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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: February ::
"Shakespeare songs and gibberish"?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0249  Tuesday, 8 February 2005

From:           Al Magary <
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Date:           Monday, 07 Feb 2005 17:09:33 -0800
Subject:        "Shakespeare songs and gibberish"?

New online from UToronto and Internet Archive is _A List of All the
Songs & Passages in Shakspere Which Have Been Set to Music_, comp. by J.
Greenhill, W.A. Harrison, and F.J. Furnivall (London: New Shaksper
Society, 1884): http://www.archive.org/details/songsandpassages00greeuoft

Available for viewing and downloading are a DjVu file of 6.2MB and a
plaintext file of 23.8K. The latter is the output from the scanning/OCR
process. Let's take a look at this file for it is typical of what
happens to text from older books when subject to the latest technology.
I'll talk about the implications below.

Let's look at the first part of the song at the end of Love's Labour's
Lost. First is my transcription from the 1st Quarto of 1598 (apparently
the source of the lyrics in the songbook; the quarto is at the BL:
http://prodigi.bl.uk/treasures/shakespeare/search.asp --on p.73, sig.
K2r), with "long-s" rendered as "s":

The Song.
When Dasies pied, and Violets blew,
And Cuckow-buds of yellow hew:
And Ladie-smockes all siluer white,
Do paint the Medowes with delight.
The Cuckow then on euerie tree,
Mockes married men, for thus sings he,
Cuckow.
Cuckow, Cuckow: O word of feare,
Vnpleasing to a married eare.

Now here is the quarto text from the _Songs_ book, including long-s and
line numbers, as rendered by OCR (# substitutes for unreadable characters):

The Song.
Spring.
H7zen Da.fles pied, and l #olets blew, 877
And Ladi-fmockes all.filuer white,
#4nd Cuckou'-bu# hts of yeilou, hew,
Do paint the # lIeadou'es with delight, 8So
Tire Cuckou, then, on euerie tree,
# llocks married men ; for thus finges bee : 882
Cuckow !
Cuckow, Cuckow ! O word offeare,
15 pleqfing to a married eare ! 8S.#

I have not mentioned that this song, at book p. 22 (p. 58 of the DjVu
file), appears to come directly after p. xv of the foreword (p. 23 in
DjVu). Yes, the plaintext file omits some 34 pp. of text altogether.

With the Toronto/IA text, you can see that the songbook has been turned
into gibberish. But sometime in the future you will be able to Google on
this title and 15 million other books from Stanford and Michigan and
others from Oxford, Harvard, and NYPL--oh, impressive names, a guarantee
of quality, surely! Your search results will present snippets of found
text, but you *may or may not* have access to either full plaintext (on
which Google builds its database) or page facsimiles. Stanford et al.
may guard the facsimiles, and Google's got to make some money on this.

In short, the less you are able to see, the less likely you will know
how much text has been largely lost to scholarship but how badly mangled
the rest of the text is.

This is not just a future crisis for scholarship; it is here already.
And few are doing anything about it.

No cheers,
Al Magary

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