The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0096  Friday, 8 March 2013

From:        Al Magary <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         March 8, 2013 12:46:37 AM EST

Subject:     Folger’s New Online Texts Go Up Against Moby Shakespeare


I don’t recall anyone mentioning the Folger Digital Texts initiative ( These modern-spelling texts derive from the Folger Shakespeare Library editions, a series completed by Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine in 2010 and published by Simon & Schuster.  The first dozen texts online in mid-January are, naturally, the most popular plays.


One can guess the orientation of the project toward classroom use, as the format uses the same page and line numbers as the printed editions, and glosses and emendations are in progress.  But there can be more serious uses.  For example, all the texts are coded in TEI5 and can be downloaded.  And while the reader may notice line numbering every five lines, a discreet column to the left has through line numbering, and line-keyed notes are planned.


The editorial introduction (in the right sidebar at indicates an ambition to replace the so-called Moby Shakespeare, the basic but widely available texts based on the Clark and Wright Globe edition of 1864.  (Folger puts a “TM” indicating trademark after “Moby,” though its creator, Grady Ward, put the texts in public domain in the 1990s.)  The series editors write (in part):


Until now, with the release of the Folger Digital Texts, readers in search of a free online text of Shakespeare’s plays had to be content primarily with using the Moby™ Text, which reproduces a late-nineteenth century version of the plays . . . 


When the Moby™ Text was created [sic; in 1864], for example, it was deemed “improper” and “indecent” for Miranda to chastise Caliban for having attempted to rape her. (See The Tempest, 1.2: “Abhorred slave, / Which any print of goodness wilt not take, / Being capable of all ill! I pitied thee . . . ”). All Shakespeare editors at the time took the speech away from her and gave it to her father, Prospero.


The editors of the text that became the Moby™ Shakespeare produced their text long before scholars fully understood the proper grounds on which to make the thousands of decisions that Shakespeare editors face. The Folger Library Shakespeare Editions, on which the Folger Digital Texts depend, make this editorial process as nearly transparent as is possible, in contrast to older texts, like the Moby™, which hide editorial interventions. 


Eric Johnson, developer of Open Source Shakespeare, wrote about the history of the Globe/Moby texts in his master’s thesis: His Shakespeare texts too are based on the 1864 Globe edition.


Meanwhile, the complete Moby texts, with Grady Ward’s databases and wordlists, at



Al Magary

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