Author Archive

Mediate: Identifying the real bestsellers of the 18th century

October 8, 2016

EMOB readers may be interested in a new digital humanities project, Mediate, based at Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Funded by the European Research Council, Mediate is headed by Professor Alicia C. Montoya. Through the use of a robustly designed database of library auction catalogs, this multi-component project seeks to develop a new avenue for Enlightenment studies. While prior lenses for studying the Enlightenment have focused on either the canonical, history-of-ideas texts or the forbidden, underground works of the time, Mediate aims to study the middlebrow bestsellers and their overlooked role in shaping the Enlightenment. In doing so, the project seeks to “propose a new conceptual framework that takes as its starting-point the heuristic concept of middlebrow culture” (http://mediate18.nl/?page=home).

As the project’s website explains,”The MEDIATE project is organized in six interrelated subprojects:

  • MEDIATE database construction (Van de Camp)
  • Mapping the field: library auction catalogues, books and their circulation (Blom)
  • Readers: Library owners, reception networks
  • Still to be determined
  • Texts: Sampling religious works
  • Synthesis: Toward a new history of “the” Enlightenment (Montoya)”
    (See Mediate website, “about”)

Not surprisingly, its project partner is Western Sydney University, the new home of Prof. Simmon Burrows and his The French Book Trade in Enlightenment Europe (FBTEE) database that we have previously written about.

Mediate project members have begun to present their work, with this past July seeing a number of demonstrations including at the SHARP 2016 conference in Paris and the Digitizing Enlightenment Symposium at Western Sydney University.

Humanities Scholars Interested in Digital Publishing: A National Survey

July 29, 2016

This invitation to participate in a national survey and posted on SHARP-L may be of interest to EMOB readers:

Researchers at the University of Illinois are working as part of a scholarly publishing initiative to develop a service model for university libraries that supports scholar-driven, openly accessible, scalable, and sustainable scholarly publishing practices.

You are invited to participate in a national survey of humanities scholars with an interest in digital publishing: https://illinoislas.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_3K81QduAtOFRYaN

In order to develop a service model that meets your needs, we are hoping to learn more about your current publishing practices, your objectives for publishing, and how you consume and want to consume research results.

The survey should take no longer than 30 minutes.

“Understanding the Needs of Scholars in a Contemporary Publishing Environment” is a Mellon-funded initiative, in partnership with the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities, and the African American Studies Department at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Find out more about the project.

Outcomes of this research will inform the development of a library-based scholarly publishing service model. Our findings will be disseminated broadly through conference presentations and journal articles within the domains of library and information science, the digital humanities, and scholarly publishing.

Link to survey.

Thank you for your participation!

Questions? Please email research team via Maria Bonn (mbonn@illinois.edu) or Katrina Fenlon (kfenlon2@illinois.edu).

PWW research team:
Aaron McCollough
Megan Senseney
Maria Bonn
Harriett Green
Chris Maden
Katrina Fenlon

Principle Investigators:
John Wilkin
Ronald W. Bailey
Antoinette Burton
Allen Renear

BigDIVA– A New Digital Tool by the Scholars of 18thConnect and MESA

October 15, 2015

Developed under the leadership and inspiration of Laura Mandell (Texas A&M and the scholar who brought us 18thConnect) and with the assistance of Tim Stinson at North Carolina State, BigDIVA is the acronym for Big Data Infrastructure Visualization Application and will be unveiled October 16th. The tool provides a visual interface for “navigating scholarly, peer-reviewed humanities content” and enables users to traverse results quickly through its visualization of the returns. The tool filters out “noise” such as advertisements by booksellers or Twitter mentions, and it color codes the results according to material readily available to users and material for which users need permission to access.

BigDIVA is the newest project to emerge from the extended collaborative network of digital resource hubs that started with NINES grew to 18thConnect and then expanded to Medieval Electronic Scholarly Alliance (MESA), REKn (Renaissance English Knowledgebase) and ModNets (Modernists) and that we have previously discussed in an EMOB post. As many will well know, Laura Mandel founded 18thConnect and then went on to help spur the formation of other hubs devoted to periods beyond her own period of work, the eighteenth century.  Tim Stinson is a medievalist and one of the founders of MESA.  Thus, much of the work undertaken by BigDIVA to date has focused on these two periods. Yet, like the extended network of historical digital hubs, this tool will serve the needs of Renaissance, twentieth-century, nineteenth-century scholars, too.

Unfortunately, The tool is open-source, but it is also being sold for use by proprietary databases, as Tim Stinson clarifies below (and thus not just available as a subscription-based tool as initial indicated).  You can  read more about BigDIVA here.

