Archive for the ‘Bibliography’ Category

An update on Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker

July 20, 2010

[Edit: fixed a couple of broken links—my apologies. -bp]

I wanted to let readers of this blog know about a couple of updates at Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker that I hope will make the site a valuable adjunct for those who look for early modern books at Google Books and the Internet Archive. These changes should also make it easier for users to contribute links to the site.

For several months, between about November, 2009 and March, 2010, visitors to the site wouldn’t have seen a whole lot happening. During that period, rather than adding new links to the site, I was re-tooling the site’s data model in order to make things more flexible and robust—essentially, I was recreating all of the site’s content along new lines. This was not fun, but I think the results are worth it. (more…)

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Collaborative Review Announcement: Stephen Karian’s Jonathan Swift in Print and Manuscript to be reviewed July 25, 2010

July 2, 2010

Mark your calendars!  We are in the process of inviting scholars to take part in a collaborative review of Stephen Karian’s Jonathan Swift in Print and Manuscript (Cambridge, 2010).  One scholar will post about one of Steve’s chapters every day or so, beginning July 25.  Comments to the posts are encouraged.

Much as I love printed books, the internet seems to provide the better forum for book reviews.  Net reviews are timely, and they allow for dialogue in a way that print cannot.  Ever since a panel discussion on book reviews chaired by Jim May at MWASECS in 2005, I have been thinking that we should properly review books on the Net.  Dave Mazella led the way on the Long Eighteenth with his “collaborative readings.”  Dave also suggested that we review Steve’s book on emob.  So here we are.

The scholars participating in the review so far are listed below.

  • Dave Mazella (University of Houston) Chapter 1 “Print Publication”
  • Eleanor Shevlin (West Chester University) Chapter 2 “Manuscript Circulation through 1714”
  • Ashley Marshall (Johns Hopkins University) Chapter 3 “Manuscript Circulation after 1714”
  • Randy Robertson (Susquehanna University) Chapter 4 “Censorship and Revision in ‘On Poetry: A Rhapsody'”
  • Al Coppola (John Jay College of Criminal Justice) Chapter 5 “The Texts and Contexts of ‘The Legion Club'”
  • David Brewer (Ohio State University) Chapter 6 “The authorial strategies and material texts of ‘Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift'”
  • Eleanor Shevlin (West Chester University) Conclusion

Again, we welcome contributions from readers.

Bibliography: An Endangered Skill?

June 10, 2010

Recently Jennifer Howard, a reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education, posted a request on SHARP-L about whether bibliography was an endangered skill or art in the academy. She sought thoughts from teachers and students about this question an as well as “where the field bibliography might be headed.”

Her query generated a number of responses ranging from ones that indicated bibliographic training was alive and well in the responder’s particular program to ones that indicated students’ exposure to the topic was highly dependent upon the faculty member they had for a given course or the climate within the department. That Howard added a note later that afternoon in which she clarifies what she meant by bibliography–“I’m interested in the book-history side of bibliography, not in how to prepare correct bibliographic citations”–is telling in my mind. While responses posted to the list before Howard’s clarification primarily addressed the “book-history side,” I do wonder if off-list comments suggested possible confusion about what Howard meant by “bibliography.” Bibliographic citations, annotated bibliographies, and the like are still the standard staples of what is taught in first-year writing courses and even more advanced topics. So it would seem odd, to me at least, if someone had misinterpreted her query, especially one posted on a listserv devoted to the history of the book.

Many of our discussions on emob have noted the important relationship between traditional bibliographic knowledge and electronic resources such as EEBO, ECCO, and Burney. (See for instance the discussion that emerged in the collaborative reading of Ian’s Gadd’s “The Use and Misuse of Early English Books Online.”) But we have not had an extended discussion about the state of bibliographic training. Rather some comments have considered it to be a given that descriptive and analytical bibliographic skills are not regularly or as vigorously taught in graduate programs (with admitted exceptions), while others have stressed the need for such knowledge. Thus, I would like to hear more about if and how we teach these skills in our undergraduate and graduate classrooms as well as whether students respond well to such lessons. How do colleagues respond? (One SHARP commentator made mention of “sneaking” this material into courses). What tools and materials do people use? And what is the context or type of course(s) in which such skills are taught? Some SHARP-L responses to Howard’s query favored teaching bibliographical skills within a textual studies context, while others preferred a “book-history” context.

I have tended to use both approaches, but it depends upon the course. In methods/skills courses, I have used Oxford University’s manuscript exercise, Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum Est.” While some students found the process of editing tedious, almost all appreciate being exposed in a hands-on way to issues they had never considered. I also use videos and the workshop materials for the hand-press book from University of VA’s Rare Book School to teach bibliography from a book-history standpoint.

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

Libraries through Students’ Eyes

February 15, 2010

One thing we have not discussed on this blog is the role of libraries, and particularly of reference rooms, in colleges.  Today’s  NY Times forum titled “libraries through students’ eyes” suggests some predictable student responses  to the question of whether libraries are needed:  students enjoy the tactile feel of books and the quiet of a space dedicated to reading.  Very few, if any, however, discussed the printed reference works to be found there. The value of the reference room was not mentioned.

The NYTImes forum pointed to twin pedagogical and institutional problems faculty, librarians, and students now face.  Forced to hunt for more space to accommodate computers, librarians look for printed texts that can be deleted from the reference room.  Are there rigorous strategies in place for what to do when an electronic source replaces a printed reference work?  Do colleges that subscribe to the new online Oxford Dictionary of English Biography, for example, simply throw out the older printed multi-volume set?  Does the online Encylopedia Britannica adequately replace its printed forerunner?  How do we evaluate an online “updated” version of a printed reference work to decide whether it ought to replace or merely supplement the older printed version?

