Bodleian Student Editions 2017–2018

Please note that these workshops are now fully subscribed for this academic year, 2017–2018. To express an interest in future workshops, please email Pip Willcox.

Textual editing workshops for undergraduates and postgraduates

Elizabeth Wagstaff letter, 2 May 1621

A collaboration between the Bodleian’s Department of Special Collections and Centre for Digital Scholarship, and Cultures of Knowledge, a project based at the Faculty of History

We are looking for enthusiastic undergraduates and postgraduates from any discipline to take part in workshops in textual editing culminating in the publication of a citable transcription.

Join the waiting list: see below for details

After a hugely successful pilot run—from which published transcriptions can be seen here—these workshops are in their second year, and are scheduled to take place on the following dates:

Michaelmas Term 2017

  • 10:00–16:30 Thursday 7th week, 23 November

Hilary Term 2018

  • 10:00–16:30 Wednesday 3rd week, 31 January
  • 10:00–16:30 Thursday 7th week, 1 March

Trinity Term 2018

  • 10:00–16:30 Wednesday 3rd week, 9 May
  • 10:00–16:30 Thursday 7th week, 7 June

Textual editing is the process by which a manuscript reaches its audience in print or digital form. The texts we read in printed books are dependent on the choices of editors across the years, some obscured more than others. The past few years have seen an insurgence in interest in curated media, and the advent of new means of distribution has inspired increasingly charged debates about what is chosen to be edited, by whom and for whom.

These workshops give students the opportunity to examine these questions of research practice in a space designed around the sources at the heart of them. The Bodleian Libraries’ vast collections give students direct access to important ideas free from years of mediation, and to authorial processes in their entirety, while new digital tools allow greater space to showcase the lives of ordinary people who may not feature in traditional narrative history.

Our focus is on letters of the early modern period: a unique, obsolescent medium, by which the ideas which shaped our civilisation were communicated and developed. Participants will study previously unpublished manuscripts from Bodleian collections, working with Bodleian curators and staff of Cultures of Knowledge (http://www.culturesofknowledge.org), to produce a digital transcription, which will be published on the flagship resource site of Cultures of Knowledge, Early Modern Letters Online (http://emlo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk), as ‘Bodleian Student Editions’.

The sessions are standalone, but participants in last year’s workshops have gone on to further transcription work with Bodleian collections and with research projects around the country, as well as producing the first scholarship on some of the manuscripts by incorporating material in their own research (from undergraduate to doctorate level). The first-hand experience with primary sources, and citable transcription, extremely useful for those wishing to apply for postgraduate study in areas where this is valued: one participant last year successfully proceeded from a BA in Biological Sciences to an MA in Early Modern Literature on the basis of having attended.

The sessions provide a hands-on introduction to the following:

  1. Special Collections handling
  2. Palaeography and transcription
  3. Metadata curation, analysis, and input into Early Modern Letters Online
  4. Research and publication ethics
  5. Digital tools for scholarship and further training available

To hear about future textual editing workshops and other events as they are advertised, please join the digital scholarship mailing list.

Participation is open to students registered for any course at the University of Oxford. If you would like to participate or to join the waiting list, please contact Carmen Bohne, Special Collections Administrator, carmen.bohne@bodleian.ox.ac.uk, and include:

  1. your ox.ac.uk email address
  2. your department
  3. your level and year of study
  4. particular access requirements
  5. particular dietary requirements

Please note that registration is only open for Michaelmas term’s workshop. You may register your interest in subsequent workshops: please state the dates on which you are available. Places are limited and will be confirmed for each term’s workshops at the start of that term.