Digital Projects at SHARP 2015 — Part 3, Jordan Howell’s Digital Bibliography Quick Start and his Robinson Crusoe Bibliographic Database

October 10, 2015

This post is the third in a series examining select digital projects showcased at the SHARP 2015 conference. It focuses not only on Jordan Michael Howell’s “Digital Bibliography Quick Start” conference demonstration but also the project, that serves as a rich illustration of the potential WordPress has for creating databases.

Howell’s project has much to interest EMOB readers. For one, the “Quick Start” Robinson Crusoe Online Bibliography, document offers an excellent guide to creating a DIY database that requires little technological knowledge to build. As the “Quick Start” title page announces, “No coding experience? No problem.” The three-page guide that follows enables novices “to develop a comprehensive and searchable bibliographical database using WordPress in eleven somewhat easy steps.” While a few may find the “somewhat” a needed qualifier, the instructions are clear, and all eleven steps fit on just two pages. Indeed, the steps should give those who are desirous of undertaking such a project but anxious about their skills the confidence to launch their own bibliographic database. Novices may be worried about what may be unfamiliar acronyms or names (e.g. MySQL), but the point is that such knowledge is not truly necessary. Full disclosure: I have yet to attempt to build such a database using the guide, but the process seems fairly straightforward. No doubt one would learn the most from hands-on application of the steps. Step 2, in fact, recommends practicing website construction using WordPress before becoming more involved in the database’s construction.

Howell’s impetus to create this guide emerges from his extensive experimenting with WordPress for his Robinson Crusoe Online Bibliography and his seemingly endless searches for plugins to obtain more functionality for the bibliographic database. Scholars of eighteenth-century literature, Defoe, chapbooks, and bibliographers should be pleased to learn of this project that, once finished, will feature descriptive entries for all editions published between the years 1719 and 1774.

In his introduction to the online bibliography Howell explains that the power of our digital age has enabled this ambitious bibliographic project on a few fronts. Even though the project is in its first phase of production, there’s already much available, especially given that Howell is operating solo, handling all aspects of the project. (A tab allowing others to submit information is active and Howell does request “scholars, librarians, and rare book dealers contact the project manager with corrections or additions to the bibliography.”) Some sections, however, are in the early stages or as yet lacking content (“Chapbooks,” for example).

When finished, Robinson Crusoe Online Bibliography will offer entries for all editions published during the sixty-five year period, including “extensive description of and commentary on derivative editions such as abridgments and chapbooks.” In addition, Howell will augment his traditional descriptive bibliographical entries with “high-quality images.” Depending on their placement, the images also signal the status of an entry: “An image along the left margin indicates that the entry is largely complete, with photo-facsimiles, publication metadata, document descriptions, and secondary references.”

Besides harnessing the ESTC as well as Gale-Cengage’s Eighteenth-Century Collections Online as tools, Howell has already visited a number of special collections and spent time examining their Defoe holdings. To read more about the findings from these visits, see Howell’s “Eighteenth-Century Abridgements of Robinson Crusoe.” The Library 15.3 (2014): 292-343.

I invite you to explore both Howell’s guide and the online bibliography that serves as working example of how WordPress can be employed to create such a tool–and please offer your comments and observations.

Digital Projects at SHARP 2015 — Part 2 ArchBook

August 23, 2015

In a previous post we presented an overview of the SHARP 2015 Digital Showcase, with a focus on two projects and a promise to follow up with a discussion of two additional ones. This post partially fulfills that promise with a look at Richard Cunningham’s presentation of ArchBook: “Architectures of the Book Knowledge Base” at SHARP 2015. (A post on Jordan Michael Howell’s “Digital Bibliography Quick Start” will be available shortly).

Attractively designed, ArchBook is a resource focused on “specific design features in the history of the book.”

It seeks, however, to be more than a digital version of a work such as Glaister’s Encyclopedia of the Book. Thus, rather than aim for full coverage of book architecture or design terminology from A to Z, the site offers in-depth articles devoted to selected elements in the history of the book. Each essay or entry charts a given feature’s initial appearance in the history of the book through its historical transformations and, in some cases, eventual vanishing. Likening their approach to Raymond William’s Keywords, the editors note that the articles are crafted to spur responses, further thought, and additional investigation. The idea for the resource emerged from work by the Textual Studies team of the Implementing New Knowledge Environment (INKE) project in 2009; grants from SSHRC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada) secured by Inke and Alan Galey (University of Toronto) funded the project through 2013. Thus, while ArchBook had not been previously demonstrated at a SHARP conference, it is a resource that has been around for a while. (Indeed I have used it in my courses since 2013.)

