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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: September ::
Re: Early English Books Online
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1699  Thursday, 7 September 2000.

From:           Laura Janover,<
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Date:           Wed, 6 Sep 2000 13:09:12 -0400
Subject:        Early English Books Online

[Editor's Note: The following, forwarded to me by the Product Manager
for Early English Books Online (EEBO), is a response to William Proctor
Williams regarding his comments here about the EEBO. For those who are
interested, I send this message out with some reservations that are
outweighed by the information contained in it. -Hardy]

Dear Professor Williams,

Your comments about Early English Books Online (EEBO) on The Shakespeare
Electronic Conference listserv were forwarded to me.

First, I would like to thank you for the feedback about EEBO.  We strive
to make the product as useful as possible, and appreciate your
comments.  Please allow me to address the issues you raised.  Regarding
searching, printer/publisher, place and date can all be searched in the
interface.  Specifically, imprint information is searchable in both
EEBO's Basic and Advanced Search interfaces. Imprint includes the
printer and city in which the work was printed.

The inability to search "Andronicus" that you reported is a bug that our
developers began working on as soon as your message was forwarded to
us.  We expect a fix to be implemented tomorrow.  We welcome feedback
about the EEBO interface, and have a feedback form on the site to
facilitate gathering information for fixes and enhancements.

Regarding your question about how much of the STC and Wing corpus is
included in the Collection, the images in EEBO are scanned directly from
the STC, Wing, and Thomason Tracts microfilm.  Scanning of new microfilm
units of STC and Wing microfilm is on-going.  In fact, we plan to scan
the new units of STC and Wing as they are produced. Nothing will be
excluded from the online version.

We are sorry about the frustration you encountered when using EEBO.
Most of the responses we have received have been extremely favorable.
In fact, Clive Hurst of the Bodleian Library, said that EEBO is an
indispensable database.  Lori Newcomb, from the University of Illinois,
wrote an interesting commentary about EEBO, which I have included below
to help others on the list understand how EEBO could be used on their
campus.

In addition, there is a non-profit project to create ASCII text for all
the works for EEBO spearheaded by the University of Michigan, Oxford and
Bell & Howell.  You can read more about this initiative at:
http://www.lib.umich.edu/libhome/eebo/

If you have further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact
me directly at 
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 .

How Do Researchers Use EEBO?
We recently received a copy of an email (reproduced below) sent from a
Professor at the University of Illinois addressed to the Library Head of
Collection Development. This Professor sent the email to persuade the
Collection Development Head to purchase EEBO. It contains wonderful
nuggets of information on the advantages of online access to this
scholarly collection including:
        *       How EEBO can be used in research - including how the
professor made a major scholarly breakthrough using EEBO.
        *       Why the professor thinks EEBO will be "A resource of
enduring value, essential to the next century's work in English
studies."
        *       The importance of using original texts, which can only
be found in EEBO, in scholarly research.
        *       Why EEBO saves universities money (greatly cuts down on
travel cost that would be needed to view this material if EEBO wasn't
available)

Testimonial E-mail
From: Lori Newcomb - University of Illinois Professor
Subject: EEBO online

"I've just spent a research day working with the EEBO online database
from my home (I'd previously worked with it on the "library news" site).
I was prepared to be grateful for it, but the results exceeded my
expectations. As you say, it is slower to load than we might wish, but I
cannot begin to tell you how much it has enabled me to do in one day.
Although it cannot replace the intensive information available from work
with a printed book, it is certainly more effective than working with
microfilm versions of this texts.  Its power is that it combines the
most up-to-date of bibliographic information with the facsimile images.
The bibliographic information is irreplaceable, and has made the print
EEB (STC) obsolete. The facsimile images take the study of print culture
into whole new levels of flexibility and access, for before they were
available only in the random microfilming of the EEB series, batches of
unrelated items on each reel, with each reel in random sequence, and a
cumbersome print index.

Let me give an example: If you want to compare two different editions of
the same text on the EEB microfilms, you have to either print out copies
and try to keep them straight, or try to remember salient features as
you rewind the first film and reel into the next. Presumably with EEBO,
one could run two versions and compare texts tiled on the screen. With
the microfilm, even within a single reel, it is very hard to know what
you are looking at; you have to backtrack through the print reel index
and the EEB catalog (STC) itself. At best, EEB provides a little placard
with STC number, short title, and library provenance. EEBO lets you move
at any time into a list of all editions so that you can know how the
edition currently consulted might relate to others (though I do wish the
choices for moving among screens included a command for "return to full
results of search" since backtracking through images is so slow).

The research use I've already made of EEBO: Using this feature, I was
able to identify the provenance of a text almost the moment I set myself
up with EEBO, associating it with another text that I'd never connected
it to before. The details, in the next paragraph, may not interest you,
so I'll summarize: using the speed and capacity of this program, I was
able to link the packaging and marketing of two texts that I had
otherwise been able to see only on microfilm, or, in one case, in a
foreign library. By making this link between these two obscure texts,
instead of two bland mysteries, I have a more interesting and rich
pattern to write about. More time would let me fill that pattern in even
more, but still with infinitely less time and cost than with traveling
to these various libraries, ordering custom microfilm by international
mail, and getting the information piecemeal.

