Making Advanced Scholarly Editions

  1. 1. Barbara Bordalejo

    De Montfort University

  2. 2. Peter Robinson

    De Montfort University

  3. 3. Klaus Wachtel

    Westfälische Wilhelms Universität Münster (University of Muenster / Munster)

  4. 4. Andrew West

    De Montfort University

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Making Advanced Scholarly Editions


De Montfort University


De Montfort University


University of Muenster


De Montfort University


University of Tübingen







This panel will present some of the work being done at the Centre for
Technology and the Arts, De Montfort University, (CTA) and by Scholarly
Digital Editions (SDE), Leicester. The CTA specializes in the application of
advanced computing methods to the making of scholarly editions, and is best
known for the Canterbury Tales Project, often cited as the most advanced
instance in the world of the use of computing in exploration and publication
of large textual traditions. SDE has developed from the need to find an
appropriate vehicle for publishing the work of the Canterbury Tales Project
and similar ventures. SDE now maintains and develops two key pieces of
software used in this work: the Collate software, used in the transcription
and collation of many witnesses, and the Anastasia electronic publishing
software, developed specifically for publication of complex scholarly
materials in electronic form.
This panel will offer three papers covering different aspects of the work of
the CTA and of SDE. It will introduce the tools, methods, and principles
underlying some of the editorial projects in which the CTA and SDE are
currently involved. It will focus on two of these projects: the Canterbury
Tales Project, led by the CTA, and the electronic edition of the Greek New
Testament in the Nestle-Aland 28th edition now being prepared by the
Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart and the Institut für
Neutestamentliche Textforschung, Münster, and for which SDE is providing
software and consultancy services. Reference will be made to other work on
which the CTA and SDE is collaborating, notably the electronic edition of
Dante's Commedia to be published by the Italian publisher SISMEL. The papers
will cover both the practical and theoretical aspects of this work, with
liberal examples drawn from actual and prospective publications. In the
first paper, Barbara Bordalejo will review the processes of preparation
undergone by the Canterbury Tales Project team in making a single
publication. In the second, Peter Robinson will give the background to the
electronic Nestle-Aland 28, outline the aims of this publication as they are
emerging, and show the first prototypes of this. In the third paper, Andrew
West, the Technical Officer for the CTA and a key member of the Anastasia
development team, will discuss the transformation of complex encodings into
richly featured actual and usable publications.

Everything You Wanted to Know About the Canterbury Tales Project's
Editions and Never Dared to Ask: The Making of The Miller's Tale on
Barbara Bordalejo

When one sees an electronic edition one wonders how much work and
effort has gone into it and the first question that springs to mind
is could I do something like that? The short answer is: No, you
can't. There are other kinds of electronic editions that a scholar
could produce on his own, but the multi- witness editions of the
Canterbury Tales Project are just out of the range for individual
production. The proof of this is that the Project has developed,
since its beginning, partnerships and collaborations at different
levels with many scholars. Since its last expansion - with two new
members - the Canterbury Tales Project is now producing our CD-ROMs
more speedily. Of course, another important factor that has enormous
weight on the Canterbury Tales Project's production improvement, is
the fact that most conventions used for the conversion into computer
formats have long been established and tested, and are now more
reliable that ever before. An idea of how many scholars have
participated in a particular edition can be drawn by looking at the
opening pages of one of CDs.
I first approached The Wife of Bath's Prologue on CD-ROM in December
1999. I was then fascinated by the idea of all the manuscripts of
the Canterbury Tales being transcribed and published. I also held a
very strict textual-critical position that made me into a severe
documentary editor. This CD-ROM pleased me greatly - although not
completely - and I was particularly impressed by some of the
transcription policies of the Project. But what really engaged me
was the idea that Collate 'the main program used in our collations'
was such a wonderful tool that could help creating this kind of
materials. I was quite ignorant then and, even if I understood what
coding was and had tried to teach myself SGML, I was far from being
able to truly understand the nature and complexity of the production
of one of these CDs. What I did then is what most of my colleagues
would have done: I read everything I could get a hold of in which
members of the CANTERBURY TALES PROJECT had participated.
Eventually, I came across a statement similar to the one found in The
General Prologue CD-ROM:
"The computer collation program we are using (Collate)
permits regularization as part of the collation process.
This has the great advantage of allowing deferral of
regularization until all the evidence of all the spellings
in all the manuscripts at any one point is available. It
also permits a complete record to be made of all
regularization done during the collation. Collate can also
generate regularized-spelling version of each file from the
regularization process."

