DEMMR - March 2018 University of Pennsylvania Workshop

A Digital Editing Workshop with University of Pennsylvania MS Roll 1563

Author: Caitlin Postal

Elements for Markup

Ink color

My portion of the manuscript features a section of text written in black and another section written almost entirely in red ink.  The red sections should be tagged <hi rend=”red”>text</hi>.


Since this manuscript features a number of abbreviations, I think we should expand them. Using the <choice> tag is an additional labor but would provide the most information for future readers of this edition and would preserve the original language. One example would be the language used for “Jesus” which appears to be frequently abbreviated with an abbreviation marker throughout the manuscript. That could be written using the <abbr> and/or <expan> tags, though it might be more clear to audiences to use <orig> and <reg> tags with <am> and <em> tags for what/where the marker occurs, so that the original abbreviation of Jesus with a variant spelling and marker is preserved while we simultaneously regularize it to something machine readable and recognizable to future scholars.


<!– Either Ihesu or Jesus would be fine in the regularized version since we would preserve the original in the <orig> tags.  Another thing we could do would be to include the <am> language for the abbreviation marker</am> in <orig> and provide <ex>es</ex> in the <reg> tag to indicate what has been expanded and regularized (see below). –>



Much like abbreviations, I think it would be worthwhile to preserve the paleography, particularly in letter forms dissimilar to modern writing. The forms that stand out to me in my section of text are the long [s] , the rounded [r], and the biting [b] and [d]. I’m uncertain if our text includes thorns and yoghs, but I would want to encode those as well. I am used to encoding the dotted [y]  so that it is discernible from other visually similar letters. These components are an added labor and, while I have not found them to be an extra hassle during encoding, it would be something to watch for while working. In the past, I have used MUFI to get the language for the entities that correspond to specific glyphs (e.g. &thorn; for a thorn). Using the <g> tag on every glyph not available in modern English scripts would be an immense labor since we would then have to know and mark all of the brevigraphs (e.g. <g ref=”#per-glyph“>per</g>).


My section of the manuscript features text in both Latin and Middle English, so those segments should be noted using either the <language> or <langUsage> tags. I recommend <langUsage> rather than <lang> because the TEI description of <langUsage> is for “describ[ing] the languages, sublanguages, registers, dialects, etc. represented within a text.”

Unclear text

In my section, there are some stained, faded, and rubbed areas of text that are difficult to read. I would want to encode these with the <unclear> tags, using attributes like @reason for why it’s difficult to read (e.g. reason=”faded”), @resp for who made the editorial choice on what the letters are, and @cert for how certain we are with the result (e.g. “low”, “medium”, “high”).

Script & Hands, Book Level Provenance

  • Script type: Gothic Textura (quadrata)
  • Size: Ruled lines of 5mm for text body; decorated initials 10-12mm, rubricated initials with layered descenders within the 5mm ruling
  • Quirks: Biting [do], long descenders on [h], two-shaped/rounded [r], dotted [y]
  • Ink colors: black, blue, red
  • Hands: likely one scribe
  • Likely no additions, alterations, mistakes
  • Provenance: early 1400s (15th c.) England (probably London/East Midlands)

Pre-Workshop Reflection

While I don’t innately disagree with Lou Burnard’s statement that artifacts (and by proxy, texts) carry the meanings that we imbue in them when we use them, I do wonder how this perspective might account for the cultural milieu that objects carry with them, particularly those objects like manuscripts that move transtemporally. I certainly would not argue that inanimate objects carry the same agencies as human and animal actors, but I found myself wondering how Burnard would account for object oriented ontologies like Bruno Latour’s actor-network theory. That said, I was drawn to Burnard’s comparison of “’text’ and ‘textile’, between what is written and what is woven.” Manuscripts demand that we account for their physicality, so applying tactile metaphors makes sense. Still, the aura of “weaving” stands out to me since we can weave both tapestries and stories.

It strikes me that Burnard, despite writing in 1998, identifies issues relevant to modern archival work, particularly related to the interpretive nature of markup and the necessity of technological migration. It seems that Burnard sees the interpretive nature of transcription as the critical editions that provide a kind of “best text,” whereas I consider transcription to be a dual nature of both diplomatic and critical editions since they, as Burnard suggests, “reflect differing priorities, differing research agendas, and consequently different markup schemes.” This connects to page seven of Gailey’s article, where she unpacks how the <choice> tag provides both the original text and a regularized version. From previous transcription exercises, I find the <choice> tag to be particularly freeing since it asks the editor to preserve the original language in one tag (<orig>) and then to provide the editor’s interpretation in the regularized (<reg>) tag. The <choice> moments (if you’ll pardon the pun) are where scholars not affiliated with text editing can see literary analysis occur and, for better or worse, how we might be able to justify the labor of text editing as rigorous intellectual labor. I have no doubts that we’re all invested in digital editions of premodern works, so it is worth considering which parts of our efforts are readily translatable to our peers and colleagues.

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