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Home :: Archive :: 1993 :: January ::
Electronic Shakespeare at the MLA
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 11.  Thursday, 7 January 1993.
 
(1)     From:   Hardy M. Cook <
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        Date:   Thursday, January 7, 1993
        Subj:   Electronic Shakespeare at the MLA
 
(2)     From:   John Lavagnino <LAV@BRANDEIS>
        Date:   Monday,  4 Jan 1993 21:09 EST
        Subj:   Electronic Shakespeare at the MLA
 
(3)     From:   Hardy M. Cook <
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        Date:   Thursday, January 7, 1993
        Subj:   THE PUBLIC DOMAIN SHAKESPEARE by Ian Lancashire
 
 
(1)---------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Hardy M. Cook <
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Date:           Thursday, January 7, 1993
Subject:        Electronic Shakespeare at the MLA
 
Dear SHAKSPEReans,
 
About eighteen months, there was a lively discussion on SHAKSPER about the
possibility of creating a Public-Domain, Old-Spelling Electronic Shakespeare.
For that project, I offered a transcription of the 1609 Quarto of the Sonnets
in an untagged and a minimally tagged version (available on the SHAKSPER
Fileserver as SONNETS 1609Q and SONNETS TAG1609Q).  One of our members, Dr. Ian
Lancashire, Director of the Centre for Computing, University of Toronto,
envisioned this project as a part of work already going on at the Centre for
Computing in the Humanities.  Some months ago, I began working with him on
fully encoding the 1609 Quarto of the Sonnets and Lovers Complaint as a
prototype electronic edition for a long-range project of developing accurate,
scholarly electronic editions of Shakespeare's original texts.
 
As we get close to the time that the Q1609 text will be ready to be released,
Professor Lancashire reported on his vision of the entire Public Domain
Shakespeare project at the Electronic Archives session at the 1992 MLA
Convention.
 
What follows is a summary of Professor Lancashire's presentation that was made
by Michael Sperberg-McQueen and submitted to SHAKSPER by John Lavagnino. I did
not believe that the summary conveyed as accurately as it could have the
substance of Professor Lancashire's remarks, so I asked him if he would share
his paper with us.  He has agreed and the next posting contains excerpts of the
MLA presentation.  The complete paper with appendices is available of the
SHAKSPER Fileserver as LANCSHIR PD_SHAKE.
 
SHAKSPEReans can retrieve LANCSHIR PD_SHAKE by issuing the interactive
command, "TELL LISTSERV AT UTORONTO GET LANCHIR PD_SHAKE SHAKSPER."  If your
network link does not support the interactive "TELL" command (i.e. if you
are not directly on Bitnet), or if LISTSERV rejects your request, then
send a one-line mail message (without a subject line) to LISTSERV@utoronto,
reading "GET LANCSHIR PD_SHAKE SHAKSPER."
 
(2)---------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Lavagnino <LAV@BRANDEIS>
Date:           Monday,  4 Jan 1993 21:09 EST
Subject:        Electronic Shakespeare at the MLA
 
I pass along an item from another list that you might want to post, on a
discussion of electronic Shakespeares from the MLA.  This is an excerpt
from C. M. Sperberg-McQueen's "Trip Report: Modern Language
Association," 30 December 1992, from the TEI-L list at uicvm.bitnet;
this is from the account of the panel discussion on Electronic Archives,
chaired by James Sosnowski, which took place at the MLA.  (The entire
text of the report is available as EDW34 DOC from listserv@uicvm.)
 
John Lavagnino, Brandeis University
 
 
Ian Lancashire spoke next, on "The Public-Domain Shakespeare," in which
he reviewed the various versions of Shakespeare available in electronic
form, including numerous versions of the Folio and early Quarto texts
--- which however include only 64 texts of the canon, leaving 133 early
printings yet un-electrified.  He drew attention to the commercially
available texts (some based on well known reputable editions, some not)
as well as the many texts available from the Oxford Text Archive, and
dwelt some time on the various methods adopted by encoders in handling
such things as textual variation, archaisms of spelling, and corruption
in the text.  Many available texts contain editorial emendations, which
IL curiously contrasted with "Shakespeare" pure and simple, to the
detriment of the emenders.  The opposition struck me as very odd, since
"Shakespeare" pure and simple is precisely what the editors, by
emending, are claiming not to be represented by the early printings.
Unless IL wished to claim that the early printings of Shakespeare all
represent the author's ipsissima verba, it seems dangerously misleading
to refer to the early printings as "Shakespeare" and attempts to correct
their defects as merely "editors".  Phrased differently (the e-texts
contain editorial interventions instead of simple reproductions of the
sometimes dubious early printings), the point is valid and important but
ceases to prejudice the case against the editors.  IL's talk was
supplemented by a handout, of which I was unable to secure a copy.  This
in itself signaled a happy turn of events:  though he came prepared with
a number more than ample for the usual turnout at sessions on electronic
text, IL rapidly ran out of handouts in a crowd of over fifty people.
The talk provided a usefully concrete supplement to the broad, sometimes
vague, generalities of the other speakers.
 
