Friday, January 13, 2006

Digital Scholarly Editions

Imagine a digital tool for comparing primary sources. Could such a tool clarify the differences between historical interpretations and expose the glue that historians use to bring historical facts together into a meaningful whole?

The article linked to above, "Current issues in making digital editions of medieval texts—or, do electronic scholarly editions have a future?" (Peter Robinson , Digital Medievalist 1.1, Spring 2005), addresses this goal:

"Fundamental to the model of electronic scholarly edition as it has developed over the past decade is the inclusion of full transcripts of all witnesses to the text. These transcripts need complex structural and other encoding from which computer programs may generate full collations of all the witnesses."

"Further computer programs may offer different representations and analytic tools for studying the differences and similarities among the witnesses, and then present all these, typically alongside images of the manuscripts, within a single electronic interface."

Following the links, you get many examples of how to make primary sources available online. See Livy's history of Rome in Latin and English

I found this in DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals) an index of high quality, thoroughly edited and refereed academic journals available for free over the internet. This is already the way the natural sciences have headed with sites like Citeseer. A friend and colleague tells me that some European governments are already making it a requirement.