Contributor's Guidelines for Electronic Editions

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Contributor's Guidelines for Electronic Editions

By Matthew G. Kirschenbaum
Department of English, University of Maryland
Associate Editor for Electronic Editions, Romantic Circles
mgk3k@virginia.edu

Preparing an Electronic Edition | Scholarly Electronic Editing | Manuals and Reference Guides

This document is intended to introduce potential contributors of electronic editions to some of our basic editorial standards and practices. We are committed to two parallel objectives for the archive: using the Web in its current incarnation as a distribution medium that provides students, scholars, and other readers with carefully edited and well-crafted hypertexts of Romantic period literature, and also planning for a future in which Romantic Circles electronic texts will have sustainable, long-term archival value. The earliest texts included in our archive, Donald H. Reiman's and Neil Fraistat's hypertext of Percy Bysshe Shelley's "The Devil's Walk" and Steven E. Jones's hypertext of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's The Last Man exemplify this first goal. In order to achieve the second, we have recently formalized a relationship with the University of Virginia Library's Electronic Text Center, which will assume responsibility for archiving all Romantic Circles Electronic Editions in TEI-conformant SGML as part of its Modern English Collection. Why prepare texts in both HTML and TEI-conformant SGML? HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is a DTD (Document Type Definition) of SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language), which means that it is a collection of predefined tags created for a specific purpose: in the case of HTML, that purpose is informing a browser (such as Netscape) how a given file is to be displayed on the Web. HTML is thus largely a presentational DTD. Its orientation is visual in that it tells browsers how a document should look. But SGML has many other DTDs besides HTML, including a DTD assoicated with the Text Encoding Initiative. The Text Encoding Initiative is an internationally agreed upon standard for the electronic markup of literary texts. Its primary purpose is not sheer presentation, but rather to offer a scheme for uniformly recording the structure of a document, as well as other relevant bibliographical information. Here's a practical example of this distinction: In an archive of electronic texts encoded with TEI-conformant SGML, a user could search for all of the references to the word "love" within one line of the word "nature" in the first stanza of all poems written between 1810 and 1814. How can the search be so specific? Because TEI tells the search engine what a poem is (as opposed to a novel or a non-fiction or dramatic work), what year the poem was published, what a stanza is, and what a line is, and so on. HTML, since it's first and foremost a presentational language, does none of this. Just as importantly, TEI is a way of ensuring a certain amount of long-term stability and sustainability for electronic texts. TEI-encoded texts can be viewed using the Web as their interface, but they do not rely on the vicissitudes of the Web's specific browser technologies, as does HTML. One can also use stand-alone SGML software, for example, as alternative interfaces to the Web for reading, searching, and otherwise manipulating TEI-encoded texts. Moreover, as a uniform encoding standard, TEI offers the promise that texts prepared by separate scholars will be mutually compatible with one another.


Preparing an Electronic Edition

[Contributors who have no previous experience with electronic editing should first orient themselves to the medium by reading the essays listed in the next section, below.] All texts should be tagged in HTML, either manually or with the assistance of HTML editing software. Though contributors possess considerable freedom to experiment with different approaches to editing in this new medium, it is important to us that Romantic Circles electronic editions maintain a certain amount of consistency in their visual design. To that end, the edition should include a "cover page" which conforms to the format of "The Devil's Walk" or The Last Man -- indeed, contributors may wish to download the source code for these files to use as a template. The electronic edition should likewise also include an "About" page and a "Contents" page. In addition to the HTML files, contributors should also provide Romantic Circles with a plain ASCII text of the work they are editing. This will be used as the basis for the TEI-conformant version to be prepared and archived at the University of Virginia. Contributors are encouraged to take full advantage of their electronic environment through extensive use of hypertext linking. Particularly where authoritative editions of the work already exist in print, it is important to justify an electronic edition by exploring what kinds of linked relationships might be interwoven to encourage various reading paths in and out of the work. Links can also be added to both other Romantic Circles materials and to external sources; as Romantic Circles expands, we hope to evolve a densely layered network of links in and among our various resources. Links to non-Romantic Circles materials are likewise encouraged, though the contributor should take reasonable care to ensure that the site referenced is both reliable from a scholarly standpoint and as permanent as the medium allows one to expect. Finally, whenever possible the electronic edition should include facsimile images of the original text and other documentary materials. Images should be scanned as 400 dots-per-inch / 24-bit color TIFFs. This will yield archival quality files which will be stored at the University of Virginia Library. For general Web use, however, it is vital that contributors also provide much smaller images, typically in JPEG format; images should initially display at no larger than 20K, though the reader should always have the option of viewing a larger version. Contributors should also be mindful of any copyright issues that obtain from their use of images.

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Scholarly Electronic Editing

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Manuals and Reference Guides

General Guides to The Internet and the Web Copyright Hypertext in General HTML, SGML, and Web Design Other Useful Sites

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