Archive for the ‘Digital Humanities’ Category

Conference to Launch of Digital Miscellanies Index, a New Resource

August 5, 2013

On 17 September 2013, St. Peter’s College Oxford will host a one-day conference, “A Miscellany of Miscellanies: Popular Poetic Collections and the Eighteenth Century Canon” and an evening performance of eighteenth-century music to launch the Digital Miscellanies Index.

This Leverhulme-funded index was three years in the making. Its publication will make freely available 1,000 poetic miscellanies published during the eighteenth century. The Index adds to the porjects hosted by Bodleian’s Centre for the Study of the Book. The Bodleian Library’s Harding Collection, “which houses the most significant but largely neglected group of miscellanies in the world,” contains the majority of the miscellanies, but the project also contains data about copies held at the British Library and the Cambridge Library. The project developers based their work on Professor Michael Suarez, S.J.’s recent bibliography of eighteenth-century poetic miscellanies.

Dr. Abigail Williams (St. Peter’s College Oxford) is the Index’s principal investigator. Some EMOB readers may have heard Dr. Jennifer Batt, DMI’s post-doctoral project coordinator, speak about this exciting project at past American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies conferences. As the DMI website notes, “In displaying this material for the first time, the Index will enable users to map the changing nature of literary taste in the eighteenth century.”

We look forward to the availability of the Digital Miscellanies Index and to hearing the experiences of EMOB readers using this new resource.

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SHARP 2013 Digital Projects and Tools Showcase

July 29, 2013

In mid-July the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading & Publishing (SHARP) met for its twenty-first annual conference, “Geographies of the Book,” in Philadelphia. Hosted by University of Pennsylvania, the conference included a three-hour, stand-alone digital showcase on Saturday, July 20th. Before I turn to the sixteen projects featured in the showcase, a few words about the history of digital sessions at SHARP are in order.

The tradition of showcasing digital projects at SHARP conferences was begun by Dr. Katherine Harris (San Jose University) for the 2008 conference held in Oxford, England. Currently serving as the E-Resources Review Editor for SHARP News, Dr. Harris continued to organize showcases for subsequent conferences. These highly popular sessions ran concurrently with other sessions. Although the 2011 Washington, DC organizers had attempted to find space to hold a stand-alone session that would not compete with other panels, space limitations prevented this desire from becoming a reality. A successful digital project session for the DC conference, however, was organized once again by Kathy Harris. Yet, the 2013 Digital Showcase at Penn marked the first time that the demonstrations of new digital projects and tools at SHARP had a dedicated time slot of its own as well as a setting well-suited to such an exhibition.

With a dedicated three-hour running time, the digital showcase ran from 12:30 to 3:30 pm; it competed for attention with parallel programming only during its final hour. The showcase’s location in Penn’s Houston Hall’s Hall of Flags easily accommodated 16 six-foot tables, each with its own monitor, and afforded the room for numerous attendees to navigate the various stations with ease.

Mitch Fraas (UPenn) demonstrates his project.
Photo credit: Alex Franklin (Univ. of Oxford)

Alan Galey (UToronto) demonstrates his project.
Photo credit: Alex Franklin (Univ. of Oxford)

The following is a list of the sixteen projects:

Eight of the sixteen projects deal directly with the early modern period, and at least two–Mark Algee-Hewitt and Tom Mole’s Bibliograph and Tim Stinson’s ARC and Collex–extend beyond the historical confines of the early modern but possess specific relevance to the period. I have counted Alan Galey’s The Borders of the Book: Visualizing Paratexts and Marginalia in Multiple Copies and Editions among the early modern projects because his work relies on texts from this period. Yet, his work on digital visualizations of differences in paratextual features and different readers’ marginalia found in multiple copies of the same books has larger application, too. All of the projects, no matter what the period, embody approaches and strategies afforded by the digital that can help advance work in book history and related fields. The projects are also at various stages–and you will notice that some have links, and some don’t because they are either in very early stages or simply not ready for widespread release. Bibliograph, for instance, is currently a prototype, with a beta version in the works for testing; the project launch date is aimed for 2014 or 2015.

