Dr James Cummings


What Do You Expect From a Digital Edition?



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What Do

Sperberg-McQueen 1994

  1. Electronic scholarly editions are worth having. And therefore it is worth thinking about the form they should take.

  2. Electronic scholarly editions should be accessible to the broadest audience possible. They should not require a particular type of computer, or a particular piece of software: unnecessary technical barriers to their use should be avoided.

  3. Electronic scholarly editions should have relatively long lives: at least as long as printed editions. They should not become technically obsolete before they are intellectually obsolete.

  4. Printed scholarly editions have developed their current forms in order to meet both intellectual requirements and to adapt to the characteristics of print publication. Electronic editions must meet the same intellectual needs. There is no reason to abandon traditional intellectual requirements merely because we are using a different medium to publish them

  5. On the other hand, many conventions or requirements of traditional print editions reflect not the demands of readers or scholarship, but the difficulties of conveying complex information on printed pages without confusing or fatiguing the reader, or the financial exigencies of modern scholarly publishing. Such requirements need not be taken over at all, and must not be taken over thoughtlessly, into electronic editions.

Sperberg-McQueen 1994

  1. Electronic publications can, if suitably encoded and suitably supported by software, present the same text in many forms: as clear text, as diplomatic transcript of one witness or another, as critical reconstruction of an authorial text, with or without critical apparatus of variants, and with or without annotations aimed at the textual scholar, the historian, the literary scholar, the linguist, the graduate student, or the undergraduate. They can provide many more types of index than printed editions typically do. And so electronic editions can, in principle, address a larger audience than single print editions. In this respect, they may face even higher intellectual requirements than print editions, which typically need not attempt to provide annotations for such diverse readers.
  2. Print editions without apparatus, without documentation of editorial principles, and without decent typesetting are not acceptable substitutes for scholarly editions. Electronic editions without apparatus, without documentation of editorial principles, and without decent provision for suitable display are equally unacceptable for serious scholarly work.
  3. As a consequence, we must reject out of hand proposals to create electronic scholarly editions in the style of Project Gutenberg, which objects in principle to the provision of apparatus, and almost never indicates the sources, let alone the principles which have governed the transcription, of its texts.


In sum: I believe electronic scholarly editions must meet three fundamental requirements: accessibility without needless technical barriers to use; longevity; and intellectual integrity. ( Sperberg-McQueen 1994)

MLA: Committee On Scholarly Editions

  • it must account completely and responsibly for the textual landscape it represents;
  • it must fully describe and justify its editorial methods;
  • it should reveal the processes by which it was created and disseminated (including data, data structures and constraints, and algorithmic or dynamic processes), and it should include a record of changes and updates made to the edition over time, which otherwise tend to remain invisible in the digital environment;
  • it should reveal the judgment and scholarship, the editorial rationales and processes, on which the edition is based;
  • it should evince a rigorous standard of accuracy and consistency in applying a particular editorial approach, set of theoretical premises, or method;
  • it should demonstrate the appropriate fit among stated methodology, stated goals of the edition (reconstructing authorial intent, reconstructing the social text, etc.), and the nature of the existing textual witnesses;
  • it should contain a detailed textual introduction or editorial policy statement, as distinguished from a critical introduction, that outlines these aspects; and
  • it should include consideration of how the edition can circulate and function as a scholarly resource over time.

MLA: CSE - Digital Scholarly Editions

  • it must note its technological choices and be aware of their implications, ideally using technologies appropriate to the goals of the edition (see fit between methods and goals, above), in recognition of the fact that technologies and methods are interrelated in that no technical decisions are innocent of methodological implications and vice versa;
  • it should be created and presented in ways ensuring the greatest chance of longevity—addressing this challenge involves infrastructural, financial, and data representation issues (such as the use of widely accepted, open standards);
  • it should readily respond to the challenge of maintaining the scholarly ability to be referenced in view of the ways that interfaces change over time; and
  • where possible, it should attend to possibilities of sampling, reuse, and remix, supporting approaches to the formation and curation of the edition such as reconstructing and documenting instances of texts and textual change over time, like algorithmic construction and reconstruction (with possible extensibility, including external data); in doing so, it should attempt to balance considerations for intellectual property and labor with the goals of achieving open access and reusability

(See MLA Report)

RIDE: Criteria for Reviewing
Scholarly Digital Editions

Detailed recommendations including: 

  1. Opening information about the SDE
    • About the reviewer, the editors, the SDE, general introduction and transparency
  2. Subject and content of the edition
    • Selection, previous and project's achievements, content
  3. Aims and methods
    • Documentation, objectives, mission, method, representation of texts, text criticism, indexing, data modelling
  4. Publication and presentation
    • Technical infrastructure, interfaces, searching, metadata, identification/citation, social, exports, basic data, licensing, etc.
  5. Conclusion
    • Terminology, realisation of aims, contribution to scholarship,  particularities, possible improvements

Jane Austen
Fiction Manuscripts

Jane Austen's
Fiction Manuscripts

  • Editions of holographic manuscripts using TEI XML
  • New high-resolution, pan/zoomable, digital images
  • Detailed metadata and head notes supplied
  • TEI encoding enables diplomatic display, tooltip popups of corrections/additions/annotations etc.
  • Custom functionality for dealing with patches, block insertions, etc.

Alfred Escher

Alfred Escher: Briefedition

  • Edition of the correspondence of Alfred Escher (Swiss politician, shaped a lot of 19thC Swiss political and economic development )
  • Chronological and other faceted browsing 
  • Provides a variety of views:
    • edited letter
    • diplomatic text and image
    • image and diplomatic text
    • facsimile
  • The text/image linking in this edition is significant
  • All mentions of people and places link to more metadata and can be highlighted
  • Abbreviations/expansions and corrections marked

Petrus Plaoul Edition

Petrus Plaoul Edition

  • Edition of Petrus Plaoul's (c.1352 - 1415)  Commentary on the Sentences
  • Easy navigation and access to text edition, manuscript images, notes, outline c.f. lectio1
  • Paragraph text tools include:
    • Variants,
    • Editorial notes,
    • Collation of texts,
    • Comparison of texts,
    • and underlying XML
  • (Registered) User comments allowed
  • Outputs not only website but as PDF, IIIF (Mirador), Network Visualizations, Scholastic Quotation Explorer


Some Questions To Consider:

  • What do you expect from a digital edition?
  • What features should it have?
  • How is a digital edition you like to be browsed?
  • How intelligent must searching of an edition be?
  • Is fine-grained text/image linking helpful for you?
  • What other outputs are possible?
  • Is the edition only one possible view on the data?
  • How can digital editions better reflect the experience of the real-world object? And should they?
  • .... and your questions

What do you expect from a digital edition?

By James Cummings

What do you expect from a digital edition?

A short talk about digital scholarly editions

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