Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 161. Friday, 12 March 1993.
From: David L. Gants <
Date: Thursday, 11 Mar 93 09:27:45 -0500
Subject: University of Virginia Electronic Text Center
On March 10 Ben Ross Schneider wrote:
During the 70's [London Stage] was computerized here (Lawrence
University), and the resulting data base is now searching for a home where
someone will maintain it and make it available to scholars in theatre history
or whatever. It seems likely right now that the Electronic Text Center at
University of Virginia will provide this home.
John Gouws of Rhodes University responded:
Is the existence of the Electronic Text Center at the University of
Virginia generally known? What facilities does it offer? Until now I
had thought that the only place for lodging texts and text-bases was the
Oxford Text Archive (about which I do have information should anyone
To expand on this thread, the University of Virginia's Electronic
Text Center has been working with Mr. Schneider on converting the
London Stage files to a UNIX-readable format and placing them in the
Center's public archives. Much works needs to be done both technically
(digital technology has greatly changed in the past 20 years) and in
acquiring copyright permission from Southern Illinois University Press.
I am confident, however, that the invaluable collection will be
available in machine-searchable format some time in the future.
For those interested in UVa's Electronic Archives, I append
a description. Please feel free to contact us with questions or
David L. Gants -- Electronic Text Center -- University of Virginia
The Electronic Text Center
On-line Archive of Electronic Texts
Alderman Library, University of Virginia
As part of an ongoing commitment to the use of computers in education
and research, the University of Virginia Library has established an
Electronic Text Center and an on-line collection of machine-readable texts.
The initial set of on-line texts includes the new Oxford English Dictionary;
the entire corpus of Old English writings; selected Library of America
titles; several versions of Shakespeare's complete works; hundreds of other
literary, social, historical, philosophical, and political materials in
various languages (chiefly from the Oxford and the Cambridge Text Archives);
and the currently released parts of two massive databases from Chadwyck-
Healey: J-P. Migne's Patrologia Latina, and the English Poetry Full-Text
Database, comprised of the complete works of 1,350 English poets from
AD 600 to 1900. Because of contractual obligations, access to these texts
and searching tools is restricted to University of Virginia students, faculty
A principal aim of the Electronic Text Center is to help create a new
broad-based user community within the humanities at Virginia. We work daily
with individual users to introduce them to new working methods, new teaching
possibilities, and new types of equipment, and we aid John Price-Wilkin, our
library's Information Management Coordinator, to run regular training
sessions for the on-line data and search tools. The Library was adamant from
the earliest stages of this enterprise that these new services had to be
introduced and taught through ongoing workshops and demonstrations, in order
to become a mainstream part of the teaching and research resources on which
our faculty and students draw. New users need to see for themselves that
they can sit at a large color monitor and simultaneously search multiple on-
line databases (say, the Oxford English Dictionary and the English Poetry
database) while manipulating color images of manuscript pages (which they may
have just created in the Center), and then can open another window to e-mail
a colleague about the results, or to log into another library's catalog
before using our on-line document delivery service to order a book through
Inter-Library Loan. Such a hands-on demonstration typically overcomes any
initial trepidation a new user may feel.
Our on-line texts are all SGML encoded. Some of these we are tagging
ourselves, with the aid of volunteers from various library departments, under
a Staff Sharing program for cross-training. The on-line texts are searched
using Pat, a program developed initially for the Oxford English Dictionary.
Users in the Library and elsewhere on campus with access to a machine running
X Windows can search and view these databases through a graphical interface
to Pat that shows texts in a form very close to the appearance of the printed
page; users dialing in from desktop machines will typically use a VT100
search and display front-end to Pat (called Patty), which the Library is
developing in conjunction with UVa.'s Academic Computing Department.
Having the majority of our electronic texts available on-line affords
significant advantages: it eases the pressure of use on the Center, gives
much more flexible and convenient access to our users, and allows us to
provide the same search and display "front-end" for all our collections.
Having been taught to use one database, a user has the knowledge necessary
to search all current and future databases, thereby overcoming the
frustrations often involved with using CD-ROM products, each of which may
have a different interface.
In addition to building the on-line collection, the Electronic Text
Center both provides a place in which to use those few texts not available
on-line and also houses hardware and software that allows the computerized
analysis of text. At present we have MS-DOS machines, a NeXT, and an
IBM RS6000, all with large color monitors (a Macintosh is on order); two
scanners that turn printed text into computer-readable forms and that
generate high-resolution color images; and laser printers and CD-ROM drives.
These tools allow scholars to use software that can generate indices,
concordances, word-lists, and statistical analyses (Micro-OCP, Tact, MTAS,
and LitStats), create hypertexts (Guide), and perform collations and
cumulative sum analysis. We use "xv", an X Windows image viewer, extensively
on the RS6000, the PCs, and the NeXT for viewing, cropping, and enlarging
digital images alongside the searchable databases. The Center's NeXT also
gives us the capacity to record digital sound.
Our first semester of operation has necessarily been a time of
experiment and fine-tuning; nonetheless, there have been significant research
and teaching projects using the services of the Center and the on-line texts
throughout the fall:
* A large undergraduate survey course used our holdings in the 19th
century novel and added an 18th century Canadian novel to the collection
* scholars have searched the Hebrew bible, the Talmud, and several hundred
books of rabbinical responsa on the Taklit-Shoot cd-rom
* a Shakespeare survey course created a teaching tool using text, images,
and digitized sound from different productions of The Merchant of Venice,
to run alongside the on-line collections of Shakespeare's works.
* a graduate student has studied ship-naming conventions and metaphors in
Anglo-Saxon writings, using the Old English Corpus
* A composition class used our services to gather and search
* a French professor has set up a language tutorial program for his
medieval French course
* bibliography students have used collating software, image scanning, and
digitized sound while preparing and presenting research projects for a
graduate textual editing course
* a medievalist has scanned in manuscripts, using the ability to enlarge
and re-color portions of a scanned image as he transcribes them.
In addition, the first two Fellows of the University's Institute for Advanced
Technology in the Humanities have entered text and images for a hypermedia
edition of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and have scanned in maps, engravings,
census data, and texts for a major research project on two Civil War
communities (one Northern and one Southern). In the course of all this
activity, the E-Text Center staff have given impromptu and formal training
sessions to hundreds of faculty, students, and visitors.
The Center and on-line archive provide a potential model for other
institutions as they plan similar endeavors. We hope that the strong
partnership we have forged with our local academic computing community will
also provide an example of how to create an "information technology
community" at the college level by unifying the creative energy and expertise
of technical and non-technical departments.
The Electronic Text Center, located on the third floor of Alderman
Library, is open Monday-Thursday 9am-10pm, Friday 9am-6pm, and Sunday
1pm-10pm, and is staffed by David Seaman (coordinator), Peter Byrnes, David
Gants, Peter Kastor, Jamie Spriggs, and Kelly Tetterton. For more
information, e-mail us at
or phone 804-924-3230.