The details if you want to see how this worked out: I'm researching
different versions of a romance that was read by popular audiences from
1580s to early 1800s, as a test case in the distribution and uses of
literacy. Most of the versions of this text are prose, but a few are
verse.  I traveled to Edinburgh to consult one verse version in 1997 (it
had not been microfilmed) that lacks a title page and is otherwise
incomplete but had been dated to c. 1715. I was able to determine today
that this Scottish version adapts an English verse version known from
1672, with a totally different title, which I therefore had never
connected to it. The latter I've seen only on microfilm before now,
since it's at the Huntington in California. The confluence of these
texts may indicate that the English version was being distributed
throughout the island, or the Scottish version may be an unlicensed
knock-off, but either way, it's evidence of popular demand. Even more
amazing, certain features in the Scottish version lead me to believe
that it is based not on the 1672 edition, but on an earlier print
setting of the same text. Positing a pre-1672 version of this English
version allows me to make sense of some of its political overtones,
which never fit with a 1672 debate: this is a text from a more
politically volatile time, like 1650-60. I also was able to identify the
titlepage woodcut from this 1672 edition of the verse version with the
titlepage woodcut from a prose version of the same era, which allows me
to postulate that publishers of the period were quite aware that they
were "cross-marketing" this popular text in new ways, the verse more
politicized than the print version.

Now, to pedagogical uses of EEBO:

I teach graduate courses in which I encourage students to work with
early texts, and they are very excited by the notion of studying
documents in their original print state. Of course they enjoy working
with early items in our collection, but they are also coming to
appreciate that facsimiles make a good alternative. They see the
importance of surveying any original edition to get a sense of its
original presentation, pagination, use of space, editorial matter: what
Gerard Genette calls paratext, features that shaped its circulation of
meanings in its time. Unfortunately, the scale of our library makes work
with print and microfilm facsimiles awkward. The various print
facsimiles, often from the era before the on-line catalog, are not well
catalogued. The EEB microfilm series for 1475 to 1640 is viewable only
in the rare book room, with only a single reader-printer, and that not
located in a classroom facility. The resource that indexes the microfilm
series to the EEB's print form is also available only in the rare book
room: it is a copy of the first edition of EEB (STC) (now doubly
obsolete) with the microfilm reel numbers penciled in by patient RBR
staff long ago. These are great resources that I love, but their
physical arrangements make it very difficult to teach students how to
use the facility; even with six pages of instructions and a walk-through
from me and the help of RBR (Rare Book Room) staff, my very sharp grad
students found their first work with EEB microfilm to be very confusing
and off-putting. And this work had to be done before 5 PM, difficult for
our grad students with their heavy teaching and course loads, and
difficult for RBR staff who were crowded with the demand. If all of the
students in the seminar retain their commitment to early texts as they
develop dissertation topics, they will outstretch the RBR's physical and
staff resources. It must be underlined that many, many of these
materials have never appeared in modern print editions and never will.
It may be hard to believe, but print culture is the wave of the future
in Renaissance studies, precisely because questions of medium and
dissemination differ so starkly but fascinatingly from our current
resources.

The EEBO database also provides information that we cannot provide, such
as items not in the EEB microfilm series for 1475-1640 because they've
been identified more recently. More centrally, it also embraces items
from the 1640-1700 era, which have been unavailable on this campus since
the infamous decision not to buy the EEB II microfilm series. Since
interlibrary loan of EEB II has never been reliable (and once again, the
index to reel numbers is only in the RBR), that decision pretty much put
a halt to scholarship on the later seventeenth century, and has been a
real obstacle to my efforts to help students move in another strong
direction of critical interest, the political/religious/gender upheaval
of the later seventeenth century. Works by women authors, for instance,
are exponentially more common after 1640, and many of our grad students
would like to work more with such authors but are limited to those in
modern editions. On the other hand, if EEBO were available, students
could get basic information and form research questions using on-line
resources before turning to our rare documents. Undergraduate students,
too, would enjoy exploring EEBO, and they could easily access it (while
in five years I've only been able to prepare two students to work with
the print/microfilm EEB materials). We train our students to put
Shakespeare's work in the context of emerging ideas of gender, nation,
and family, and they need period documents to help them define those
ideas.

While I'm aware of the staggering costs of subscribing to EEBO, I would
like that acquisition to be considered in the light of the research and
information-resource costs it replaces: cumbersome and time-consuming
faculty travel; reconfiguring the RBR to make its resources available to
growing numbers of students interested in print culture; buying the
missing EEB reels for 1641 to 1700 so that the English department can
attract scholarship from that period. The EEBO builds on the excellence
of our RBR; by providing a virtual training ground for our graduate
students in English and GLIS, it prepares them to work with our
irreplaceable rare materials in substantive ways that reflect current
critical directions. Finally, the presence of UIUC texts in the EEB
reels is often noticed by my colleagues from other institutions; they
know our library is a great resource for our research and for training
our grad students, a resource whose only rivals are in the Ivy League
and California. We should build on that reputation rather than discard
it, by participating in the EEBO project and being known as active
sharers of textual resources in a hypertextual environment that can
advance the state of learning beyond anything I dreamed when I started
working with early texts.

Thanks for consulting us about this. I know there are very big pictures
and budgets to consider here. From my viewpoint and from that of many of
my colleagues and students, this is a resource of enduring value,
essential to the next century's work in this central field of English
studies."

Again, if you have further questions or concerns, please feel free to
contact me directly at 
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 .

Sincerely,
Laura Janover
Product Manager, Publishing
Bell & Howell Information and Learning (formerly UMI)
Phone: (800) 521-0600 x 3071
Fax: (425) 955-4344
Email: 
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