A web-based edition of early seventeenth-century political poetry from manuscript sources. It brings into the public domain over 350 poems, many of which have never before been published.
The electronic publication of a single-volume edition of verse posed a number of challenges. Not least of these was the relative scarcity of comparably edited electronic editions of early modern material upon a similar scale. Such works might have provided a standard against which we could measure our technical and presentational success, and no doubt would have offered inspiration for the project. It was recognized from early on that it would be our lot to co-exist alongside much larger, extravagantly funded multivolume works with the combined experience of large editorial and technical teams. While it would be hubristic of us to attempt to compete with these, we have been concerned to show that a technically and academically proficient single-volume publication might be achieved in our chosen medium within a comparatively short timescale.
This edition seeks in many ways to be a pathbreaking endeavour, most noticeably as a single-volume electronic text of early modern verse, and of verse largely inaccessible outside of manuscript archives; among the notable exceptions being Ray Siemens’ forthcoming electronic edition of the Devonshire Manuscript. Indeed, while late-twentieth-century criticism moved away from privileging canonical works, the bulk of recent electronic publications of early modern literature have focused upon the old canon and upon drama1. There is nothing intinsically wrong with disseminating the works of well-known dramatists and other literary figures to the hypertext community. In fact there are great benefits to be gained by widening their accessibility. However, the electronic medium also provides a superb opportunity to offer scholarly editions of works otherwise largely inaccessible or unknown to both the academic community and the layperson alike.
It has never been far from our minds during the production of the edition that different readers will come to the text with different needs, whether due to differences of academic and educational background, varying levels of computer literacy, availability of up-to-date software, or owing to accessibility requirements. In response to our anticipation of such diverse requirements we have attempted to offer a text presented in formats that enhance accessibility and that are comfortable to read, while ensuring that information relevant to the interests and needs of our readers is readily attainable. In doing so, our goal has been to combine and integrate the technologies of printed text, hypertext and electronic text. It will be noticed, for instance, that the look, feel and structure of a printed text has been retained so far as possible, and that linear, page-by-page navigation is available as well as the usual hypertext tree structure. We have also sought to combine the navigability of the hypertext medium with the depths of searchability enabled by an extensible markup language.
The integrity of XML elements and attributes and consistency of the markup rules has been tested in a number of ways. Groups of elements and attributes were generated and compared using a combination of PHP 4.1 and XSLT, and other global searches were performed using markup editing software. A number of schemas were also generated in order to test for the integrity of a selection of document rules. It was found, however, that discrepancies in the parsing performed by a range of schema validation services sometimes rendered it difficult to make accurate assessments here, although some degree of improvement to document structure was achieved in a number of areas using this method. On the topic of schema validation consistency see:
The text has been marked up using XML 1.0. and output statically as W3C HTML 4.01 transitional using Instant Saxon 6.2.2. Metadata is presented in the Dublin Core format on the front page only. XML markup is largely derived from TEI guidelines for TEILite with the exception of tagging for manuscripts, and in a few other instances. XSLT stylesheets are our own. Our search engine scripts were originally written in PERL, but appear here written in a combination of PHP 4.1 and XSLT. The W3C’s “Double A” guidelines for accessibility have been followed. A printable PDF version of the text is provided in full on the front page and PDFs of individual poems can be accessed either through the contents pages or from the HTML renderings of the poems. These have been optimized for Adobe Reader 6 and above. The most recent version of Adobe Reader can be downloaded for free from http://www.adobe.com/.
For purposes of citation the hypertext output of the electronic edition is to be regarded as the authoritative text, although textual stability between renderings should be close to 100%.
The project made use of the following software: Xpath Visualiser, XMLSpy Home Edition, Adobe Professional 6, PaintShopPro 8, Instant Saxon 6.2.2, ActivePerl 5.6, PHP 4.1, Adobe PhotoShop 7, Apache HTTP Server 2.0, Amaya, ConTEXT and NoteTab Standard.
The project has been tested for compatibility with the following browsers: Netscape7, Mozilla Firebird/ Firefox 1.0.2, DocZilla, IE5/6, Smart Explorer, Lynx, Konqueror and Opera5; and with the following operating systems: WIN 98/2000/XP, Linux Redhat Fedora and Mac.
Chris Boswell, 2005
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1) Although there is a dearth of such material published electronically, this is far from the case where vanilla hypertext transcriptions are concerned.