Chronicling Book History with TEI

Sunday, January 10, 2016: 11:20 AM
Room A706 (Atlanta Marriott Marquis)
Stephanie Kingsley, American Historical Association
In 1841, James Fenimore Cooper’s historical novel Mercedes of Castile was published and presented to eager readers. Mercedes of Castile, however, was never simply one text by one author but rather the culmination of many distinct textual stages, and the product of intervention by many hands operating on it at distinct textual stages. Textual editors seek to understand these stages in establishing critical editions of works. While the traditional printed edition permits display of only a single text, the digital edition may contain and, at the bidding of the reader interacting with it, strategically deploy endless data about the work at hand.

Digital editors—either of literary works or historical documents—may use TEI to mark up a text so as to capture not simply the final text but multiple stages of a work at once, thus offering an alternative to choosing either the author’s final intentions or the nature of the work as a “social text” when preparing an edition.

TEI enables editors and book historians to ask other questions of a text as well. What changes were the author’s own revisions, and which were the doing of the publishers or compositors? Through TEI, such interpretive judgments by the editor can be encoded into a text, hidden, and then consulted by readers seeking to better understand the work’s history. Using the case of Cooper’s Mercedes of Castile, I will discuss how, through marking up a myriad of details about a text and visualizing that data in a variety of ways, editors can paint a larger picture of both an author’s habits and the publishing industry of the time in a single edition.