Using EPT to Build an Image-Based Electronic Edition of Alfred’s Boethius

  1. 1. Kevin Kiernan

    English Department - University of Kentucky

  2. 2. Dorothy Carr Porter

    Research in Computing for Humanities - University of Kentucky

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EPT is well suited to build an Image-Based Electronic Edition (IBEE) of Alfred the Great’s Old English version of Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy. There are two surviving Old English manuscripts of this text, but they present the text in very different ways. The first, the tenth-century BL MS Cotton Otho A. vi, is the only prose and verse translation. The other complete manuscript is a later, twelfth-century, entirely prose version in Oxford, Bodleian Library MS, Bodley 180. There is also an indispensable, post-medieval source, however, in a seventeenth-century transcript and collation of the two manuscripts by Francis Junius, an edition in the making now preserved in Oxford, Bodleian Library MS, Junius 12. In 1731 the earlier Cottonian MS was badly burned in the terrible Cotton Library fire, but ultraviolet discloses much of the seemingly lost text and Junius’s transcripts and collations preserve most of the rest, while Bodley 180 provides critical variants. No modern editions have taken full advantage of these rich and diverse materials, and the two “standard” editions, supposedly based on Otho A. vi, respectively present a prose edition, stripped of the verse, and a verse edition, stripped of the prose. To provide a base text for XML encoding, the editor compiled a reconstructed version of Otho A. vi by reinserting the verse sections where they belong. At this point it is ready for EPT.

The purpose of an image-based edition is to reveal as openly and fully as possible the primary sources underlying the modern edition. Traditional print editions tend to conceal these sources by radically reformatting their structures, by providing modern punctuation, by underplaying their damaged states, by erasing their scribal peculiarities and semantic cruces through printed emendations and conjectural restorations, and by generally relegating the complex evidence the manuscripts hold to concise, uncomplicated, textual notes. An image-based edition makes these concessions, as well, to render an alien text accessible to today’s readers, but it also provides ready access to the ultimate sources by linking, for example, all textual notes to the manuscript context.

In this presentation we will illustrate how the EPT provides the means for describing the manuscript using XML markup, and relating the folio and areas of the folio to the text that resides on that folio. The EPT enables us to associate images and sections of images with the relevant markup (folios with folio markup, damaged areas with damage markup, letters with markup describing the letter form, etc.), while at the same time associating text with whole or portions of single images, or multiple images of the same folio taken under different lighting conditions (daylight, ultraviolet, fiberoptic).

By providing support for pervasive, complex, image-based encoding, the EPT inevitably exacerbates the problem of overlapping markup. Iacob and Dekhtyar address the EPT’s approach to this problem in greater detail in this session; here it is enough to say that the EPT does support overlapping markup using multiple DTDs, and that if the DTDs are well-designed the humanities scholar need not worry about the semantics of XML markup, and can concentrate instead on the main tasks of editing, such as the semantics of an Old English text.

The EPT includes three fundamental tools for image-based encoding. The ImagText tool, working in cooperation with xMarkup and xTagger tools, supports general image-based encoding, allowing the editor to tag any element defined in the DTDs. xMarkup reads the DTDs and automatically creates templates that the editor configures, assigning meaningful or otherwise convenient aliases for elements, attributes, and attribute values, and arranging the elements into logical editorial groups, such as Start Edition, Condition, Codicology, Paleography, Restoration, with all their subsets of tags, which will very likely differ from the organization of the DTDs. Through ImagText, the editor views images side-by-side with the corresponding text (viewed through xTagger), and describes them with reference to one another using the templates provided by xMarkup. Otho A. vi has suffered severe damage, both from fire and from later preservation attempts. Thus, much of the tagging relates to manuscript condition, highlighting where the manuscript is damaged and linking it with the transcript or edition. This information ensures that the final edition will show clearly what text in the edition comes directly from the manuscript, what text is slightly damaged, and what text is damaged to the point of illegibility and thus either copied from another manuscript or otherwise restored by the editor.

[Figure 1. A snapshot of EPT illustrating image-based encoding through ImagText, xMarkup, and xTagger (including an XML view). The figure also shows the Keyboard panel and Search Tool.]

The OverLay allows the editor to encode the text in reference to multiple images of the same folio. Images taken under special conditions, such as ultraviolet fluorescence, often provide clearer textual evidence than those digitized in natural light. Through OverLay an editor can examine minute differences between digital images, laying one image on top of another, selecting a section of the image, and using a slidebar to change the transparency of the top layer, moving between them. The editor can save the combined images created by OverLay and open them in ImagText, marking them up there as they would any other image.

The DucType is an example of a markup template that has been configured to deal with the specific encoding problem of describing letter forms. Paleography, the study of handwritten texts, is central to the scholarship of medieval manuscripts. Description of letterforms and the style of individual scribes have traditionally been limited to general descriptions in manuscript catalog entries, or in introductions to manuscript facsimiles. Using XML, we are now able to incorporate paleographical description into the edition content character-by-character, providing individual letters with their own descriptions. This advanced markup will enable users of the finished edition to search for letters based on specific characteristics.

Specialized templates require specialized configuration. The editor configures the Letter template using the Letter Template tool, through which he assigns meaningful aliases to element and attribute names, adding attribute values as he discovers new letterforms in the manuscript. The Letter Template tool also enables the editor to clip and save sample letters, which the editor can reference later, comparing them to other letterforms in the manuscript.

