted that access continues to be a problem.  Scholars in the U.S. work at a notable disadvantage compared to scholars in the U.K. who typically have access to ECCO and ECCO II through the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC).  ASECS President Peter Reill’s recent calls for feedback regarding access suggests that the issue is at least on the radar of those who can help, either through negotiations for large-scale access or  individual subscriptions.

    Michael Suarez warned against the illusion of comprehensiveness in database searches.  Users are frequently unaware of what is missing in these databases, and the databases’ selectivity impoverishes word searches as tools for analysis.  Turning to the task of text-mining, he expressed skepticism regarding the mentalities of mining.  Where sustained engagement with individual texts allows for work linking texts to their culture and to other texts, textual extraction can produce radically decontextualized results.  Because these database tools are easy to use, we are, he warned, insufficiently uneasy with what they actually accomplish.  Suarez insisted that textual analysis demands an effort to fuse horizons between text and reader, a fusion that involves a reader’s deep engagement with a text’s historical context and with a text’s relationship to other texts.  Such contextualization, as James Boyd White would agree, is essential to a functional and robust literary hermeneutics.  Additionally, text-mining tools encourage scholars to work in even greater isolation, away from libraries and other scholars.  Precisely because the digital future will change the way we think, Suarez called for a greater bibliographical literacy in order to make these promising tools work properly.

    Panelists’ Responses:

    Jo-Anne Hogan (ProQuest)  agreed with Michael’s concern regarding the impact of these digitization projects.  She added that EEBO routinely receives emails pointing out errors, asking for missing items, and making recommendations, and that it works to incorporate these suggestions.  But she also noted a growing digital divide: concerns voiced at conferences like ASECS differed from those at conferences on the digital humanities.  At the latter, attendants ask EEBO to produce more tools for text-mining.  It is sometimes difficult to reconcile the competing requests received.  Money matters in these issues, and will always be a factor.  She agreed that more could be done to align the bibliographic data in EEBO with that in the ESTC and pointed out that efforts are under way to make that happen.  She also introduced the prospect of a social networking site for EEBO intended to facilitate communication between scholars and users so corrections can be reported and more contextual information can be made available.  We hope to hear more from her about this on this blog in the near future.  Access, she concluded, continues to be a concern, agreeing with Eleanor that it is unfortunate not to have a model for broad access in the U.S.  Personal subscriptions seem unlikely because such subscriptions cannot cover costs, at least not at subscription rates individuals are willing to pay. She hoped there might be a point in the future when ProQuest can provide broader access, but she could not guarantee such a thing.  More promising is the prospect that about half of the books in EEBO will soon be available for purchase at reasonable rates via Print on Demand.

    Scott Dawson (Gale) agreed with Sayre’s suggestion that a Help screen dedicated to OCR problems  is an idea to consider seriously.  He added that Gale would look into post-OCR checks that might correct results.  18thConnect will help by testing new OCR software on ECCO page images, and that might solve problems.  Turning to Steve’s comments about ESTC, Scott noted that ECCO depends on ESTC for metadata, and that Gale is working with ESTC to add a link within the ECCO Full Citation to report problems with a given record.  He agreed with Jim May that Burney presents additional obstacles to getting accurate OCR  results.  Gale has been working with the British Library to resolve the issue of spread dates and hopes to have an update in the next few months.  On the issue of access raised by Eleanor, Scott mentioned that ECCO is concerned about the issue, but that by providing access to more than 500 institutions globally, it has helped make early modern printed material more accessible than is possible through hard copy or microfilm.  Tiered pricing and consortia-designed contracts help non-ARL institutions find ways to subscribe to ECCO.  He greed with Michael Suarez that ECCO is incomplete, even with the 50,000 titles added through ECCO II.   Gale is not planning an ECCO III.  But the possibility of linking missing titles to ECCO is being considered.

