First Posted 23/10/98: 12:00 pm (vers. 1.00)
Last Modified: 6/1/98 2:40 pm (Vers. 1.04)

The Electronic Cædmon's Hymn

Editorial Method

© 1998 by Daniel Paul O'Donnell
University of Lethbridge
Department of English
Lethbridge AB T1K 3M4

Please note:

The Electronic Cædmon's Hymn will be an archive based, virtual critical edition. This means users will:

The following is a rough schema describing how the edition will work:

This schema reflects my developing view of the editing process.  The terms (Witness Level, Processor Level, etc.) are defined further below.

In my view, the editor of a critical edition is understood as being functionally equivalent to a filter separating the final reader from the uninterpreted data contained in the raw witnesses. Depending on the nature of the instructions this processor is given, different types of manipulation will occur in producing the final critical edition. An editor interested in producing a student edition of the poem, for example, can be understood to be manipulating the data according to the instructions choose the easiest (most sensible) readings and ignore those which raise advanced textual problems; an editor interested in producing the 'original' text can be seen as a processor performing the instruction choose readings from the earliest manuscript(s) when these are available and sensible; emend or normalise readings as required; and an editor interested in producing an edition of a specific dialectal version of a text is working to the instruction choose readings from manuscripts belong to dialect x; when these are not available, reconstruct or emend readings from other manuscripts, ensuring that they conform to the spelling rules of the dialect.

If editors can be reduced to a set of programming instructions, then it ought to be possible, in an electronic edition, to automate the manipulations necessary to produce various kinds of critical texts. In the above schema, I have attempted to do so. Instead of producing a final interpretation of 'the text', I instead divide the editorial process into a series of discrete steps:

Because the critical edition is not seen as an actual text but rather as a simple view of the raw data, different textual approaches are understood as being complementary rather than competing. It is possible to have multiple 'views' coexisting within a single edition. Readers will be expected to choose the view most appropriate to the type of work they wish to do. For research requiring a reconstruction of the hypothetical 'author's original', a 'reconstruction filter' might be applied; a student can apply the 'student edition filter' and get a readable simplified text. And the oral-formulaicist can apply the 'single manuscript x filter' and get a formatted edition of the readings of a single manuscript.

Because different things are expected of the different levels, each layer has its own format and protocol. Because all layers are essential to the development of the text, all would be included on the CDRom containing the edition. Users could program their own filters at the filter level, or change the processing instructions to use other layouts or formats; they could also conduct statistical experiments and the like on the raw SGML texts in the witness archive or filter level as needed.

Witness Archive

The witness archive consists of facsimiles and diplomatic transcriptions of all relevant witnesses marked up in SGML (TEI) format. TEI is better for this initial stage of the mark-up because it is so verbose. Information completely unnecessary to formatting -- linguistic, historical, metrical, etc. -- can be included for use search programs and manipulation by other scholars.

The following is a sample from a marked-up transcription at the witness archive level:

<l id="ld.1" n="1"<wNu</w <w&wynn;e</w<space extent=0<wsceolan</w <wherian</w <w<del type="underlined"herian</del</w <caesura<wheo<lb<add hand="editorial" cert="90"f</addon<space extent=1rices</w <w&wynn;eard</w.<space extent=0</l

Virtual Editions

Virtual Editions are the filters that contain the editorial processing instructions. They are not so much texts in themselves as records of the intellectual processes by which a critical text interprets the underlying data contained in the witness archive. They are SGML (TEI) encoding documents which provide a map of which witness readings are to be used in which critical texts. For most readings in most types of editions, these instructions will consist of empty elements using the 'sameAs' and 'copyOf' attributes to indicate which witness is to provide a specific reading: e.g. <w copyOf=CaW2</w where CaW2 is the identifier for the reading of a specific word from manuscript Ca. One of the advantages of this method is that eliminates one potential source of error (cutting and pasting from the diplomatic transcriptions into the critical editions); it also allows for the near instantaneous integration of new manuscript readings into the finished editions -- changes in the witness transcriptions are automatically incorporated in the final texts via the filter.

In some cases, the elements will contain emendations or normalisation instructions: e.g.
<w sameAs=CaW2þa<w.

The sample is from a virtual edition. It specifies that line 1 of this critical text is to be taken verbatim from manuscript ld (i.e. the text reproduced above):

<l id="Early.1" n="1" copyOf="ld.1"</l

Processing Level and Display Texts

The 'Virtual Editions' are a record of the decisions made by an editor in producing his or her text rather than a record of the text itself. Because they consists for the most part of references to specific readings in other files, the virtual editions will be next-to-unreadable to the human eye.

Turning these instructions into readable, formatted text is the function of the next layer -- in which the processing instructions implied by the virtual layer are applied and in which final formatting is applied. This processing is carried out using a transformation type processor -- like Jade -- in which the virtual text is filled in with actual readings from the witness archive, and these readings then formatted with punctuation and capitalisation etc. as required.

The final display text is HTML or XML. While this will involve a necessary loss of information -- most TEI tags have nothing to do with formatting, few HTML tags have much to do with content -- it is more than compensated for by the ability to include the bells and whistles which make a text useful to human readers: HTML browsers are as a rule better and more user friendly than SGML browsers. Users who need to do computer analysis of the texts can always use the TEI encoded witness transcriptions or virtual editions.

Here is my guess as to how HTML would display the same line in the final edition (a critical apparatus would normally also be attached at this layer containing variant readings from other manuscripts [built up from the manuscript archive using the 'copyOf' attribute rather than by cutting and pasting]; notes would discuss the various corrections etc. ignored in the reading text of this view):

<P>Nu we sceolan herian heofonrices weard</P>