Early Modern Women’s Manuscripts

Manuscript materials pose particular challenges for digitization: their material properties are more significant to their routine scholarly use than those of printed books, and the simple task of presenting a legible text is fraught with complexities and difficult decisions. For the WWP these challenges are magnified by the chronological range in question and also by the diversity of manuscript materials that are relevant to our collection, as well as the need to integrate these materials into the predominantly print-based WWO collection.

We are approaching the inclusion of manuscripts as a research project in its own right. Several questions need to be addressed as we undertake this new phase:

  • To what extent can we, or should we, establish a single editorial approach for the WWP’s handling of manuscripts?
  • What kinds of information about these materials are essential for scholarly use? How would that information be presented and manipulated within the WWO interface?
  • How should the overall work of transcription, encoding, editing, and correction be organized, so as to involve scholarly collaborators in the most effective and appropriate way?

We are currently engaged in a pilot project, in collaboration with Sandra Petrulionis and Noelle Baker, editors of the Almanacks of Mary Moody Emerson. This pilot involves samples from the Almanacks, which are being encoded in TEI as part of the editorial process. A very rough prototype is now visible, and these materials are also being added to WWO. The experiment gives us an opportunity to work out the initial details of our encoding approach for manuscript materials and to explore how best to present these materials within WWO. Following this pilot, we will begin a second pilot at a larger scale, inviting proposals from scholars to develop digital manuscript editions for WWO.

Get involved

Are you working on editing a manuscript that might be appropriate for inclusion in Women Writers Online? We would love to hear from you. Here are a few points to consider before contacting us:

  • To be appropriate for inclusion at this initial stage, manuscripts should be fairly short (less than 100 pages) and should have historical or cultural significance in relation to the other material in Women Writers Online. Since the WWO audience is quite broad, the contents should ideally be intelligible to non-specialists.
  • As part of the transcription process, you will need to engage at times fairly closely with issues arising from the digital encoding process. No prior experience with digital texts is needed, but we’ll expect you to be interested in digital representation and willing to learn and work with us.
  • The digital edition will be included in Women Writers Online, though you are also free to use the encoded transcription (and any other materials developed) as the basis for other publications (print, stand-alone electronic editions, etc.). We are unfortunately not able to pay royalties of any kind.
  • We haven’t yet begun the second phase pilot, and at this stage we are seeking expressions of interest only. The timing of the actual publication is thus some way off.