    Brian Geiger (ESTC) outlined two main areas of work at the Center for Bibliographical Studies and Research (CBSR), which manages the North American branch of the ESTC.  First, they continue to upgrade and add records to the ESTC.  They are processing OPAC extracts from libraries, and recently began on an extract from Oxford University that resulted in some 200,000 records that will be matched against the file.  These OPAC extracts provide shelf marks (or call numbers) for existing items, and have turned up tens of thousands of new copies and hundreds of entirely new items.  They are adding urls from online collections.  EEBO, ECCO and TCP are matched, though not yet displayed by the public version at the British Library.  Brian has requested urls from Google and will do the same from Internet Archive.  They are digitizing title pages from paper reports submitted over the last two decades and will attach those images to the appropriate records, allowing users to compare a title page to its MARC record.  They hope to have many of the title pages in the ESTC by 2011.  And they have enhanced some 180,000 MARC records from title pages in ECCO.  Second, the ESTC has started to assess how to transform the project from an online catalog to a flexible and interactive database-driven research tool.  Brian corroborated Steve Karian’s assessment that this new resource should be built on relational databases, and noted with appreciation the value of the kind of collaborative thinking Steve offered about the project’s future.  Brian emphasized that a number of partner projects and institutions should be involved in the redesign, to ensure that the new project meets a variety of user needs and to try to plan for the sharing of information across platforms.  He mentioned some of the features that he thought should be included, among them user editing of bibliographic data and metadata and tools to send information to users about updates or changes to records.  He ended by pointing out that development of the database will require resources and the next stage of the ESTC’s evolution will be contingent on funding.  The ESTC is currently engaged in grant development.  It will be in a better position to discuss specific solutions once funding is secured.

    ASECS Session: “ECCO, EEBO, and the Burney Collection: Some “Noisy Feedback” (roundtable)

    March 13, 2010

    Thursday, March 18,  9:45 – 11:15 a.m.

    “ECCO, EEBO, and the Burney Collection: Some ‘Noisy Feedback’(Roundtable)    Alvarado E

    Chair:    Anna BATTIGELLI, State University of New York, Plattsburgh

    1.    Sayre GREENFIELD, University of Pittsburgh, Greensburg

    2.    Stephen KARIAN, Marquette University

    3.    James E. MAY, Pennsylvania State University, DuBois

    4.    Eleanor F. SHEVLIN, West Chester University

    5.    Michael F. SUAREZ, S.J., Rare Book School, University of Virginia

    RESPONDENTS: ScottDAWSON,Gale/Cengage; Brian GEIGER, ESTC: Jo-Anne HOGAN, Proquest

    Unequal Access and Commercial Databases

    December 9, 2009

    In his role as the president of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ASECS), Peter Reill has recently written the ASECS membership about issues extremely relevant to this blog’s purpose: the increasing importance of commercial databases to scholarship and the reality of unequal access to these tools. As we have been discussing on emob, databases such EEBO, ECCO, Burney, and the like enrich our ability to do historical and other forms of research in ways that simply weren’t possible before. At the same time, a lack of access to these resources seriously hampers the types and scope of projects that one can undertake. While these resources have definitely made more texts accessible to more scholars, those who lack access are now at a far greater disadvantage than scholars previously were. Interest in interdisciplinary work, book history and print culture studies, material culture, transatlantic studies and global perspectives continues to grow within and across fields, and these resources foster such work. These tools also offer new directions for more traditional approaches. Given the inherently historical nature of eighteenth-century and early modern studies, the access that these databases afford to facsimiles of primary documents is crucial.

    Peter will be attending a meeting hosted by the Mellon Foundation to address access in February. We thought it would be helpful to create a series of posts that will supply some feedback to the questions Mellon posed to attendees (and that Peter, in turn, posed to ASECS members).

    To initiate this series of postings, this post is devoted to the following three questions:

  • How important is access to commercial databases to scholars in your field?
  • How are scholars’ careers affected when they are at institutions that do not subscribe to those resources?
  • Which databases are likely to be of greatest value to the broadest segment of your membership?
  • Summary of EC/ASECS Roundtable: Bibliography, the ESTC, and 18th-Century Electronic Databases

    October 24, 2009

    Bibliography, the ESTC, and 18th-Century Electronic Databases:  A Roundtable

    Chair: Eleanor F. Shevlin (West Chester University)   Participants: James E. May (Penn State University—DuBois), James Tierney (University of Missouri—St. Louis), David Vander Meulen (University of Virginia), Benjamin Pauley (Eastern Connecticut State University), Brian Geiger (ESTC, University of California, Riverside), and Scott Dawson (Gale/Cengage).

    The following offers a summary of the roundtable that took place, Saturday, October 10, 2009, at the EC/ASECS 2009 conference hosted by Lehigh University and held at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, October 8-11, 2009.

