Just Different Layers? Stylesheets and Digital Edition Methodology

  1. 1. Elena Pierazzo

    Italian Studies - Università di Pisa

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In the last few years a consistent number of papers
focussed on new theoretical frameworks for scholarly digital editions practice (Vanhoutte 2000a, Vanhoutte 2000b
and Flanders 1998). The main attention has been paid
on text encoding, on the production of apparatus criticus or variourum and its transposition form the paper to the digital format (Vanhoutte 2000a, Vanhoutte 2000b, McGann 1996 and Lavagnino 1996). Another focus is the role of the editor and whether a scholar edition must have as a goal the production of a text (a quotable text) or just different textual materials in order to allow the reader to choose his/her version of the text; a third
possibility being an equilibrium (to be found) between the two school of thinking (Vanhoutte 2005). Connected
to the latter point is the consideration that a digital
edition based on encoding can be re-used for many purposes
(e.g. electronic inspection, computer assisted analysis), and gives the possibility of producing different versions of the same text (critical, diplomatic, facsimile, reading editions, hypertext editions), according with different kind of users and readers from the same encoded text by the application of different stylesheets. In this paper I will address to a different consideration of stylesheets to be seen not only as a tool to produce different layers
of the encoded texts, but as an essential component of the scholar’s work and a possible shortcut toward a
compromise in the dichotomy textual criticism vs.
cultural criticism, as in Vanhoutte 2005.
Some time ago I started to prepare a digital edition of an Italian Renaissance’s comedy, Lo Stufaiuolo, written by Anton Francesco Doni, presumably in 1550-1551. We posses two different autographic manuscripts of the text, each of them witnessing a different and remarkable
version, a fact that involves the necessity of a synoptic
edition. The first question to be answered in digital edition field is certainly which kind of edition to
produce: an editor-oriented or a user-oriented edition. In my opinion, according with the Italian editorial school’s theories, an editor must produce a quotable, reliable text or at least, to provide an orientation to the reader: the editor is probably the person who know the most about the text, and can not skip the task to provide the readers his circumspect opinion/version of the text. On the other side, an editor must also provide all the documentation
possible of his work, according to a fundamental
presumption of the scientific nature of a critical edition that
lays on the possibility for the reader to reproduce/
control/verify the editorial work. For that reasons I chose
to provide different versions of the text (of both texts, in this case), ranging from a minimum to a maximum
of editorial intervention, in order to satisfy different
readers’ needs, accompanied by ancillary documentation on the editorial work and by the photographic reproduction
of the source.
Due to the big interest of the Doni’s language, a peculiar point of the edition would have been the preserving of the original face of the text, allowing at the same time to non-scholar readers to appreciate the text itself, that is very funny and with a huge literary value. Starting the work, I focussed my attention to the very first level of the language: orthography and punctuation. In paper-based critical editions there is often the necessity of re-write the text in order to allow modern reader to easy decrypt it. The orthography and punctuation rules of most modern languages have sensibly changed from Middle Age since today. At the dawn of the writing of modern languages we can not even speak of orthography but of different
writing habits, relayed to different cultural centres.
Furthermore, very early texts are in scriptio continua and for many centuries the word-borders have been sensibly
different from the present ones. Orthography and
punctuation have reached the present relative stability through different phases and approximation levels in
relative recent years; for Romance languages, for example,
the Latin graphical habits had a long persistence in writing. Normally, in the editorial practice, editors “translate” from
ancient writing-face, according to modern rules,
declaring in preliminary sections of the printed book the
transcription’s criteria. In this way paper-based editions are able to give just a summary of the original’s reality and can not be used by scholars who want to study the original language face, punctuation, orthography or the writing supports: as for apparatus criticus or variorum, transcription criteria in prefatory pages do not allows de facto the possibility of reproducing the editorial work. In such cases to turn back to original or facsimile editions is the only possibility, but such editions are totally resistant to electronic inspections and limit the scholar’s chance of availing large corpora of data.
This limitation can be overruled by electronic editions
based on text encoding. In fact, the encoding allows
adding new meaningful layers without losing any aspect
of the original face of the text. For example, adopting