END: Early Novels Database is a collaborative project involving several Philadelphia academic institutions but still in the midst of digitization and construction. In contrast, the Eighteenth-Century English Grammars Database is, in one sense, “complete, but as Professor Yáñez-Bouza noted, it is also “an open-end project because one can always add more grammars and some of the fields could be completed with more information had we the resources to look into contemporary book reviews and sales catalogues (e.g. the fields Price and Target Audience).”

Several of the projects have made previous appearances in EMOB posts. A post last June mentioned ARC (Advanced Research Consortium), and it is very good to see the progress since then. The Mellon grant that the Early Modern OCR Project (see the entry for Jacob Heil) received was announced in a post last fall. More recently, EMOB devoted a post to the image-matching software developed at the Bodleian that Alex Franklin presented at SHARP. Finally, the Mapping the Republic of Letters project the EMOB discussed in a post several years ago, served as the inspiration for Mitch Fraas’s Expanding the Republic of Letters: India and the Circulation of Ideas in the Late Eighteenth Century.

Explore and comment!

Virtual Paul’s Cross Project website is now available for exploration!

May 8, 2013

st-paul

About a year ago, EMOB devoted a post to several NEH-funded digital projects. John N. Wall, Project Director and Professor of English Literature at NC State University, has let us know that the Virtual Paul’s Cross Project website is now available for exploration at http://vpcp.chass.ncsu.edu. We provide below the press release announcing its availability and invite EMOB readers to explore and comment.

The Virtual Paul’s Cross Project uses visual and acoustic modeling technology to recreate the experience of John Donne’s Paul’s Cross sermon for November 5th, 1622. The goal of this project is to integrate what we know, or can surmise, about the look and sound of this space, destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666, and about the course of activities as they unfolded on the occasion of a Paul’s Cross sermon, so that we may experience a major public event of early modern London as it unfolded in real time and in the context of its original surroundings.

The Virtual Paul’s Cross Project has been supported by a Digital Start-Up Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Virtual Paul’s Cross Project has sought the highest degree of accuracy in this recreation. To do so, it combines visual imagery from the 16th and 17th centuries with measurements of these buildings made during archaeological surveys of their foundations, still in the ground in today’s London. The visual presentation also integrates into the appearance of the visual model the look of a November day in London, with overcast skies and an atmosphere thick with smoke. The acoustic simulation recreates the acoustic properties of Paul’s Churchyard, incorporating information about the dispersive, absorptive or reflective qualities of the buildings and the spaces between them.

This website allows us to explore the northeast corner of Paul’s Churchyard, outside St Paul’s Cathedral, in London, on November 5th, 1622, and to hear John Donne’s sermon for Gunpowder Day, all two hours of it, in the space of its original delivery and in the context of church bells and the random ambient noises of dogs, birds, horses, and crowds of up to 5,000 people.
There is a Concise Guide to the whole site here.

In keeping with the desire for authenticity, the text of Donne’s sermon was taken from a manuscript prepared within days of the sermon’s original delivery that contains corrections in Donne’s own handwriting. It was recorded by a professional actor using an original pronunciation script and interpreting contemporary accounts of Donne’s preaching style.

For John Donne’s Paul’s Cross sermon for November 5th, 1622 (in 15-minute segments), as heard from 2 different positions in the Churchyard, go here.

On the website, the user can learn how the visual and acoustic models were created and explore the political and social background of Donne’s sermon. In addition to the complete recordings of Donne’s Gunpowder Day sermon, one can also explore the question of audibility of the unamplified human voice in Paul’s Churchyard by sampling excerpts from the sermon as heard from eight different locations across the Churchyard and in the presence of four different sizes of crowd.

For excerpts of the sermon from eight different locations and in the presence of different sizes of crowd go here.

The website also houses an archive of materials that contributed to the recreation, including visual records of the buildings, high resolution files of the manuscript and first printed versions of Donne’s sermon for Gunpowder Day 1622, and contemporary accounts of Donne’s preaching style. In addition, the website includes an acoustic analysis of the Churchyard, discussion of the challenges of interpreting historic depictions of the Cathedral and its environs, and a review of the liturgical context of outdoor preaching in the early modern age.