The Bodleian Libraries welcome thoughts and queries from students of all levels on ways in which the use of archival material can facilitate your research. For an idea of the range of collections in the Weston, visit the exhibition Bodleian Treasures: 24 Pairs in the Treasury gallery in Blackwell Hall (http://treasures.bodleian.ox.ac.uk), where some famous items are illuminated through juxtaposition to less known items that prompt reflection on the concept of a treasure. Our next themed exhibition, Designing English, showcasing the graphic design of mediaeval manuscripts in English from Bodleian collections, will open in the ST Lee Gallery on 1 December. For the first two months it will be shown alongside Redesigning the medieval book, a display of contemporary book arts inspired by the exhibition and created as part of a workshop and competition run in collaboration with the English Faculty.

His Majesty, Mrs Brown: letters from the second catalogue of Bodleian Student Editions

Mike Webb (Curator of Early Modern Archives and Manuscripts) writes:

The second Bodleian Student Editions catalogue is now available online through Early Modern Letters Online (EMLO). These letters were transcribed in the second of the Bodleian Libraries Manuscript and Textual Editing Workshops, held in the Centre for Digital Scholarship in the Weston Library on 1 December 2016. Details of the workshop programme, along with an account of the first workshop, can be found here.

Bodleian Student Editions participants working with the letters

Participants transcribing letters at a Michaelmas term workshop

The letters used in this workshop were in a volume of the Carte manuscripts, which mainly comprises the papers of James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond (1610-1688), Lord Lieutenant of Ireland three times between 1643 and 1685. Six letters written by women to Ormond in April and May 1660 were selected, all in MS. Carte 214. Women used italic script in the seventeenth century as most were not taught the ‘secretary hand’ used in legal and administrative documents of the period, and often in private letters also. Italic hands are easier to read for those not formally trained in palaeography, and so more suitable for these workshops, which offer a wide-ranging introduction to undergraduates and postgraduates of all disciplines, many of whom had never previously worked with original manuscripts.

Once again, the students were fully engaged with the letters and by the end of the day had produced excellent transcriptions. The punctuation and spelling of the originals proved to be challenging—it is often necessary to read the transcript to yourself before you can believe what is in front of you! I found in checking the transcripts that there are so many strange spellings in these letters that inevitably in a short workshop some were accidentally modernised. A good example of unorthodox spelling can be found in a letter from Ormond’s wife, Elizabeth, on 21 May 1660:

I will make the troubell of this leter the briuefer, and only desier, that I may reseve your derections consarninge my comminge over, whoe am the mene time indevoringe to put My Selfe into a redenes to obbay the first sommons that shall Come from you.

As this passage indicates, the letters were written at a significant moment in British history, the Restoration of Charles II. This letter and one from Lady Bristol contained some intriguing references to various women who were not all they appeared to be. One of the pairs of students realised that there was something odd about ‘Mrs Brown’ and suggested this might be a pseudonym for the King. We did not have time in the workshop to confirm this, but the hunch turned out to be correct. Mrs Brown, Mrs Carlton, Mrs Eyres and Frances Parsifall (who, oddly, was the addressee of one of Lady Bristol’s letters) turned out to be none other than King Charles II, Edward Hyde, the Earl of Bristol and Ormond himself respectively. These pseudonyms are listed in the published Calendar of the Clarendon State Papers (another of the Bodleian’s great collections of seventeenth-century state papers). Lady Bristol mentions having written to Mrs Carlton, and sure enough, her letter can be found in the Clarendon papers. Lady Bristol became confused herself with the subterfuge, suddenly changing the gender of her husband ‘Mrs Eyres’ for whom she was seeking a place in the new regime:

let mee beseech your favour and charity in making sure of som place for your absent frind Mrs Eyres with Mrs Browen which can only preserve her … from those misseries that [her deleted] his faithfullnes hath brought on him … for his adhering to Miss Browen, and her father … [i.e. Charles II and Charles I]

Afterwards, we again collected feedback from the participants, who enjoyed the wide variety of activities—there were several requests for more workshops on each of the three strands—and the collaboration with other students:

I think people from different disciplines bring different frameworks of analyses to the table and ask questions you might not think of.

One student highlighted the workshop’s ‘applicability’ to the diverse sources that the participants are studying as its ‘most important aspect’, facilitated by the nature of Early Modern Letters Online as

a valuable corpus that can be put in the context of other projects in other fields.