To date, eleven “entries” or essays have been begun, and nine completed. Alan Galey’s Openings bears the earliest publishing date, 3 January 2012, and Laura Estell’s Commonplace Markers and Quotation Marks is the most recent entry, having been published in January 2014. Other topics covered include Decorated Letters, Flaps, Girdle Books (in progress), Grangerizing, Manicules, Pages (in progress), Table of Contents, Varorium Commentary, and Volvelles. As seen in this view from the Manicules page, each entry consists of five sections navigable by tabs: Definition, Historical Overview, Spotlight, Notes, and Works Cited. (Note: the sixth tab shown, Post-Publication, does not appear for all entries; moreover, this link is broken. However, the project blog does feature a post about manicules).

This entry’s historical scope extends from the classical era through iAnnotate’s stylized manicule designed for digital reading needs; such extended temporal coverage typifies the essays. Multimodal, the essays are also accompanied by images, and additional images appear in the 116-item image database.

The entries have evidently shaped the far more extensive glossary. Many terms from the essays are briefly defined in this section, including some of the entry topics. For instance, the glossary features an explanation for a “volvelle” (or wheel chart; it “consists of one or more layers of parchment or paper discs or other Over 125 items are defined, and they span a surprisingly broad range of topics. Alongside entries for watermarks, signatures, fascicle, gutter, gathering, one will also find definitions for PDF, commonplace book, presentation copy, plate, and multiple words related to typography and printing.

ArchBook shows much promise, but it also displays some of the issues we have discussed on EMOB over the years. The thought-provoking, well-researched entries benefit greatly from the long view each takes of its given topic, the accompanying images, and the references provided for further reading. The essays clearly took time to craft, and the time factor perhaps explains why only nine have been completed since the project’s inception in 2009. While there are detailed instructions for authors about entries, few have evidently answered the call to contribute. Similarly, the post-publication tab mentioned above seems to have failed to take off. ArchBook’s home page explains that “each ArchBook entry contains a post-publication discussion section with links to the project blog and related wikis, where readers are invited to continue the discussion,” yet no such exchange has been forthcoming. We have discussed the difficulties of generating exchange in digital resources devoted to that purpose many times on EMOB. We have highlighted the challenges most clearly perhaps in our multiple posts on EEBO Interactions, whose ultimate demise we noted in a post dated March 2013. We have also discussed the problems of sustaining such archives and resources, be it a matter of funding or the economics of time. Perhaps the decision to showcase ArchBook at SHARP 2015 was an effort to both publicize and to gain more users, responders, and entry authors for what is already a highly useful resource. Perhaps this post will also assist in attracting more notice to ArchBook.

Digital Projects at SHARP 2015–Part I

July 25, 2015

The Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing (SHARP) has featured digital projects at its conferences for many years now. With the SHARP 2013 conference at the University of Pennsylvania, SHARP began the tradition of hosting a stand-alone digital projects showcase at its conferences. During a two-hour time slot, creators present and demonstrate their projects to attendees. SHARP 2015, held in Montreal this past July 7th through July 10th, offered attendees the following fourteen fascinating digital projects and tools:

  • Jonathan Armoza, “Topic Words in Context (TWiC)”
  • Belinda Barnet, Jason Ensor and Sydney Shep, “A Prototype for Using Xanadu Transclusive Relationships in Academic Texts”
  • Troy J. Bassett, “At the Circulating Library: A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901”
  • Léon Robichaud, “Bibliographie de l’histoire de Montréal”
  • Richard Cunningham, “Architectures of the Book Knowledge Base”
  • Bertrand Gervais, “Arts et littératures numériques: du répertoire à l’agrégateur”
  • Joshua McEvilla, “Facet-Searching the Shakespearian Drama”
  • Jordan Michael Howell, “Digital Bibliography Quick Start”
  • Hélène Huet, “Mapping Decadence”
  • Mireille Laforce, “Des innovations pour faciliter le dépôt légal à Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec” ”
  • Sophie Marcotte, “Le projet HyperRoy”
  • Andrew Ross, Sierra Dye and Melissa Ann McAfee, “From Wandering Peddlers to Purveyors of Bit-Streams: The Rebirth of Scottish Chapbooks in the Twenty-First Century”
  • Chantal Savoie, Pierre Barrette, Olivier Lapointe, “Le « Laboratoire de recherche sur la culture de grande consommation et la culture médiatique au Québec » : un ambitieux système de métadonnées pour mieux comprendre la culture populaire”
  • Mélodie Simard-Houde, “Présentation de la plateforme numérique Médias 19”

Complete abstracts may be found here on the SHARP 2015 conference website.