--- C. M. Sperberg-McQueen
 
(3)---------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Hardy M. Cook <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thursday, January 7, 1993
Subject:        THE PUBLIC DOMAIN SHAKESPEARE by Ian Lancashire
 
 
                       THE PUBLIC DOMAIN SHAKESPEARE
 
                                    by
                              Ian Lancashire
                           Department of English
                           University of Toronto
 
                        Modern Language Association
                                 New York
                    29 December 1992, 10:15-11:30 a.m.
                    Riverside Suite, Sheraton New York
 
 
 
1. What should a Public-Domain Shakespeare be?
 
     In his dedicatory poem to Shakespeare in the First Folio, Ben
Jonson said, `He was not of an age, but for all time!'  Despite
this -- and after more than thirty years of electronic scholarship
-- the 1623 and three later folio editions, and all the quarto
versions, of Shakespeare's plays and poems are still not available
in un-copy-protected electronic texts on the network.  Instead, we
have texts that either vary (without warning) from these early
texts or that, although old-spelling copies, do not faithfully
capture the bibliographical details of the originals.
Shakespeare's works, altered silently or emended on explicit
grounds, may be obtained commercially or freely in electronic form,
but not the originals from which every one of these editions must
flow.  Trevor Howard-Hill's old-spelling versions in the Oxford
Text Archive come closest to these originals, but a charge is still
made for them, their copyright status is unclear, and they do not
render the typography of the originals.  See Appendix A for a list
of these editions.
 
     For this reason, the editor of the SHAKSPER file-server, Hardy
Cook, assisted by myself with encoding and proofing, is producing
a prototype `public-domain' edition of Shakespeare's sonnets and `A
Lover's Complaint' (1609).  This edition records the fonts,
including ligatures, of the original quarto and declines to
introduce emendations, even of probable typos.  We have encoded
only non-interpretive features of the text such as signature,
catchword, running-title, indentation, forme, sonnet number,
rhyming scheme, etc. in both COCOA and SGML tagging syntax.  We
have not collated a variety of copies of the 1609 edition but
rather just two quartos at the Folger Shakespeare Library, one as
sold by Aspley and the other by Wright.  Version 1.0 of `Shake-
speares Sonnets' (1609) will be distributed from SHAKSPER and the
Centre for Computing in the Humanities at the University of
Toronto.  Anyone may copy, use, alter or store this public-domain
edition anywhere in the world.  The only restriction is that it be
not sold commercially.
 
     The COCOA- and SGML-encoded files are being made available
with some ancillary files: word-frequency lists (alphabetical,
reverse alphabetical and descending frequency), tables of repeated
phrases and of node-collocate pairs (with associational z-score),
type-token statistics for word-and-letter frequency and length, and
finally an interpretive dictionary of all word-forms that includes
part-of-speech, lemmatized form, and normalized form.  These
ancillary files have been generated by the TACT system.  With TACT,
it is possible to obtain other displays with the COCOA-tagged
version, as well as to tag words in the text by part-of-speech
indicator, lemma and normalized form so as to produce other
versions of the text for text analysis, for student editions, etc.
 
 
2. What Electronic Shakespeares are there? . . .
 
3. Why not to Trust Electronic Shakespeares . . .
 
4. Why Tag? and How? . . .
 
5. Conclusion
 
     A series of Shakespeare editions conceived along these lines
should assist in the study of the language of Early Modern English
by recording accurately the orthography, vocabulary and syntax of
Shakespeare's works from the 1590s to the mid-17th century.  This
lexical database would contribute to the history of the language,
specifically in light of the plans of Oxford University Press to
issue a third edition of the Oxford English Dictionary within the
next two decades.
 
     Each generation will make its own contribution to the study of
Shakespeare.  A carefully-prepared, conservative electronic series
of texts, which is by no means an undoable task -- consider the
work of Ted Brunner in his Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, or the
astonishing Full-Text English Poetry Database from Chadwyck-Healey
-- will provide a uniform foundation for new research, some of it
hard to imagine at this time.
 
     I hope that the prototype electronic edition of the
Shakespeare's sonnets and `Lover's Complaint' will be rigorously
assessed by textual scholars of Shakespeare, because, like any
electronic text, it will be `alive,' capable of being revised with
relative ease, as long as the Internet or its successor networks
are in place.  Because corrections and additional encoding
information may be added to an electronic text incrementally, and
everyone contributing an improvement to the text is recorded in the
TEI `history' of the file, these editions would increase in
authority over the years.
 
     Hardy Cook will be undertaking further editions of
Shakespeare's poems.  We hope that other scholars will join us in
this enjoyable, useful project.
 
              Appendix A. Draft List of Electronic Editions
                  of Works by or Ascribed to Shakespeare
 
                   Appendix B. Six Electronic Editions
                of Shakespeare's Sonnets 1-2: A Comparison
 

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