Although the EPT enables the editor to practice image-based electronic editing, it is the DTDs that provide the underlying structure for describing the manuscript. We design our DTDs as extensions of TEI, defining some new elements and adding new attributes to existing TEI elements. We will illustrate how we are using TEI for image-based encoding, and how our extensions allow for a more complete manuscript description than TEI alone. We will discuss how we adapt TEI elements for image based encoding, and we will also describe our new attributes, which assist the EPT in supporting links between text and image. We will also introduce some our new elements, including <offset>, an empty element which marks an area in the manuscript where text from the facing page has bled onto the folio, in cases obscuring the manuscript text, and <offsettext>, which marks the text on the facing page corresponding to the offset. The <offset> and <offsettext> regions can then be compared using OverLay. We will also discuss our markup for paleographical description and the restoration of text visible under special lighting, not visible under regular lighting.

The Electronic Boethius Project is funded by a Collaborative Research Award from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and is sponsored by The British Library and the Bodleian Library, Oxford, who are providing digital images of the relevant documents. We are working in collaboration with the complementary print-based Alfredian Boethius project at Oxford, directed by Malcolm Godden.


Primary Sources

British Library MS Cotton Otho A. vi.

Oxford Bodleian Library MS Bodley 180.

Oxford Bodleian Library MS Junius 12.


Krapp, George Philip
The Paris Psalter and the Meters of Boethius
The Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records 5
Columbia University Press
New York

Robinson, Fred C.
Stanley, E.G.
Old English Verse Texts from Many Sources: A Comprehensive Collection
Early English Manuscripts in Facsimile 23
Rosenkilde and Bagger
Copenhagen, Denmark

Sedgefield, Walter J.
Stanley, E.G.
King Alfred’s Anglo-Saxon Version of Boethius, de Consolatione Philosophiae
Clarendon Press

Secondary Sources

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Catapano, Terry
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Computers and the Humanities

Clark, James

XSL Transformations (XSLT) 1.0
W3C Recommendation
16 November 1999

Johansson, Karl Gunnar
Computing Medieval Primary Sources from the Vadstena Monastery: Arguments for the Primary Source Text
Literary and Linguistic Computing

Kiernan, Kevin
Image-based Electronic Editing of Alfred the Great’s Boethius
Healey, Antonette diPaolo
Kiernan, Kevin
Making Sense: Constructing Meaning in Early English
Forthcoming (In progress, expected Richard Rawlinson Center Series, Medieval Institute Press, 2006.)

Kiernan, Kevin
Digital Facsimiles in Editing: Some Guidelines for Editors of Image-based Scholarly Editions
Unsworth, John
O’Keeffe, Katherine O’Brien
Burnard, Lou
Electronic Textual Editing
Modern Language Association and the TEI Consortium

Kiernan, Kevin
The nathwylc Scribe and the Beowulf Palimpsest
Karkov, Catherine E.
van Deusen, Nancy
Poetry, Place and Gender: Studies in Medieval Culture in Honor of Helen Damico
Medieval Institute Press
Kalamazoo, MI
Forthcoming in 2005

Kiernan, Kevin
Odd Couples in Ælfric’s Julian and Basilissa in British Library Cotton MS Otho B. x
Wolf, Kirsten
Doane, A.N.
Beatus vir: Studies in Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse Manuscripts in Memory of Phillip Pulsiano
Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies (MRTS)
Tempe, AZ
Forthcoming in 2005

Kiernan, Kevin
Jaromczyk, Jerzy W.
Dekhtyar, Alex
Porter, Dorothy Carr
Hawley, Kenneth
Bodapati, Sandeep
Ionut, Emil Iacob
The ARCHway Project: Architecture for Research in Computing for Humanities through Research, Teaching, and Learning
Literary and Linguistic Computing
Forthcoming in 2005(Special issue, papers from Joint International Conference of the Association for Computers and the Humanities and the Association for Literary and Linguistic Computing, 2003.)

Kiernan, Kevin
Seales, W. Brent
Griffioen, James
The Reappearances of St. Basil the Great in British Library MS Cotton Otho B. x
Computers and the Humanities
7-26(Image-based Humanities Computing. ed. Matthew Kirschenbaum.)

Lecolinet, Eric
Robert, Laurent
Role, Francois
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Computers and the Humanities
49-73(Image-based Humanities Computing. ed. Matthew Kirschenbaum.)

Prescott, Andrew
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Wright, C.J.
Sir Robert Cotton as Collector: Essays on an Early Stuart Courtier and His Legacy
British Library Publications

Seales, W. Brent
Griffioen, James
Kiernan, Kevin
Yuan, C.J.
Cantara, Linda
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Computers in Libraries
February 2000

Sperberg-McQueen, C.M.
Burnard, Lou
Guidelines for Electronic Text Encoding and Interchange; XML-compatible edition
Chicago and Oxford
2001XML conversion by Syd Bauman, Lou Burnard, Steven DeRose, and Sebastian Rahtz.

Unsworth, John
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Panel on “New Directions for Digital Textuality.” 2001 Conference of the Society for Textual Scholarship
19 April 2001

Yergeau, Francois
Bray, Tim, Francois
Paoli, Jean
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Maler, Eve

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W3C Recommendation
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Conference Info

In review


Hosted at University of Victoria

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

June 15, 2005 - June 18, 2005

139 works by 236 authors indexed

Affiliations need to be double checked.

Conference website:

Series: ACH/ICCH (25), ALLC/EADH (32), ACH/ALLC (17)

Organizers: ACH, ALLC

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