This two-part post, however, will focus on a few projects most relevant to EMOB’s focus. Part I will focus on Joshua McEvilla’s “Facet-Searching the Shakespearian Drama” and Andrew Ross, Sierra Dye and Melissa Ann McAfee’s “From Wandering Peddlers to Purveyors of Bit-Streams: The Rebirth of Scottish Chapbooks in the Twenty-First Century.” Part II will cover Jordan Michael Howell’s “Digital Bibliography Quick Start” and Richard Cunningham’s “Architectures of the Book Knowledge Base.”

Joshua McEvilla‘s “Facet-Searching the Shakespearian Drama” showcased his An Online Reader of John Cotgrave’s The English Treasury of Wit and Language, a resource aimed at encouraging the study of neglected seventeenth-century dramatic authors whose work and contributions have been overshadowed by the attention given to Shakespeare.

mcevilla-sharp-2015-poster-1
(Click to enlarge)

As the site’s introduction explains, John Cotgrave’s The English Treasury of Wit and Language (1655) is the first seventeenth-century book of quotations to draw its material exclusively from early modern dramas. As such, Cotgrave’s collection “provides a means of studying the original reception of the plays of Shakespeare with the plays of other dramatists” (Cotgrave home). In turn, Dr. McEvilla’s construction of a digital edition of Cotgrave’s work—complete with a concept-based faceted search tool (introduction and search tool), a full list of all the known plays from which the quotations are drawn, data tables, and much more—harnesses the power of the digital to transform this printed resource into a dynamic tool. Besides assisting researchers and encouraging study of neglected English seventeenth-century dramatic works, the Online Reader of John Cotgrave’s ETWL also seems useful for teaching English drama in an advanced undergraduate classroom or graduate course. For those with access to Early English Books Online (EEBO) and/or 17th and 18th Century Burney Newspaper Collection, McEvilla’s tool could serve as an important complement in assisting students understand the contexts for the drama contained in EEBO or in providing them with a guide for selecting texts in EEBO. That the bookseller Humphrey Moseley held the license to print Cotgrave’s work is also worthy of note. As David Kastan recounts in “Humphrey Moseley and the Invention of English Literature,” Moseley played an important role in what he terms the “invention” of English literature (see Agent of Change: Print Culture Studies after Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, Univ. of Mass Press, 2007, pp. 104-124).

Andrew Ross, Sierra Dye and Melissa Ann McAfee’s Scottish Chapbook Project at the University of Guelph draws from the university’s collection of Scottish chapbooks—the largest such collection in North America. A true exercise in collaboration, the digital project results from the cooperation of the university’s Archival and Special Collections and its Department of History”. Not only have librarians, faculty, and graduate students been involved, but undergraduate students (114 since 2013!) in Dr. Andrew Ross’s digital humanities course have helped to build various exhibits as the one depicted in this image.

Exhibit: A Groat's Worth of Wit for a Penny

Exhibit: A Groat’s Worth of Wit for a Penny

(Click to enlarge)

Besides the exhibits, the site also features teaching modules geared to high school instruction, thus extending the reach of this work beyond the university student population.

Among the site’s goals stated in the SHARP abstract is the aim of supporting “an ongoing analysis of the role of woodcut images for the popular readership in Scotland during the early modern period” as well as “the goals of the recently formed Chapbook Working Group of the UK Bibliographic Society.” At present one can browse 416 items, and more are being added regularly. The ultimate aim of this project is to integrate all the estimated extant 10,000 Scottish chapbooks in an interconnected site. Such a long-term goal of integration and interconnection is a promising one, especially in terms of centralizing sources and information on a given topic. As a related aside in terms of integration of projects, Benjamin Pauley’s Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker (see prior emob post, post, and post) is now being phased out, and its information being incorporated into the English Short Title Catalogue.

Please explore these tools and offer your comments and suggestions.

Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) — A Brief Update

July 4, 2015

Since the launch of the DPLA in April 2013, the staff under the direction of its director, Dan Cohen, have been pursuing various projects to determine best ways to develop this resource/tool further and broaden its serviceability. In an April 2015 whitepaper, “Using Large Digital Collections in Education: Meeting the Needs of Teachers and Students” authors Franky Abbott and Dan Cohen set forth one set of plans for making the DPLA valuable in K through 16 settings. The plans resulted from research supported by the Whiting Foundation and yielded a program that enlists the help of educators through another initiative funded by Whiting. The following 15 June 2015 “Call for Educators” on DPLA’s blog describes the kind of partnering with educators that DPLA is seeking to undertake:

The Digital Public Library of America is looking for excellent educators for its new Education Advisory Committee. We recently announced a new grant from the Whiting Foundation that funds the creation of new primary source-based education resources for student use with teacher guidance.