the TEI encoding schema, it is possible to encode the original face of the text as follow:
<p><orig reg=”Perché”>Per che</orig> le lettere sono state sempre poste <orig reg=”nei”>ne i</orig> degni
<orig reg=”e”>et</orig> <orig reg=”onorati”>honorati
</orig> luoghi…</p>
We can also preview a more sophisticated encoding able to classify the kind of regularization provided (after
having extended the TEI encoding schema in order to
enable a “type” attribute for the <orig> element):
<p><orig reg=”Perché” type=”wordBorder”>Per che</orig> le lettere sono state sempre poste <orig reg=’nei’ type=”wordBorder”>ne i</orig> degni <orig reg=’e’ type=”lat”>et</orig> <orig reg=’onorati’ type=”lat”>honorati</orig> luoghi…</p>
With such encoding it will be possible to display the text according to the <orig> face or to the reg face using
suitable XSLT stylesheets. In case of multiple editions
from the same text, we can also think to editions
regularizing each time particular sets of “type”,
according with different purposes, for example considering
just punctuation or just orthography regularization.
The usage of stylesheets can be also anticipated from the delivery phase to the encoding/editorial phase. A useful application of stylesheets during the encoding can be managed by the encoder/editor to monitor its own work and its interventions on the text. Stylesheets, in fact, are able to produce at any moment of the work statistical
data in real time, a fact which can help the editor to
better understand the writing habits of the author or of the copyist and, at the same time, to keep under control its own work. Similar considerations can be made over
the encoding of readings and lemmas, where lists of
refused or accepted readings can profitably support the editorial work in every phase. Stylesheets are a low-cost
(or a non-cost), flexible and suitable technology,
relatively easy to understand in its principal applications and can be managed directly by the editor, not a secondary
concern in low budget projects.
In the delivery phase, the same lists and data can be
produced to the scientific community, giving explicitness to the editorial practice and overruling the compactness of the introductory notes of paper-based editions.
Stylesheets can be reasonably considered not only an ancillary part of the editorial practice, a technology to be recalled after the finish of the scholar work (maybe committed to computer science people), but a part of the work committed to the editor himself/herself, able to
support his/her tasks in monitoring the work step by step and able to produce different texts for different tastes, under the editorial control.
The paper will conclude by presenting the digital edition of the Doni’s Stufaiuolo, in order to exemplify the results obtained with such methodological approach.
Flanders, J. (1998). “Trusting the Electronic Edition,” Computers and the Humanities 31/4.
Lavagnino, J. (1996). “Reading, Scholarship, and
Hypertext Editions”, TEXT, 8
McGann, J. (1996). “The Rationale of HyperText”, TEXT, 9.
Sperberg-Mcqueen, C.M. and Burnard, L. (2002). TEI P4 Guidelines for Electronic Text Encoding and Interchange: XML-compatible Edition. (P4). Oxford, Providence, Charlottesville, & Bergen: The TEI Consortium. Available also at http://www.
Vanhoutte, E. (2000a). “Textual Variation, Electronic Editions and Hypertext”. Paper. ACH/ALLC 2000. Glasgow (UK): Glasgow University. 23 July 2000. Abstract available at: http://www2.arts.gla.ac.uk/allcach2k/Programme/session4.html#433.
Vanhoutte, E. (2000b). “Where is the editor? Resistance in the Creation of an Electronic Critical Edition”, DRH98: Selected Papers from Digital Resources for the Humanities 1998, ed. Marilyn Deegan, Jean
Anderson, and Harold Short (London: Office for Humanities Communication, 2000).
Vanhoutte, E. (2005). “Editorial theory in crisis. The concepts of base text, edited text, textual apparatus and variant in electronic editions”. Paper. DRH
2005. Lancaster (UK): Lancaster University.
5 September 2005.
Vanhoutte E. and Van der Branden, R. (2005).
“Describing, Transcribing, Encoding, and Editing
Modern Correspondence Material: a Textbase
Approach”. Fred Unwalla & Peter Shillingsburg (eds.), Computing the edition. Toronto, Toronto
University Press. Preprint on http://www.kantl.be/ctb/pub/2004/comedvanvanfig.pdf.

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Conference Info



Hosted at Université Paris-Sorbonne, Paris IV (Paris-Sorbonne University)

Paris, France

July 5, 2006 - July 9, 2006

151 works by 245 authors indexed

The effort to establish ADHO began in Tuebingen, at the ALLC/ACH conference in 2002: a Steering Committee was appointed at the ALLC/ACH meeting in 2004, in Gothenburg, Sweden. At the 2005 meeting in Victoria, the executive committees of the ACH and ALLC approved the governance and conference protocols and nominated their first representatives to the ‘official’ ADHO Steering Committee and various ADHO standing committees. The 2006 conference was the first Digital Humanities conference.

Conference website: http://www.allc-ach2006.colloques.paris-sorbonne.fr/

Series: ACH/ICCH (26), ACH/ALLC (18), ALLC/EADH (33), ADHO (1)

Organizers: ACH, ADHO, ALLC

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  • Language: English
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