To see the visual model in detail on a fly around video go here. This is especially dramatic if viewed in HD video and at Full Screen display.
This Project is the work of an international team of scholars, engineers, actors, and linguists. In addition to the Project Director, they include David Hill, Associate Professor of Architecture at NC State University; Joshua Stephens, Jordan Grey, Chelsea Sacks, and Craig Johnson, graduate students in architecture at NC State University; John Schofield, Archaeologist at St Paul’s Cathedral and author of St Paul’s Cathedral Before Wren (2011); David Crystal, linguist; Ben Crystal, actor; Ben Markham and Matthew Azevedo, acoustic engineers with Acentech, Inc; and members of the faculty in linguistics and their graduate students at NC State University, especially professors Walt Wolfram, Erik Thomas, Robin Dodsworth, and Jeff Mielke.

Wall’s team is now planning a second stage of this Project, with the goal of completing the visual model of Paul’s Churchyard, including a complete model of St Paul’s Cathedral as it looked in the early 1620’s, during John Donne’s tenure as Dean of the cathedral. This visual model will be the basis for an acoustic model of the cathedral’s interior, especially the Choir, which will be the site for restaging a full day of worship services, including Bible readings, prayers, liturgies from the Book of Common Prayer, sermons, and music composed by the professional musicians on the cathedral’s staff for performance by the cathedral’s organist and its choir of men and boys. They will be competing for our attention, as they did in the 1620’s, with the noise of crowds who gathered in the cathedral’s nave, known as Paul’s Walk, to see and be seen and to exchange the latest gossip of the day.

SHARP 2013 Call for Submissions, for digital projects related to book history and bibliography

December 13, 2012

The Organizing Committee for the Philadelphia SHARP Conference 2013 announces a second Call for Submissions, for digital projects related to book history and bibliography. These may include but are not limited to research tools, apps and software, bibliographies or databases, corpora of media or texts, digitization initiatives, remediations, and interactive interfaces.

 We will exhibit up to 20 of these projects in a free-form session in which participants will be able to share their digital and new media work with an audience of nearly 300 conference delegates (faculty, librarians, administrators, independent scholars, graduate students).

 The Showcase will be held between 12 and 3pm on Saturday, July 20, 2013. The conference runs from Thursday, July 18 to Sunday, July 21, 2013.

 We welcome submissions on all aspects of SHARP’s purview: authorship, reading, and publishing. We particularly encourage proposals of new or recent work, as well as proposals directly relevant to the conference theme, “Geographies of the Book.” (To learn more about the 2013 Conference, please visit our website at http://www.library.upenn.edu/exhibits/lectures/SHARP2013/index.html).

 The deadline for proposals is Friday, January 25, 2013, at 11:59 p.m.

Eastern Standard Time (GMT +5h).

 

To submit, please email the SHARP 2013 Program Committee at sharpupenn2013@gmail.com with a brief introduction (up to 400 words) of your project/tool/software. Questions that may be addressed include:

  •  what were the origins of your project; what are its theoretical underpinnings and its goals?
  • what are the historical period and geography/ies covered?
  • what determined its design? what tools and software were used? if your project *is* a tool or software, how does it benefit book historians and/or bibliographers
  • how did the digital or media component(s) of your project enable, strengthen, or transform the materials and methods under consideration? what new questions were raised?
  • how might this approach or tool be scaled up, appropriated, or reused in other contexts?

 Please be sure to name all participants and institutions involved.

 Participants will be expected to provide their own hardware for demonstrations (PCs/Macs, tablets, drives, sound systems, etc.). The conference’s Local Arrangements Committee will provide logistical assistance (tables, chairs, extension cords, Internet access) but cannot offer tech support.

 Those who have submitted papers to the main conference program may also submit project proposals to the Digital Projects Showcase, but, with consideration for program planning and maximal participation, will only be selected for one or the other.

 One participant for each proposal must be(come) a member of SHARP prior to the conference.

 

Some financial assistance may be available; in the past we have been able to fund between 10-15% of all travel grant requests. If you wish to apply for a travel grant, please include a statement of up to 150 words explaining how much funding you are requesting and why.

 

Please contact the SHARP Program Committee with any questions by email at sharpupenn2013@gmail.com or by phone at +1.347.6SHRP13 (+1.347.647.7713).