     Jim May opened the roundtable, and his remarks highlighted and extended the discussion he offered in his essay, “Some Problems in ECCO (and ESTC),” in The Eighteenth-Century Intelligencer, 23.1 (Jan. 2009), the article that inspired this session and Anna Battigelli’s forthcoming roundtable at ASECS (March 18th, 9:45 am—11:15 am). Key issues Jim raised included the need to correct missing images, to address the “disappearance” of letters originally printed in red ink on title pages, and to bring the ESTC up to date. In addition, he noted that ECCO’s electronic index is not always representative of what is actually there digitally. Work is also needed on providing or revising information about subscription lists, textual history, and attributions in ESTC. While noting that he had already addressed problems with Burney in his The Eighteenth-Century Intelligencer article, 23.2 (May 2009) and that Jim Tierney would be discussing this tool next, Jim commented on the usefulness of Burney, particularly to those working on the history of a publication.

    Turning to the Burney collection, Jim Tierney drew attention to the potentially confusing name for this electronic collection because it is not by any means restricted to newspapers. Instead, it includes a good number of periodicals as well. Specifically, the collection consists of 237 newspapers and 161 periodicals, and, furthermore, some of the titles included are neither newspapers nor periodicals. That the Burney digitized collection follows the Anglo-American cataloguing procedure of creating a new entry every time a newspaper undergoes a title change results in the illusion of more titles than actually exist as well as confusion about the history of a given newspaper. Jim also provided a detailed handout (posted here as a page) listing the digitized periodicals (note: not newspapers) in Burney. The handout includes notes about missing issues, other locations where titles in Burney can be found, and a tentative list of Burney titles duplicated by other digitization projects. The two overarching points Jim made was the failure to have scholars involved in the planning of Burney and other digitization projects and the need for far greater collaboration among the creators/purveyors of these databases, librarians, and scholars. That given titles in Burney often include only a few issues when other issues were available elsewhere and, if digitized, would have approached a more complete run, exemplify the need for far better coordination and collaboration.

    While David Vander Meulen serves on the ESTC board, his remarks for the roundtable were offered in his role as a researcher and user of these tools. He began by noting that ESTC is an evolving tool—a work in progress—and that ECCO follows ESTC.  Moreover, even as it progresses, the ESTC is still “functional and valuable” even though it is incomplete. Nonetheless, “any addition to ESTC will change the context.” An important development occurred in 2006 when the British Library initiated free access to this tool. As for problems, the ESTC had made the decision to truncate titles and places. Yet ECCO generally offers the full titles, while expanded locations can occasionally be found by going to public library catalogues. To improve these resources, David explained, we need to have an easier way to convey corrections to the British Library or University of California Riverside (the North American home of the ESTC) and, equally important, an ongoing staff to process editorial changes and comments. In discussing this need for a means of processing updates, David also drew attention to whether the uncontrolled notes field should be visible. Unfortunately agencies that have funded the ESTC, as he explained in his closing remarks, have decided the project is complete.  Obviously, given ESTC’s status as a work-in-progress, such a decision presents additional problems to continued updating and correcting.

     Ben Pauley spoke next about a project he has initiated. He began by noting the lack of access that many institutions (and thus their scholars and students) have to paid databases such as EEBO and ECCO. Both Internet Archives and Google Books, however, have a number of eighteenth-century books in their freely accessible databases. Yet it is typically very hard to identify properly what text one has accessed. Viewing these freely available texts as an opportunity, Ben established The Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker, a project in which he is supplying the bibliographic data so sorely lacking in eighteenth-century texts found in Google Books. Doing so has compelled him to become a textual scholar or an “accidental bibliographer.” Thus far, he has recorded about 150 copies not appearing in ESTC. At present, the project features 480 texts and 4 periodicals. Ben has been asked to write an article on the Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker for The Eighteenth-Century Intelligencer that will detail much more about his undertaking.

    Speaking as the Associate Director and Resident Manager of the Center (University of California Riverside), the North American home of the ESTC, Brian Geiger explained that the British Library’s ESTC role has focused on cataloguing its own collection and that the Univ. of California Riverside  has handled everything else. In addition to reiterating points about the problem with truncated titles, he also discussed the lack of subject headings as a shortcoming. Turning to the digital surrogates of early modern imprints, he explained that the ECCO and Adam Matthews collections are based on ESTC, but EEBO is not. Next Brian addressed the need to foster better communication between ESTC and scholars. While the channels of communication between ESTC and librarians have remained strong, that has not been the case with scholars. Like Ben, Brian will also be writing an article on the ESTC for The Eighteenth-Century Intelligencer.