We are currently recruiting a small group of enthusiastic humanities educators in grades 6-14* to collaborate with us on this project. Members of this group will:
•build and review primary source sets (curated collections of primary sources about people, places, events, or ideas) and related teacher guides
•give feedback on the tools students and teachers will use to generate their own sets on DPLA’s website
•help DPLA develop and revise its strategy for education resource development and promotion in 2015-2016

If selected, participants are committing to:
•attend a 2-day in-person meeting on July 29-July, 30 2015 (arriving the night of July 28) in Boston, Massachusetts
•attend three virtual meetings (September 2015, November 2015, and January 2016)
•attend a 2-day in-person meeting in March 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts (dates to be selected in consultation with participants)

Participants will receive a $1,500 stipend for participation as well as full reimbursement for travel costs.

DPLA has also been receiving significant funding from additional sources for other efforts–including funding its “hubs,” both its content ones (“large libraries, museums, archives, or other digital repositories that maintain a one-to-one relationship with the DPLA and assist in providing and maintaining metadata for content”) and its service ones (“state, regional, or other collaborations that host, aggregate, or otherwise bring together digital objects from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions”). In a big boost to its hub development, the DPLA has recently received $1.9 million from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and $1.5 million from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation); it will use this support to advance their efforts in “connecting online collections from coast to coast by 2017” (“Digital Public Library of America makes push to serve all 50 states by 2017.”)

Academic Credibility and Commercially-Run Scientific Journals

May 18, 2015

While EMOB typically focuses on issues and databases associated more with the humanities, we have on occasion discussed scientific commercial databases–often in terms of the unwieldy control they exercise and the exorbitant subscription fees they charge. In a post several years  ago “The Big Bundle Steal: Open Access and Subscription Databases”, we discussed how some scholars in the scientific community have been working hard to find other avenues that will wrest control from these large firms and place that control back into the hands of those in the academic community.

In this context, EMOB thought it might mention a situation that has recently transpired in Australia involving the country’s leading academic medical publication.  When the  journals division (AMPCo) of the Australian Medical Association decided to outsource the production of its renowned Medical Journal of Australia to the hugely powerful mammoth Elsevier, its equally well-respected editor, Dr. Stephen Leeder protested that “working with Elsevier was ‘beyond the reach of my ethical tolerance'” (Sydney Morning Herald 4 May 2015). As a result, Leeder, who had not been informed about the decision to outsource until it was a done deal (The Guardian, 4 May 2015) was fired by the AMA from his role as MJA‘s editor.  In response 19 of the 20-member editorial board have resigned. While the ultimate fallout over AMPCo’s decision to retain Elsevier and dismiss Leeder remains to be seen, Australian academics in the field are predicting that scholars will shun the MJA.  Accusations of Elsevier’s launching “fake” medical journals (ones that appeared too closely aligned with major pharmaceutical firms)  in 2009 seemed  to have already caused many to question its credibility.  Maybe problems of credibility, more than outrageously high subscription fees, will prove to be the price that is finally too high for  the academic community to pay.

March 9th Bodleian Libraries Hosts EEBO-TCP Hackfest

February 23, 2015
Readers may be interested in the following announcement of an upcoming hackfest:

The Bodleian Libraries are hosting a one-day hackfest on 9 March to celebrate the release of 25,000 texts from the Early English Books Online project into the public domain. The event encourages students, researchers from all disciplines, and members of the public with an interest in the intersection between technology, history and literature to work together to develop a project using the texts and the data they may generate.

The EEBO-TCP corpus covers the period from 1473 to 1700 and is now estimated to comprise more than two million pages and nearly a billion words. It represents a history of the printed word in England from the birth of the printing press to the reign of William and Mary, and it contains texts of incomparable significance for research across all academic disciplines, including literature, history, philosophy, linguistics, theology, music, fine arts, education, mathematics, and science.

Prizes will be given to the best of the day’s projects.

Participants in the day’s event are encouraged to consider entering their ideas into the online Early English Books Ideas Hack (http://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/get-involved/competitions-and-projects), which seeks to explore innovative and creative approaches to the data and identify potential paths for future activity. Submissions for the Ideas Hack close on 2 April.