Secondly, how can faculty best remain up-to-speed on the reference works students most use and, more importantly, be helpful in directing them to the sources, both printed and electronic, that are most appropriate for their work?  What strategies exist for encouraging greater and more transparent dialogue between instructors and librarians?  How do we help students make use of the two reference rooms–material and virtual–to which they have access?

Lastly, will the promising platforms of the future like 18thConnect include first-phase research tools, like encyclopedias, dictionaries, or the ODNB?  Will these platforms acknowledge printed resources that are also essential to research?  To what extent will these platforms be designed as introductions to research?

The Digital Revolution and the Scholar: Darnton’s View

November 10, 2009

To continue the discussion begun by our consideration of Ken Auletta’s Googled, we move to another recent work. Robert Darnton, who has opted out of the Google Book Settlement for Harvard, has faith that we can do better in terms of providing digital access. His The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future presents his vision and recommendations. As he asserts in a recent article for Publisher’s Weekly:

Today, however, we have the means to make that utopia a reality. In many societies, despite enormous inequalities, ordinary people not only read but have access to a huge quantity of reading matter through the Internet. I would not minimize the digital divide, which separates the computerized world from the rest, nor would I underestimate the importance of traditional books. But the future is digital. And I believe that if we can resolve the current challenges facing books in ways that favor ordinary citizens, we can create a digital republic of letters. Much of my book is devoted to this premise and can be summarized in two words: digitize and democratize.

Because versions of the chapters in Darnton’s The Case for Books have appeared elsewhere, those who do not have a copy of his book might find the following list of sources helpful. (The first two chapters are most recent).

Chapter One comes from “Google & the Future of Books” that appeared in The New York Review of Books, (February 12, 2009).

Chapter Two comes from “The Library in the New Age,” New York Review of Books, (June 12, 2008).

Chapter Four comes from “Lost and Found in Cyberspace,” Chronicle of Higher Education ( March 12, 1999).

Chapter Five comes from “The New Age of the Book,” New York Review of Books, (March 18, 1999).

Chapter Eight comes from “The Great Book Massacre,” New York Review of Books, (April 26, 2001).

Chapter Nine comes from “The Heresies of Bibliography,” New York Review of Books, (May 29, 2003).

Chapter Ten comes from “Extraordinary Commonplaces,” New York Review of Books, (December 21, 2000).

Chapter Eleven comes from “What Is the History of the Books? (widely reprinted), Daedalus (summer 1982): 65-83.

Darnton has been interviewed by a number of sources about this book. Rebecca Rego Barry” “Google v. Gutenberg: Robert Darnton’s new book on old books and e-books” appears in Fine Books & Collecting.

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.

EC/ASECS Annual Meeting, October 8-11

September 30, 2009

This is just a reminder that the EC/ASECS annual meeting in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is coming up. There are sure to be many splendid sessions, but Eleanor’s roundtable session, “Bibliography, the ESTC, and 18th-Century Electronic Databases” will be a highlight.

Details of the conference can be found by clicking here.

18thConnect

August 7, 2009

Hello to the Early Modern Online Bibliography blog: your discussions here are amazing, and rich with references.

Robert Markley at the University of Illinois and I started 18thConnect — we are co-directors — as a subsidiary organization to NINES (http://www.nines.org) which is incredibly supportive, both financially and in other ways as well.  Basically, 18thConnect is an organization that will peer-review digital resources created by 18th-century scholars and then aggregate those resources along with commerical resources.

What does that mean?  When you come to the 18thConnect home page, you will be able to search for digital resources among free scholarly resources available on the web that have been judged high quality through peer review, AND commercial catalogs:  ECCO, Adam Matthew’s Eighteenth-Century Journals Portal, JSTOR, ProjectMuse, etc.  Our finding aid will deliver links to these resources — 18thConnect won’t house them in any way — and then, when you click on a link to an edition of Clarissa, say, proffered by ECCO, if your library subscribes to it and you are logged in at work, you will be sent directly to the resource.

Here is the news for those of you who already know about this initiative: at our summer meeting, July 15, in Dublin, Ireland, at the Royal Irish Academy, Gale consented to give us their page images.  We will attempt to machine-read them better, using our own home-made OCR program, in order to produce better plain text files, something closer to the keyed texts produced by the ECCO TCP.  Gale will allow us to index the texts that we produce to allow keyword searching on ECCO texts EVEN FOR THOSE PEOPLE WHO DON’T OWN the ECCO catalog.  In other words, you’ll be able to find the bibliographic data of the texts containing the keywords for which you search: if your library subscribes to ECCO, you can get the text directly, but if not, at least you now know which texts you’ll have to find through some other means (microfilm, interlibrary loan, visit to special collections).

We are now negotiating with the British Library and ESTC to get that catalog in as well.  The Digital Bibliography for English Literature (formerly the NCBEL) will be in soon.  We don’t yet  have the 18thConnect finding aid up and running: once we have the Gale (ECCO), Adam Matthew (18th-c Journals Portal), DBEL, ESTC data ingested and running smoothly, we will launch: we hope, June 2010.

If you would like to contribute ideas to how this organization should work, you may wish to first take a look at online videos about NINES and 18thConnect available at:

http://unixgen.muohio.edu/~poetess/NINES

and

http://unixgen.muohio.edu/~poetess/NINES/18thConnect.html

(our temporary home)

The NINES interface has changed since I made these videos, but the principles of its operation have not.

Please contribute ideas here, as I will check frequently, but also feel free to email me: mandellc@muohio.edu