My interpretation was that Collate could automatically generate
regularized texts from the unregularized ones. This is just shows
how naïve and ignorant I was. Collate is a wonderful tool and helps
our work in unimaginable ways, but it can not take the various
spellings of Middle English and regularize them to a particular
form. In fact, because of the nature of the language at that time, I
am doubtful that any automated tool could do this. So how do the
complex spellings of the manuscripts get transformed into a
regularized collation? This is just done by hand. Word by word, line
by line, 20.000 lines of verse in 88 fifteenth-century witness are
lemmatized and regularized by the Canterbury Tales Project team. The
process is intricate, requires a great deal of attention and
grammatical skills that few people arrive with, and when it is over,
every single one of the regularizations must be checked to make sure
that most mistakes are eliminated. Both the lemmatization and
regularization are building blocks of our spelling databases.
An important question that one might want to ask to the members of
the Canterbury Tales Project is why should anyone go through the
process of creating very detailed transcriptions of the manuscripts,
making sure that tails and flourishes are accurately represented in
the key manuscripts, if later one has to spend money and time in
taking all those differences out to produce the regularized
collation? The answer is quite simple, the regularized and
unregularized collations have very different function in the
CD-ROMs. Probably, the main reason to have chosen to produce a
regularized collation is the fact that only using this one can
proceed to make an adequate stemmatic analysis. Since one of the
main aims of the Canterbury Tales Project is to achieve a better
understanding of the textual tradition of the Tales and the ways in
which the manuscripts relate to one another, it seems clear why the
role of the stemmatic analysis should be a priority. One of the most
evident discoveries of the Project is the fact that spelling
variants are uninformative while using phylogenetic programs - which
are used as an important part of our stemmatic analysis - and that,
in fact, these create 'white noise' and impair the results yielded
by evolutionary software.
Using examples drawn from my work on The Miller's Tale on CD-ROM I
would like to demonstrate some of the problems that we face in our
everyday work. Moreover, I will discuss other issues generated by
editions of the kind produced by the Project, such as working with
other people - nearby and far away, consistency, revision and
responsibility. In cases like this, it becomes clear that the more
people work in a particular edition, the bigger the need for strict
rules to be applied in each particular case.

Making an electronic edition of the Greek New Testament
Peter Robinson
Klaus Wachtel

The Greek New Testament represents, by every measure, the Everest of
textual scholarship. Firstly, it is simply the biggest: with over
five thousand surviving manuscripts and other witnesses, from over
two thousand years, it dwarfs every other textual tradition of a
major western text (some Indian textual traditions, where copying
onto palm leaf manuscripts persists to this day, are larger in terms
of sheer numbers of manuscripts). Secondly, it is the most complex:
beside straight-forward copies one has to deal with a vast spectrum
of versions, in many languages and from many cultures, some of them
now deeply obscure. There is also considerable citational evidence,
where scraps of text are referred to in early Christian and other
writers, some of which bears crucial witness to textual readings,
even whole texts (the elusive 'Gospel of the Hebrews', for example),
otherwise unknown. Thirdly, it is the most intractable. Many textual
scholars have lived by a comfortable presumption that as one tunnels
upwards in a textual tradition towards the origins variation will
diminish, to the point where it may be eliminated altogether and a
single perfect and original text (in this case, indeed, the Word of
God) will stand forth. But the situation with the Greek New
Testament appears to show the precise opposite: variation becomes
greater, not less, as we move back in time, and the earliest
substantial evidence we have from the second century shows witnesses
which differ more from each other and from the late text than do
later writers.
Add to this that the Greek New Testament is, by some considerable
margin, the most important single text of western civilization, and
indeed the foundation of nearly two millennia of our culture, and we
have a formidable task. Six centuries of textual scholarship has
defined itself against this task, and the names of the editors who
have struggled with this text and its problems is an impressive
rollcall: Erasmus, Griesbach, Bentley, Lachmann, Tischendorf,
Westcott, Hort, von Soden, Nestle, Aland. Sooner or later, every
theory of textual scholarship, and every technological development,
must test itself against the Greek New Testament. The early
development of printing in the west (and perhaps even its invention)
was driven by the church's need for uniform texts; one could argue
that printing reached its first technical peak in the polyglot Bible
of 1515. Now, it is the turn of computing technology and electronic
publishing to confront this challenge. Over the last five years, the
Institut für Neutestamentliche Textforschung, Münster, (INTF) has
been progressively incorporating computer-assisted techniques in the
preparation of the new Editio Critica Maior series of the Greek New
Testament (ECM). The most recent volumes of this have used computer
methods not only in preparation of the printed text, but at every
stage in gathering the data on which the printed text is built. The
manuscripts chosen for inclusion in the ECM apparatus are now
transcribed in full, collated using Robinson’s Collate software
(originally developed for medieval vernacular texts), and the
collation output to a database where it is integrated with other
evidence and the apparatus for the ECM print editions created.
This work involved testing and development of computer techniques
capable of coping with the special demands of the Greek New
Testament. For example: Robinson has had to add many new facilities
to Collate, and enable it to cope with collation of up to 500 texts
at once. At the same time, the INTF has had to redesign how it
carries out the work, rebuilding it around full transcription and
collation of the manuscripts rather than manual excerpting of
variants. So far, this work has been limited to the making of
printed texts. Recently, and encouraged by the success of this
process, the INTF and their publisher, the Deutsche
Bibelgesellschaft (DBG) have determined on a more ambitious program:
the making of an electronic edition of the 28th edition of the
Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The Nestle-Aland text is far the
most widely used text of the Greek New Testament: it is the text
published in the United Bible Society publications, it is studied in
seminaries and used in translations worldwide. Just to make an
electronic version of this printed text and apparatus alone would be
a signal advance, and in itself a considerable challenge. However,
the INTF and DBG propose far more: the electronic version of the
existing text should be interwoven with full transcripts of the key
manuscripts (and, as time passes, more and more manuscripts),
collations of these, and analytic tools including the facility to
carry out dynamic comparisions of manuscripts, build stemmatic
analyses from the comparisons, and much more. Beyond this, the
possibilities of linking to on-line manuscript images and
lexicographic resources open yet further perspectives.
Much of this will be built on the existing Collate software, and over
the next years Robinson and other Leicester staff (both from the
Centre and from Scholarly Digital Editions [SDE]) will be working
with Wachtel and other staff at the INTF and DBG to set up the work
practices necessary to support this, and developing a series of
prototype publications. With funding from the Deutsche
Forschungsgemeineschaft and the DBG, the first of these prototypes
will be publically available on the web in February 2003. We will
present a version of this first prototype at the conference. All
text will be encoded in XML, following the TEI guidelines. The first
prototypes, at least, will use Anastasia, the electronic publication
system developed by SDE.