 We look forward to your submissions and to showcasing our changing digital landscape in Philadelphia next July.

 Sincerely,

David McKnight

Convenor, SHARP 2013 Conference, Philadelphia

 

“Geographies of the Book”

The 21st Annual Conference of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing (SHARP)

18-21 July, 2013

University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA http://www.library.upenn.edu/exhibits/lectures/SHARP2013/index.html

Folger Digital Texts: Shakespeare’s Plays, Cutting-Edge Code: A Powerful Research Tool for Scholars

December 6, 2012

The Folger is delighted to announce the launch of Folger Digital Texts. These are reliable, expertly edited, and free digital Shakespeare texts for use by researchers. Starting from the Folger Editions of Shakespeare’s works edited by Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine, Folger Digital Texts uses XML to create a highly articulate indexing system. Researchers can read the plays online, download PDFs for offline reading, search a play or the whole corpus, navigate by act, scene, line, or the new Folger Throughline Numbers. In short, every word, space, and piece of punctuation has its own place online. Twelve plays are currently available, and the remainder of the works and poems will be released throughout 2013.

The XML-coded files are offered as a free download for noncommercial use by scholars and can be used as the groundwork for digital Shakespeare research projects, app development, and other projects.

The Folger Shakespeare Library editions, published by Simon and Schuster, remain available in print and as ebooks and include essays, glosses, notes, and illustrations from the materials in the Folger collections.

The Folger Digital Texts team includes Rebecca Niles, editor and interface architect, and Michael Poston, editor and encoding architect. They welcome your feedback at folgertexts (at) folger.edu.

If you click here, you will be taken directly to Folger Digital Texts.

T-PEN: A New Tool for Transcription of Digitized Manuscripts

October 22, 2012

One of the exciting turn of events for scholars has been the growing number of unpublished, hand-written documents now available on the world wide web. Textual scholars no longer have to travel to distant countries for view the essential manuscript(s) for their research. Instead, they can now sit themselves down in front of their laptop and display each successive page. This has moved many sources that were once difficult to access into the “completely accessible” category.

But does that make them usable?  Despite the desire to make many manuscript collection freely accessible, many digital repositories use “tiled-based” viewers in order to protect unauthorized copying of the collection. This is completely understandable, but those viewers sometimes place limits on how a digital surrogate can be viewed. They can even make it difficult for scholars to extract what they often want most: a transcription of the manuscript’s content. Moreover, the current practice of transcribing from digitized pages can easily permit mistakes to occur. Transcribers currently move from the image to a word processing application in another display window (either on the same screen or on a different monitor). That process can easily mimic the same mistakes that the original scribe could make: haplography (omission of content between similar or identical words; “saut du même au meme”), dittography (repetition of letters or syllables), duplication or omission (of letters, words, or lines), often caused by homoearcton and homoeoteleuton (similar beginnings and endings of words), and transpositions. Could it then be possible to make these digital manuscripts both accessible and highly usable?

T-PEN (Transcription for Paleographical and Editorial Notation) seeks to address both the accessibility and usability of digital repositories. Developed by the Center for Digital Theology of Saint Louis University, in collaboration with the Carolingian Canon Law Project of the University of Kentucky, this new digital tool is a sophisticated web-based application that assists scholars in transcribing these manuscripts. To reduce the likelihood of transcription errors, we took advantage of digital technology to place both the transcription and the exemplar in a manner that minimized the visual movement between the two as much as possible. We accomplished this with a simple but novel visualization of the lines of script in the exemplar, which we integrated with interactive transcription spaces. To build the tool, we developed an algorithm for “parsing” the lines of script in an image, and a data model that connected the image delivery of manuscript repositories with the actions of transcribers.

But we wanted T-PEN to offer more than just a means to ensure good transcription. We had, in fact,  three goals in mind:

  1. To build a tool useful for any kind of scholar, from the digital Luddite to those obsessed with text encoding;
  2. To provide as many tools as possible to enhance the transcription process;
  3. To help scholars make their transcriptions interoperable so that those transcriptions would never be locked into the world of T-PEN alone.