     Scott Dawson from Gale-Cengage concluded the presentations by roundtable panelists. He first supplied an historical overview of ECCO and Burney. In 1982 Research Publications began to microfilm the “Eighteenth Century” microform collection. By 2002 twenty-six million pages of eighteenth-century titles had been filmed. This microfilm collection is the basis for ECCO, but using the ESTC in conjunction with the microfilm has been overall a real plus for the project.  ECCO II, released at the start of this year, features 50,000 additional titles. By mid 2010 ECCO II, representing holdings from fifteen libraries, will be completed (titles from the Harry Ransom Center are still being prepared). ECCO and ECCO II, combined, will have made 185,000 eighteenth-century titles available to subscribers. As for the digitization of Burney, that project was handled by the British Library and not Gale-Cengage. Scott also addressed some of the problems that can and cannot be corrected. When pages are blurred, for instance, the microfilm plays a key role in what can be done. If the microfilm is clear, then the page is re-filmed. Yet if the problem occurred because the page is blurred in the microfilm, then, from the perspective of Gale, nothing can be done. When duplications of a title are discovered, however, the duplications can be deleted. 

    After all six panelists had offered opening statements, the discussion was opened to the audience’s questions and comments. The point perhaps most stressed in the discussion with the audience was a need for far greater involvement by scholars in the creation and improvement of digital resources. In terms of updating or correcting resources, questions arose about how this might be done and what types of controls are needed. In subsequent discussions, the creation of advisory boards and (or) the involvement of a committee representing ASECS arose as possible avenues for communicating and addressing the scholar’s perspective more effectively. The establishment of an advisory board and/or ties with ASECS could play a vital role in future projects, and members of a board or ASECS committee could also devise potential solutions to some of the shortcomings with existing tools.  The resurrection of Factotum, the now defunct ESTC news publication of the British Library (ceased with issue no. 40 in 1995), or the initiation of a similar publication would be a way of establishing regular, ongoing communication with a broader base of scholars. (For those interested in the content of previous issues, see the index for Factotum.) Of course, an obstacle here is staffing and funding. Questions also arose about plans to make Burney more complete by digitizing issues not included for a particular newspaper or periodical title but available elsewhere. Yet that this digitization project had been undertaken by the British Library (see final report) and not Gale complicates the issue. Also, when asked about any plans for an ECCO III, Scott explained that the creation of ECCO II caused surprise among many libraries that had purchased ECCO because they believed that ECCO was complete at the time. When ECCO II was introduced for purchase, libraries were promised that there would not be any additional forms of ECCO.  (Depending on the discovery of additional eighteenth-century titles, however, I see no reason that another collection could not be pursued; if enough material for another collection becomes available, then scholars need to insert and assert themselves in conversations with vendors and librarians and make the need and value of a third collection known.)

    Another very real, pressing concern was the large number of scholars who do not have access to these databases and for whom their institutions are not likely to be able to afford these resources even in the future. The point was raised that all universities in the U.K. have access to ECCO and ECCO II for an annual hosting fee through the auspices of the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), “established by the UK further and higher education funding councils in 2006 to negotiate with publishers and owners of digital content.” Because the situation differs greatly in the U.S.—we have no higher education government council overseeing all our universities—we do not have such a prospect here. While Ben Pauley’s Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker promises to bring some order to the current anarchy that characterizes freely available eighteenth-century texts, his valuable project can’t and won’t solve the inequity of access in the United States.

    Burney database now at the Library of Congress

    September 8, 2009

    The Library of Congress has now obtained the “17th – 18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers” database.

    It also has the following electronic resources:

  • 19th CenturyBritish Library Newspaper Collection
  • 19th Century UK Periodicals
  • British Periodicals
  • ECCO, Part I and II
  • EEBO (at long last, but not the Text Creation Partnership searchable part)
  • and plenty of fine American stuff
  • Abby Yochelson, a Humanities Librarian at the LC, noted, “Sometimes it’s tricky to find the listing for the database if it starts with 19th because it can be listed as 19th or Nineteenth, but generally not both. Do a keyword search on other parts of the title!”


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