Manuscripts and the TEI Primer

This primer covers the basics of the TEI, with a specific focus on manuscript encoding. It is a parallel track to the TEI Primer. The primer begins with a preliminary explanation of the mechanics of XML. Following this introduction, we cover the reasons one might want to use XML—or, more specifically, TEI encoding. Moving from the conceptual realm, the tutorials cover how to mark up basic structural and phrase-level textual features using the TEI as well as more advanced encodings, such as marking up the zones and surfaces of manuscripts and describing handwriting features. This primer also contains tutorials that provide overviews of metadata and customization of the TEI.

This primer is designed for those learning TEI for the first time. If you are considering using TEI to mark up manuscripts and other handwritten materials, this is a good place to start.

Set-up for Tutorials

Before you begin, see our tutorial set-up page. This provides instructions on working in oXygen XML Editor, downloading the files for hands-on exercises, and using the tutorials.

An Introduction to XML

This tutorial outlines the fundamental rules of XML, what XML is, and how it relates to the TEI. This tutorial will also explain why a project may want to use XML, as opposed to some other type of markup system.

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Overview of Text Encoding and the TEI

This tutorial contains an overview of the TEI within the context of the larger field of digital humanities. We explain the rationale behind scholarly text encoding, and discuss why you may want to use TEI on your project.

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Basic Manuscript Encoding

This tutorial focuses on the basic elements used to encode a TEI document, focusing on the fundamental structural elements for marking up your text (in particular, for basic prose, poetry, and drama). Building on these foundational elements, this tutorial discusses: encoding phrase-level elements such as names, references, and linguistic features; correcting, regularizing, or modernizing the text, while still acknowledging the original; encoding authorial or editorial deletions and revisions of the text; and showing uncertainty about your reading of the text.

After completing this tutorial, you may be interested in the following tutorial not included in this primer:

  • Encoding Contextual Information: This tutorial outlines the TEI’s mechanism for contextual encoding, providing information on how to create structured data about certain things contained within your texts—persons, places, organizations, etc.—using TEI elements.

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Advanced Manuscript Encoding

This tutorial is particularly important to those who want to encode manuscripts. It explains how to mark different hands and show where a given person’s handwriting starts and ends; it also covers how to encode revisions, additions, and deletions. This tutorial emphasizes some of the particular challenges of encoding manuscripts, such as irregular and hard-to-organize textual structures.

After completing this tutorial, you may be interested in the following tutorial not included in this primer:

  • Encoding Contextual Information: This tutorial outlines the TEI’s mechanism for contextual encoding, providing information on how to create structured data about certain things contained within your texts—persons, places, organizations, etc.—using TEI elements.

Get started

Metadata and the TEI Header

This tutorial describes the types of contextual information (or metadata) that one might want to provide for an encoded document. Metadata is important for many audiences of encoded documents because it can provide information that may not be explicit in the text itself. For example, one might include metadata about the birth and death dates of people in a historical novel, or provide contextual information about the publishers of a given book. This tutorial covers the basic mechanisms the TEI provides for encoding such information; metadata and the encoding of other contextual information are covered more extensively in the Contextual Encoding Primer.

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Customization and the TEI

This tutorial provides a very brief overview of TEI customization: what it is and why one might want to do it. You should use this tutorial if you are new to TEI customization and wondering if your project might benefit from customizing the TEI. Customization is covered in more specific detail in the Customization Primer.

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What next?

If you have finished this primer, you might be wondering where to go next. Listed below are brief descriptions of the primers that assume the basic knowledge of XML/TEI provided in this Manuscripts and the TEI Primer. You can also return to the Tutorial Curriculum Page for full descriptions of all the primers.