After two years of design, development, and intensive testing this tool is now available to the wider public. It was built in the first instance for those working with pre-modern manuscripts, but there is nothing in its design that would prevent early modern scholars from exploiting T-PEN for their purposes. T-PEN is a complex application and to explain every function would take several posts. Instead, I want to provide a brief overview of how someone can set up a transcription project, how they can use T-PEN to produce high-quality work and finally how to get transcriptions out of T-PEN and into other applications or contexts.

Choosing your Manuscript

T-PEN is meant to act as a nexus between digital repositories and the scholar. To date, we have negotiated access to over 3,000 European manuscripts and we are working on further agreements to expand that list. Our aim is to have a minimum of 10,000 pre-modern European manuscripts available for transcription. Even with that number, we will never be able to satisfy all potential users. We therefore enabled private uploads to extend T-PEN’s usability. Many scholars have obtained digital images of a manuscript and they have permission to make use of them for research purposes. Private uploads to T-PEN are an extension of that “fair use.”  Users zip the JPG images into a single file and then upload them to T-PEN. These type of projects can only add five additional collaborators (see project management, below), and they can never become public projects. Currently T-PEN can support around 300 private projects, and we are expanding our storage capacity for more.

T-PEN's Catalog of Available Manuscripts

Transcribing your Manuscript

Once you select your manuscript you can immediately begin your transcription work. T-PEN does not store any permanent copies of the page images, so each time you request to see a page T-PEN loads the image from the originating repository. If you have never transcribed the page before, T-PEN takes you to the line parsing interface. This adds a little time to the image loading as T-PEN parses the image in real time. When it finishes, you will see a page that looks like this:

T-PEN's Line Parsing Interface

T-PEN attempts to identify the location of each line on the page and then uses alternating colors to display those coordinates. As you can see, we make no claim of absolute perfection. We worked on this algorithm for  almost two and half years and after extensive testing, we’ve been able to promise, on average, an 85% success rate. There are a number of factors that prohibit complete accuracy and so we offer a way for the transcriber to introduce corrections herself. You can add, delete or re-size columns; and insert or merge lines as well. You can even adjust the width of individual lines if they vary in length. You can even combine a number of lines if you want to have them grouped together for your  transcription. Sometimes, manuscripts don’t merge well in our modern, rectilinear world: many handwritten texts were written at an angle or were so tightly bound that the page could not be photographed as flat. T-PEN ultimately doesn’t care: what really matters for connecting transcription to a set of coordinates on a digital image. What really matters is that the left side of the line box aligns with the written text. That’s the anchor.

When you are satisfied with the line parsing, you can start transcribing. The transcription interface looks like this:

T-PEN Transcription User Interface

This interface allows you to transcribe line by line, with the current line surrounded by a red box. There are some basic features to note. First, as you transcribe the previous line is noted above because so often sentence units are split across lines. Transcription input is stored in Unicode and T-PEN will take whatever language set the user has enabled his computer to type. If there are special characters in the manuscript, the transcriber can insert them either by clicking on the special character button (the first ten are hot-keyed to CTRL+1 through 0).

Second, users can encode their transcription as they go. On this aspect, T-PEN is both innovative and provocative. Many scholarly projects that include text encoding often adopt a three-step process: the scholar transcribes the text and then hands it to support staff to complete the encoding, which is finally vetted by the scholar. However, there are many times in which semantic encoding of transcriptions has to include how the text is presented on the page. T-PEN innovatively allows scholars to integrate transcription (with the manuscript wholly in view) and encoding into one step. Often the best encoder is the transcriber herself. That innovation comes with a provocative concept, however. In digital humanities where TEI is the reigning orthodoxy, T-PEN is at least heterodox if not openly heretical. T-PEN’s data model does not expect,  nor require, a transcription to be encoded much less utilize TEI as the basis of structured text. Instead, T-PEN treats all XML elements as simply part of the character stream. T-PEN can support transcribers who don’t want to encode at all as well as those who are wholly committed to the world of TEI. For those who want to encode, a schema can be linked to a project to produce a set of XML buttons that can be used in the transcription interface.

Project Management

For those who simply want to start transcribing, project management will not be that important. For those who envisage a more sustained project (and perhaps a collaborative one at that), it will be vital. There are a number of components in managing a T-PEN project, but here I want to highlight two of them.

