Unknotting the < note >


I am sure the suspense was unbearable, so here goes my post on the note-element.

For the TEI-geeks reading this blog: you have to bear in mind that we are a small project and couldn’t afford going into the subtleties of genetics or critical apparatus.

There were actually two layers of problems:
1) The most philologically troubling to me was the fact that you are supposed to encode very different textual elements with this < note > element: the footnotes of the author (in my example letter the part situated at the bottom of the page), the elements added by the people who at some point re-wrote (abridged, censored) the letter in order to publish it (here the part stroke in red ink), the elements added by the archivists along time (as for instance the foliation in pencil on my letter) and the comments we want to add to our edition, be it to explain in what book an extract was already published or what is the “Curiosität” mentioned on the first line for instance.

2) The second problem concerns the author’s notes. Of course, when the author has changed or added a single word, we don’t mark it as a < note >, but with an < add > element. So the question was: if < add > and < note > are so close elements, when does an addition cease to be an < add > and qualify as a < note >?

The first idea was to have different types of notes. Each < note > could thus be precised by a @type and a  @resp. To get back to my example, the footnote on the letter would have been a type=”author” (the @resp being obvious), the red ink a type=”second_hand”. And there was the problem: there are 2 persons who gave an edition of this letter and may be responsible for the red ink: either the addressee – or the sender, but then he would have added this red ink stroke much later than he actually wrote this letter. There was no way this solution would not draw us into a black whole of endlessly more complex @types, @subtypes and @resp.

And then came this:

Laurent, who is obviously in a @hand-phase (didn’t convince me at first, but now I am starting to see the point), suggested that we use the < note > element connected to a @hand to describe the different text layers from the author’s hand, being thus able to give an exact account of the temporality of the writing process. The @resp attribute was to be used only for the notes we add to the text (in the form: type=”comment” resp=”anne.baillot”). Laurent was unsure what to do with all the other people mixing up between the author and us. But at that point, it was obvious to me that the separation between @hand and @resp was good way to sort the things you can actually see on the manuscript from the additional information, and so we will use the @hand to describe all we can see on the manuscript and the @resp for all the immaterial input.

If you have been following me so far, this is the point where you should say: But wait, this is not a solution the add/note problem at all. Things are not so clear there. The idea to sort < add > and < note > according to their position on the manuscript (“Lage” in Laurent’s schema) is not sufficient – we are too often encountering end of sentences added in the margin AND complete new paragraphs written in the margin. Defining it by the context is a slippery slope as well: this involves so much interpretation that we would not be able to keep it coherent within the whole project. The aim now is to define for each subproject what are the habits of each author in this regard and determine according to that when to use < add > and when to use < note >.

The manuscript I used here is a letter written be the poet and drama author Ludwig Tieck to his friend Friedrich von Raumer in the year 1823 (or 1824, look into the part in red ink on top of the letter). It is preserved in the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin-PK and part of the first series of texts we will edit (in the subproject “Tieckiana”).

PS: I allowed myself to add the 6 happy girls on Laurent’s original.

Anne Baillot

I studied German Studies and Philosophy in Paris where I got my PhD in 2002. I then moved to Berlin, where I have been living & doing research ever since. My areas of specialty include German literature, Digital Humanities, textual scholarship and intellectual history. I am currently working at the Centre Marc Bloch in Berlin as an expert in digital technologies for the humanities.

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