Readers are invited to participate in a promising and methodically thought-through experiment in social editing.
The University of Victoria’s Electronic Textual Cultures Lab‘s Devonshire MS Editorial Group invites contributions to a new project involving collaborative knowledge curation. The project aims at attributing contributions and ensuring scholarly authority.
Guided by Ray Siemens, the ETCL’s editorial group is producing a collaborative electronic wikibooks edition of the Devonshire manuscript, which contains 185 items from the 1530s and 1540s, including complete poems, transcriptions, verse fragments, excerpts, anagrams, and notes by many authors and transcribers.
Because 125 of the poems are attributed to Sir Thomas Wyatt and have been transcribed and published in print, the miscellany was long considered exclusively as a source for his work. Arthur Marotti notes, however, that this “author-centered view of the miscellany obscures its value as a document “illustrating some of the uses of lyric verse within an actual social environment” (Marotti, Manuscript, Print, and Renaissance Lyric, 1995). In addition to Wyatt, other contemporaries contributing to the manuscript include Henry Howard, earl of Surrey, Lady Margaret Douglas, Richard Hatfield, Mary Fitzroy (née Howard), Lord Thomas Howard, Sir Edmund Knyvet, Sir Anthony Lee, Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, Mary Shelton, and perhaps Anne Boleyn.
The Devonshire manuscript wikibooks site states that the purpose of the edition is to
preserve the socially mediated textual and extra-textual elements of the manuscript that have been elided in previous transcriptions. These “paratexts” make significant contributions to the meaning and appreciation of the manuscript miscellany and its constituent parts: annotations, glosses, names, ciphers, and various jottings; the telling proximity of one work and another; significant gatherings of materials; illustrations entered into the manuscript alongside the text; and so forth. To accomplish these goals, the present edition has been prepared as a diplomatic transcription of the Devonshire Manuscript with extensive scholarly apparatus.
The miscellany illustrates the social use of verse and provides what Colin Burrow calls “the richest surviving record of early Tudor poetry and of the literary activities of 16th-century women.”
Currently, a PDF version of the edition is under review at the University of Toronto’s Iter Gateway. In July, the PDF and Wikibooks versions will be compared and a final edition will be published by Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies.
Readers are invited to participate in the editing of this interesting and complex manuscript. Some immediate questions include the following:
- How should blank spaces–often tellingly omitting one name to suggest another–be presented?
- How can the manuscript’s structure be maintained, while allowing for efficient navigation? For example, use of “forward” and “backward” buttons might misrepresent the complex spatial relationship among the poems, which frequently appear side-by-side in the manuscript.
- What is the best way to ensure credit for Wikibooks editors?
Access to the digital facsimile is available to subscribers of Adam Mathew. The link can be found at the bottom of the Devonshire Manuscripts’ wikibooks page.