Collaboration. Like most digital tools, T-PEN allows you to invite collaborators to join your project. All members of a project have to be registered on T-PEN (but that’s free and requires only providing your full name and an email address). Managing collaboration has three features, of which only a few projects will use all three. There is first adding and deleting project members. Any member of a project can see who is also a member, but only the project leader can add or delete members. A project leader can even have T-PEN send an invitation to a non-T-PEN person and invite them to join (and once they do, they automatically become part of that project).

Collaboration in Project Management

Second, there is a project log to inspect. This log records any activity that changes the content or parameters of the project. This can be particularly helpful when tracking down how a transcription has changed in a shared project (and a user can display the history of each line in the Trasnscription UI). Finally, projects can make use of T-PEN’s switchboard feature. This is for transcription projects that may be part of a larger project, and where the transcriptions will be aggregated in another digital environment. Switchboard does two things for a project: (1) it allows different projects to share the same XML schema so that all transcriptions will conform to the larger project’s standards; and (2) it will expose the transcription through a web service to permit easy export to the larger project.

Project Options. The two more important options are button management and setting the transcription tools. As seen in the screen shot of the transcription interface, users can use buttons to insert both XML elements and special characters. Those buttons are created and modified as part of the project options. If there is an XML schema for the project, a project leader can link it to the project. Then in button management, the elements in that schema populate the XML button list. The button populator does not discern between metadata elements and elements found in the body of an encoding schema. Users then have to modify the button list to cull the elements that won’t be used during transcription. There’s an additional advantage to editing that list: each button can gain a more readable title. This can be helpful if the encoding schema exploits the varying use of the <seg>  or the <div> elements in TEI. When the possible deployment of the tag might be unclear to those with less experience with TEI, a more straightforward title can become a better guide to its use.

Special characters allow the user to identify characters in the UTF-8 system which may not be represented on a standard keyboard. These can be created by entering the correct Unicode value for the character. The first 10 characters are mapped to hotkeys CTRL+1 through 0.

Finally, the set of tools that are available on the transcription interface are set in project options. T-PEN has thirteen tools built-in and most of them were included to assist transcribers of pre-modern manuscripts. Some will be helpful to editors of modern texts. If those tools are unhelpful, then the user can expand that list of tools: all that is needed a name of the tool and its URL. Once attached to the project, the user will be able to access that tool in the transcription interface.

Getting your Transcription out of T-PEN

Digital tools often fall into one of two categories. “Thinking” tools are ones that allow users to manipulate and process datasets in order to test a certain idea or to visualize an abstract concept. They can also allow the user to annotate a resource as a way of processing the scholar’s conception of the object’s meaning or the hermeneutical framework it may require. These tools are invaluable, but they do not easily produce results that can be integrated into a print or digital publication. The second type is what I call the production tool. With these applications, the final objective is to produce something that can be integrated in other contexts. T-PEN falls firmly into this second category—although it has its own annotation tool with which a user can record observations about each manuscript page (and it is compliant with the W3C standard, the Open Annotation Collaboration). Scholars transcribe normally one of three reasons; to create a scholarly edition; to place those transcriptions in footnotes or in the appendices of a monograph; or to integrate an encoded text into a larger resource.

T-PEN supports four basic export formats: XML/plaintext, where the user can filter out one or more XML tags; PDF; RTF which is compatible with most word processors; and finally, basic HTML. For the first one, if the user has attached a header to the project, that header can be included in the export. There is an important caveat here:  T-PEN was not designed to be an XML editor. We do offer a basic, well-formedness check (which stops at the first error), but T-PEN does not offer full validation services. Most scholars who encode with T-PEN export their transcriptions to an XML editor for full validation of the file. The last three export formats include some simple transformation for text decoration (italics, bold, etc.). Users can also identify the whole transcription or specify a range based on the pagination (or foliation) of the manuscript.

T-PEN's Export Options

This post only covers the basics of T-PEN. There are more features available to the user. There is a demonstration video on YouTube  where you can walk with one of T-PEN’s research fellows as she begins a transcription project.  T-PEN is freely available, thanks to a major investment from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and a Level 2 Start-up grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. So go to t-pen.org and register for an account.