Turning Complicated Texts into Real Publications
Andrew West

Turning basic text into a simple publication can be a relatively easy
matter. It could be as easy as using a word processor or typewriter,
but what if the text is more complicated? For example, what if the
text was written in a different language, or you needed to include
information pertaining to the original physical document? These can
be some of the obstacles in creating a digital publication.
The first step in this process is to find a means of encoding not
only the raw text but also the information relating to the document
or parts of the document. If it was a simple document produced in
Microsoft Word we could mark parts of the text as bold, italic etc.,
but this method provides nowhere near the flexibility or power which
is required by most. HTML, HyperText Mark-up Language, is a step
closer as parts of the document can be marked or tagged to describe
the structure, such as the title or the document body. Still this
method is inflexible and very restrictive in the information it
allows you to show. What we need is a way similar to this but also
allows us to define how and what information we need to keep.
For their transcription work the Canterbury Tales Project chose XML
(eXtended Mark-up Language), and before this its predecessor SGML
(Standard Mark-up Language) as their format for transcribing the
Canterbury Tales. This allows them to transcribe the manuscripts in
almost infinite detail, from something as simple as marking a
character as being a particular medieval style of letter to showing
that a sentence was added at a later date. For them to create a way
of encoding this selected information all they need do is use a tag,
such as <added>, which itself could hold extra
information about this occurrence of added text. So wherever there
is a need to include information in a portion of text either an
existing tag can be used or a new one created to suit their needs.
This style of encoding can have potential dangers. When several
people are working on a transcription, they need to make sure that
they agree on which tags they are going to be using and in which
circumstances they should use them, otherwise the resulting
transcriptions would be inconsistent and impossible to use in a real
publication. In an effort to solve this problem Peter Robinson,
director of the Canterbury Tales Project, helped produce the T.E.I.
documentation. This set of documents created the standard which the
C.T.P. uses to encode the manuscripts they are working on, and by
which all their transcribers work by in order to create a
consistence format for their publications.
So now we have a set of files with all the text and its relevant
information encoded within, but this format is not going to be
presentable to the public. What we need is to create a system that
can turn this information into format that can be read and navigated
with ease. To this end Scholarly Digital Editions created Anastasia,
an application that takes the transcribers' XML files and produces
intermediate files which enable it to search these XML files and can
tailor its output to suit the needs of the publication. Anastasia
acts like a web server so it can be used in conjunction with a web
browsers such as Internet Explorer or Netscape. The benefits of a
system such as this is that most users will have some knowledge of
these applications so they will not need to learn a new system in
order to be able to use the publication. Other digital publication
applications have chosen to create their own interface for the
users, and this may allow them to refine the way they present the
information to produce a view of the information that is exactly
what they need. But this may have the drawback of having a steeper
learning curve when people start using these applications. An
advantage of the Anastasia system is that it gives extraordinary
control over the interface we present to users. This makes it
possible to tune interfaces precisely as we want. We are currently
working on integration of mySQL into Anastasia. The reason for this
is that there are certain operations which are very well handled by
databases (notably, sorting of results of searches on particular
fields). We also intend to integrate certain of the Collate
functions into the software.
Producing electronic publications is a long and laborious process,
not only in transcribing the manuscripts but also in deciding how to
encoding the information and then how best to let people view the
resulting publication. At least this part of the process can be
simplified by collaborating with publishers and choosing "off the
shelf" applications.

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Conference Info

In review

"New Directions in Humanities Computing"

Hosted at Universität Tübingen (University of Tubingen / Tuebingen)

Tübingen, Germany

July 23, 2002 - July 28, 2008

72 works by 136 authors indexed

Affiliations need to be double-checked.

Conference website:

Series: ALLC/EADH (29), ACH/ICCH (22), ACH/ALLC (14)

Organizers: ACH, ALLC

  • Keywords: None
  • Language: English
  • Topics: None