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Home :: Archive :: 1991 :: September ::
Public Domain Texts: A Proposal
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 2, No. 216. Saturday, 14 Sep 1991.
 
 
(1)	Date: 	Thu, 12 Sep 1991 23:33:13 -0400
	From: 	Steve Urkowitz <surcc@cunyvm.bitnet>
	Subj:   Re: SHK 2.0208  Text Encoding Initiative, SGML
	
(2)	From: 	Ken Steele <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
	Subj: 	Public Domain Shakespeare Texts: A Proposal
	Date: 	Sat, 14 Sep 91 9:01:40 EDT
 
	
(1)--------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Date: 		Thu, 12 Sep 1991 23:33:13 -0400
From: 		Steve Urkowitz <surcc@cunyvm.bitnet>
Subject: 2.0208  Text Encoding Initiative, SGML
Comment:      	Re: SHK 2.0208  Text Encoding Initiative, SGML
 
Thanks for the survey of the Text-encoding world, daunting though it may
be.  A question:  Are there any happy souls encoding quarto and Folio
texts of Shakespeare's plays?  I know that the Oxford Text Archive perches
dragonlike over the treasures coded by those earlier Oxford concorders,
but, as they say down East, we can't get there from here.  I bought this
sooper dooper compooter with an absurdly large hard disk so that I might
do interesting and rollicking searches through Qs and Fs.  Silly me.
I've learned that I can only buy "Wordcruncher and the Riverside" (not a
lot of binocularity there).  And I can ask Ken Steele (and I have) to run
searches on the beautiful Qs and Fs that he has access to.  But that's
at E-arms length.
 
Question:  Would it be possible for a happy graduate seminar somewhere to
dedicate itself to scanning or coding one or several of the neatly typeset
type-facsimiles of Shakespearean quartos and First Folio texts?  Could a
dedicated Text Encoder mark up those Bardic E-texts for public access?
"Tell me about the rabbits again, George . . . "  Will Old Shakespeare ever
find his/her/their way into my 40meg drive?  Somewhere, over the rainEbow . . .
 
					E-dreaming,
 
					Steve Urkowitz
					SURCC@CUNYVM
					
 
(2)-------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
From: 		Ken Steele <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Subject: 	Public Domain Shakespeare Texts: A Proposal
Date: 		Sat, 14 Sep 91 9:01:40 EDT
 
 
Background:
 
Although individual public domain electronic texts of Shakespeare can
occasionally be found (I think I read about a text of CE recently on
GUTNBERG), to my knowledge the complete works have been keyboarded
very few times.  As I understand it, Marvin Spevack entered the texts
for his famous Concordance, and WordCruncher corporation re-issued
those texts as the Riverside Shakespeare.  Likewise, T.H. Howard-Hill
keypunched the Quartos and Folios in the 1960s, for his series of
Oxford Old-Spelling Shakespeare Concordances, and Stanley Wells and
Gary Taylor used those files to prepare the Oxford Complete Works (now
available on disk from Oxford University Press - Electronic Division).
In the era of electronic typesetting, typesetter's tapes have become a common
resource for preparing electronic editions too, and Arthur Bullen's
Stratford Town Edition (available from Shakespeare on Disk), and the
Stratford Ontario Festival editions (available from DisteK Publishing)
doubtless came about in that way.
 
The WordCruncher Riverside is perhaps most widely available, on both
diskettes and CD-ROM, and is a traditional edition, with all the
advantages and disadvantages that entails.  Naturally, the electronic
version has a few new errors (see RIVERSID ERRORS SHAKSPER on the SHAKSPER
Fileserver for a partial listing).  Unfortunately, WordCruncher has
encrypted the data files to make it difficult to correct them, or to use
them with any application other than WordCruncher, and the license
agreement strictly forbids any such reverse-engineering.  The Oxford
Complete Works is much better in this regard; the files are mere ASCII
with COCOA-style tags to identify significant textual features, and
can be edited or used with other software.  But an edition is an edition.
 
Howard-Hill's original transcriptions of the Quartos and First Folio
are by far and away more useful to textual scholars, revisionists, and
theatre historians.  The files are still available from the Oxford
University Computing Services Text Archive, on magnetic tape, for "a
modest media charge," but unless you have a mainframe in your office
you will have to suffer the slings and arrows of conversion to get
them onto diskette.  (For some discussion of these texts and their
capabilities, see TEXTBASE ANNOUNCE SHAKSPER, WCRUNCHR SHAKSPER,
and DYNAMIC SHAKSPER on the Fileserver.  For information about the
Archive's holdings, see OXFORD ARCHIVE.  For ordering information, see
OXFORD BROCHURE.)  And while obviously the Quartos and Folios can't be
copyrighted, the OTA requires purchasers to sign a contractual license
agreement forbidding redistribution of the files.
 
A Proposal:
 
What's past is prologue; sorry for its length.  Several days before
word came of the Dartmouth Shakespeare database on Internet (which we
now know is only about half of the Shakespeare on Disk corpus), I was
toying with a proposal which Steve's question now prompts: as an
international community of almost 200 Shakespeareans, could we not
cooperatively produce a few public domain texts of our own, with absolutely
NO STRINGS ATTACHED, and make them available to all?  The network
brings a new dimension to collaboration and cooperation, and this
would be a fine way to demonstrate its potential to revolutionize
the pursuit of knowledge.
 
What if each of us selflessly keyboarded, scanned, or clipped from our
files of articles and essays just TEN LINES of *King Lear*?  The
cumulative effect would be a text of the play within a few weeks.
I could electronically collate it with other electronic texts to ensure its
accuracy, without violating anyone's copyright or license agreements.
It could then be made available on the SHAKSPER Fileserver, and/or via
FTP on the Internet, to all, and could be redistributed from there.
 
Obviously, with the Riverside, Oxford, Stratford Town, and Stratford
Festival editions available, what's really needed now are some truly
public-domain Quarto and Folio texts.  It would take some time to
produce the entire corpus, but not as long as it will take to convince
Oxford or WordCruncher to place their files in the public domain.
And Steve's idea of encouraging graduate seminars (or even
undergraduates) to participate is also an excellent one.
 
Comments or suggestions?  Is *King Lear*, as the heart of the revision
controversy and the single most textually-studied play, a reasonable
place to start?  Is there any common facsimile more readily available
than the Norton Folio and the Allen & Muir Quartos?  Are there any
volunteers to help work out an encoding scheme, or to start keyboarding?
Are there any texts out there lying in wait already?  Does anyone else
care if there are public domain texts?
 
					Ken Steele
					University of Toronto
						
 

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