Early Modern OCR Project (eMOP) Receives Mellon Grant

October 2, 2012

ANNOUNCEMENT

English Professor Laura Mandell, Director of the Initiative for Digital Humanities, Media, and Culture (IDHMC), along with two co-PIs Professor Ricardo Gutierrez-Osuna and Professor Richard Furuta, are very pleased to announce that Texas A&M has received a 2-year, $734,000 development grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for the Early Modern OCR Project (eMOP, http://emop.tamu.edu ). The two other project leaders, Anton DuPlessis and Todd Samuelson, are book historians from Cushing Rare Books Library.

Over the next two years, eMOP will work to improve scholarly access to an extensive early modern text corpus. The overarching goal of eMOP is to develop new methods and tools to improve the digitization, transcription, and preservation of early modern texts.

The peculiarities of early printing technology make it difficult for Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software to discern discrete characters and, thus, to render readable digital output. By creating a database of early modern fonts, training the software that mechanically types page images (OCR) to read those typefaces, and creating crowd-sourced correction tools, eMOP promises to improve the quality of digital surrogates for early modern texts. Receiving this grant makes possible improving the machine-translation of digital page images with cutting-edge crowd-sourcing and OCR technologies, both guided by book history. Our goal is to further the digital preservation processes currently taking place in institutions, libraries, and museums globally.

The IDHMC, along with our participating institutions and individuals, will aggregate and re-tool many of the recent innovations in OCR in order to provide a stable community and expanded canon for future scholarly pursuits. Thanks to the efforts of the Advanced Research Consortium (ARC) and its digital hubs, NINES, 18thConnect, ModNets, REKn and MESA, eMOP has received permissions to work with over 300,000 documents from Early English Books Online (EBBO) and Eighteenth-Century Collections Online (ECCO), totaling 45 million page images of documents published before 1800.

The IDHMC is committed to the improvement and growth of digital projects and resources, and the Mellon Foundation’s grant to Texas A&M for the support of eMOP will enable us to fulfill our promise to the scholarly community to educate, preserve, and develop the future of humanities scholarship.

For further information, including webcasts describing the problem and the grant application as submitted, please see the eMOP website: http://emop.tamu.edu

For more information on our project partners, please see the following links.
ECCO at Gale-Cengage Learning
EBBO at ProQuest
Performant Software
SEASR
Professor Raghavan Manmatha at the University of Massachusetts Amherst
The IMPACT project at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek – National Library of the Netherlands
PRImA at the University of Salford Manchester
Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Texas A&M University
The Initiative for Digital Humanities, Media, and Culture, Texas A&M University
Cushing Memorial Library and Archives
The OCR Summit Meeting Participants

New Digital Projects I: Vernacular Aristotelianism and Digitized Archives at the Wellcome Library

September 28, 2012

The following guest post, the first of two parts, is from Andie Silva, Wayne State University

The University of Warwick, in association with the Newberry library, has been conducting a long-term research project on “Reading Publics.” This project, led by Professor Simon Gilson, Dr. David Lines, and Dr. Maude Vanhaelen, encourages conversations about communities of readers, evidence of readership and reception, and the social and cultural involvement of individual and networks of readers on the print marketplace. This research is possible in great part due to the growth of digitization projects and increasing availability of data and archival materials. As the project’s webpage outlines, however, “the availability of these resources not only varies greatly depending on language, author, country, and period, but also calls for careful methodological reflection.”

This summer, the program leaders organized three activities designed to foster conversation and scholarship on the topic of “Reading Publics” and digitization. I, along with nineteen other scholars from the United States, England, and Italy, was selected to participate in their final activity, a two-week workshop at the University of Warwick. During this workshop, we attended presentations on two new, exciting database and digitization projects: Vernacular Aristotelianism in Renaissance Italy, c. 1400-c. 1650 (University of Warwick); and the on-going project to digitize the entire catalogue at the Wellcome Library, one of the world’s largest collections of history of medicine materials. The following, the first of a two-part post, will focus on the Vernacular Aristotelianism.

