Posts Tagged ‘book’s physical structure’

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.