The opportunity to integrate initial training with increased availability of our collections is immensely important to us at the Bodleian, a sentiment which the students seem to share: one participant wrote

I love that you come out of the seminar with a citable transcription.

—Mike Webb
Curator of Early Modern Archives and Manuscripts, Bodleian Libraries

Bodleian Student Editions: a successful first workshop

Mike Webb (Bodleian Special Collections) writes:

The first Bodleian Student Editions workshop was held in the Centre for Digital Scholarship in the Weston Library on 19 October 2016, the first of six planned for the academic year. 

The catalogue and transcription of letters from the first workshop are now available online through Early Modern Letters Online (EMLO). Images of the letters are now available through Digital Bodleian.

This pioneering initiative which explores the potential of Bodleian resources and space for cross-disciplinary, skills-based training in textual and digital scholarship, was developed by staff and students as a continuation of conversations that included the Speaking in Absence: Letters in the Digital Age conference, organised by Olivia Thompson, Balliol-Bodley Scholar and DPhil candidate in Ancient History, and Helen Brown, DPhil candidate in English.

Elizabeth Wagstaff letter, 2 May 1621

Elizabeth Wagstaff letter, 2 May 1621

The pilot scheme of Bodleian Student Edition workshops is a collaboration between the Bodleian Libraries’ Special Collections department, the Centre for Digital Scholarship, and the Faculty of History’s Cultures of Knowledge project. Each workshop brings together staff from these sections with undergraduates and postgraduates from across the University, the users and potential users of manuscripts, to produce online editions of selected letters.

Interest in the workshops has been overwhelming, with all six pilot sessions planned for this year already full (72 places) and a growing waiting list for next year’s workshops. Students from a range of disciplines have registered, including members of the History, English and Classics faculties, both undergraduate and postgraduate, as well as students of art history, archaeology and biology.

The pilot scheme includes six similar, standalone workshops concentrating on early modern letters. In the course of each session, participants will catalogue and digitally transcribe letters and information. These will be published on the Culture of Knowledge project’s Early Modern Letters Online (EMLO), as Bodleian Student Editions. The workshops introduce students to handling and reading early modern manuscripts from Bodleian collections, transcription and proofreading, metadata creation and curation, submitting metadata and transcriptions into EMLO, licensing digital content, and the possibilities that text at scale brings to research.

The participants work from high-quality digital images of the manuscripts, but also have access to the original materials: part of the workshop’s purpose is to encourage students to think about the physical nature of the letter and how this relates to its digital presence.

The excitement and interest generated by the opportunity to get close to the original letters was one of the things that impressed me most about the workshop on 19 October. It was overwhelmingly positively received by the students, who described the activities as ‘extremely informative’, ‘a wonderful introduction to textual editing’ and an excellent illustration of ‘how documents can be used to understand networks of thought’. Participants also highlighted the enthusiastic atmosphere and ‘quality of the instruction’.

The manuscripts used in this first workshop were six letters written between 1616 and 1622 by Elizabeth Wagstaff [or Wagstaffe] of Warwickshire, to her husband, Timothy Wagstaff, at Middle Temple, London. These letters have been the subject of very little research, and the students showed a keenness to provide explanatory notes on their transcriptions to place them into the wider context of EMLO. The participants enjoyed the opportunity to work with students from other subjects and degree levels. All responded that they are more likely to use archival resources in their studies, and some were keen to carry out further work with the Wagstaff letters as part of their own studies. They were also eager to hear about the possibilities opened by digital methods of research.

The sessions are taught by Pip Willcox, Head of the Centre for Digital Scholarship; Miranda Lewis, Digital Editor, Early Modern Letters Online; and Mike Webb, Curator of Early Modern Archives and Manuscripts, all of whom are then on hand, together with Olivia Thompson and Helen Brown, to help the students with their descriptions and transcriptions of the manuscripts.