The Vernacular Aristotelianism database was launched in May 2012. So far, the catalogue accounts for over 400 titles, half printed books and half manuscripts. The goal of its developers is to catalogue all vernacular works that reference Aristotle or interpret Aristotelian works, (including falsely-attributed texts)—a helpful addition to those researching reception and production of Aristotelian texts in early modern Europe. One of the greatest features of this database is the flexibility of its search engine. A sidebar menu allows searches to be conducted solely on “manuscripts,” “printed editions,” “authors,” “dedicatees,” and “printers.” Thus, a scholar interested in how many times Cosimo de Medici was the chosen dedicatee for Aristotelian-related works would quickly and relatively easily discover at least five works on her first attempt. The catalogued texts still appear in varying degrees of detail. All works, I believe, already have a basic listing, including date and location of first publication, author, printer, and a short description of the work.

A shorter, yet still impressive, number of records contain further detail: if the database’s current webmaster, Eugenio Refini, has physically visited the copy, he has shared his notes on the size, condition, and title-page details of particular editions. Since a lot of his notes pertain to specific copies, he will also note which edition he has seen, and where. Even better, Refini has put considerable effort in cataloguing paratextual information, including what kinds of paratexts are available in the work (epistles, indexes, notes) and whether or not the book includes any visual elements (though no specifics are given as to what kinds of visuals). A few texts also contain “internal descriptions,” where sections of the work are either fully transcribed or generally outlined.

This kind of deep-level information is still lacking from most North American databases and catalogue searches. Although it would be recognizably difficult to restructure a large website like EEBO so that it contains more non-authorial details (and do so consistently across records), many projects like Brown’s fantastic Women Writers Online or the University of Michigan’s Renaissance Liturgical Imprints could benefit from more comprehensive and transparent search options. Of course, that is not to mention many potentially exciting projects like British Literary Manuscripts Online and Arkyves, which are largely available by subscription only. This reliance on existing catalogues and older cataloguing methods, especially ones originally designed for material holdings, holds back many digital projects from their full potential as new search tools.

When the database was first presented at the workshop, we were impressed with the range of detail and information Dr. David Lines and Dr. Eugenio Refini have been able to gather. However, most of us were skeptical about their ability to offer the same level of detail for all their records. One pertinent suggestion from the group was the possibility of “crowd sourcing.” Although it could take a single scholar (or even a small group of scholars) a long time to add bibliographical details to all 400 works (their goal, I believe is to expand the database in the future), if users could submit their own notations, that work could happen quickly and effectively. This would no doubt enrich the database beyond its already incredible achievements and make a number of new kinds of research possible.

There are, of course, a few limitations to the database. In order to make so many search terms immediately within reach, the page is visually overwhelming. The search button at the top is easily missed amongst all the information on the center of the page, and the preloaded first record that opens with the database might at first be confusing. Once the search is successfully performed, the user will need to find the browsing buttons at the top left of the page to sort through each result. For those uneasy with technology, these immediate challenges might be intimidating, and the researcher would unfortunately be missing out on a valuable and incredibly detailed resource.

Even for those of us not performing research on Aristotle, this database raises some important issues. First, the range of non-canonic texts yet to be properly catalogued and annotated, let alone studied, remains overwhelming. Smaller, single-focused websites like Vernacular Aristotelianism highlight how crucial the Digital Humanities have been to providing new and productive avenues for scholarship. We need more projects like this (and perhaps more government funding to make them possible).

Secondly, the organizers have taken into consideration an important shift (by no means wholly “new” anymore, but still time-consuming due to limited search methods) in bibliographical studies, having to do with the analysis of paratextual material and surface-level concerns as integral aspects of textual production and reception. Although scholars like Helen Smith and Michael Saenger have greatly contributed to the study of paratextual and material elements, most of these materials remain uncatalogued. What’s left to the scholar of paratexts is a manual archival search, browsing through texts one by one either digitally or at national archives. Vernacular Aristotelianism provides a helpful starting point of information that, although it does not replace visiting the physical copy, broadens the scope of research and expands the specificity of academic projects.

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

August 26, 2012

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

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

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

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

CFP: JEMCS Special Issue on the Early Modern Digital

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

Devoney Looser, Catherine Paine Middlebush Chair and Professor of English
Co-Editor, Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies
Tate Hall 114
Department of English
University of Missouri
Columbia, MO 65211
573-884-7791
FAX: 573-882-5785
looserd@missouri.edu
http://www.devoneylooser.com