—Mike Webb
Curator of Early Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Bodleian LIbraries

Bodleian Student Editions

Please note that these workshops are fully subscribed for this academic year, 2016–2017.

The catalogue and transcription of letters from the first workshop are now available online through Early Modern Letters Online (EMLO).

Textual editing workshops for undergraduates and postgraduates

A collaboration between the Bodleian’s Department of Special Collections, the Centre for Digital Scholarship, and the Faculty of History’s Cultures of Knowledge project, Early Modern Letters Online.

We are looking for enthusiastic undergraduates and postgraduates from any discipline to take part in one of a pilot series of workshops in textual editing, working with original manuscripts from the Bodleian’s Special Collections in the Centre for Digital Scholarship, Weston Library. Each workshop will stand alone, and similar content will be covered in each.

Day-long workshops will be held:

Michaelmas Term 2016
10:00–16:00, Wednesday 2nd week, 19 October
10:00–16:00, Thursday 8th week, 1 December

Hilary Term 2017
10:00–16:00, Wednesday 3rd week, 1 February
10:00–16:00, Thursday 7th week, 2 March

 Trinity Term 2017
10:00–16:00, Wednesday 3rd week, 10 May
10:00–16:00, Thursday 7th week, 8 June

Textual Editing

Textual editing is the process by which a manuscript reaches its audience in print or digital form. The texts we read in printed books depend on the choices of editors across the years, some obscured more than others. The past few years have seen a surge of interest in curated media, and the advent of new means of distribution has inspired increasingly charged debates about what is chosen to be edited, by whom, and for whom.

These workshops will give students—the future users of texts for scholarly research—the opportunity to examine these questions in a space designed around the sources at the heart of them. The Bodleian Libraries’ vast collections give students direct access to important ideas free from years of mediation, and to authorial processes in their entirety, while new digital tools allow greater space to showcase the lives of ordinary people who may not feature in traditional narrative history.

Early Modern Letters

The pilot sessions will focus on letters of the early modern period. Letters are a unique source, both challenging and essential for historians and literary critics: in the so-called ‘Republic of Letters’ they were a vital means by which the ideas which shaped our civilization were communicated and developed.

Participants will study Bodleian manuscripts, working with colleagues from the Bodleian’s Special Collections, the Centre for Digital Scholarship, and the Cultures of Knowledge project, to produce an annotated digital transcription which will be published on Culture of Knowledge’s flagship resource, Early Modern Letters Online, as ‘Bodleian Student Editions’.

Workshops

Each workshop will introduce students to:

  1. Special Collections handling
  2. Palaeography
  3. Transcription and proofreading
  4. Metadata creation and curation
  5. Licensing
  6. Submitting metadata and transcriptions into Early Modern Letters Online
  7. Text at scale

Participation is open to all students of the University of Oxford. If you would like to participate please contact Mike Webb, Curator of Early Modern Manuscripts, mike.webb@bodleian.ox.ac.uk.

The Bodleian Libraries welcome thoughts from students at all levels on ways in which the use of archival material and engaging with digital scholarship can facilitate learning and research.

This Bodleian Student Editions series is organized by:

  • Helen Brown, DPhil candidate in English
  • Miranda Lewis, Digital Editor, Early Modern Letters Online
  • Olivia Thompson, Balliol-Bodley Scholar
  • Mike Webb, Curator of Early Modern Archives and Manuscripts
  • Pip Willcox, Head of the Centre for Digital Scholarship

Find out more

For an idea of the range of collections in the Weston, visit the exhibition Bodleian Treasures: 24 Pairs in the Treasury gallery in Blackwell Hall, where some famous items are illuminated through juxtaposition to a less known item that prompts reflection on the concept of a treasure. The latest themed exhibition at the Weston Library, Staging History, opened on 14 October in the adjacent ST Lee gallery.

You can find about the range of services and events the Centre for Digital Scholarship offers.

You may be particularly interested in an upcoming training course introducing the Guidelines of the Text Encoding Initiative.