Encoding, indexing, encoding, indexing – blogging

Although I have not even reached the end of Letter 7 (out of 57 for the first corpus and 55 for the other one, and I am still dreaming of having put together something decent in two months…) or, for that matter, actually completed the encoding of the first six ones, I feel like my brain is now seeing items, persons or books as xml:ids I relate to – either in the real world or in the one I spend some irreal time in, the one of my encoding.

The index part, as I expected, is the nerve of it all – so far, almost only hurting for being so incomplete that it feels (to me) like nothing is working – in spite of the fact that Alexander Meyer is doing a great job organizing and re-organizing and adding new wishes along the way and keeping all relaxed and amazingly efficient.

We have four indices that are more or less connected to one another. The aim of the edition being to, at some point, be able to reconstruct who read this or that book where and when, I start by scrupulously tagging dates in the ISO-standard. The places – well, I mentioned them before – lie idle for the time being as I am hoping to gain an expert on Seven Years’ War to sort it all out. Then there is the index of the people and institutions involved in the project, probably the easiest one to manage as we don’t have so many surprises as to who we are and what we do.

Then there are the index of persons and the index of works, which obviously have to be connected to one another, the persons we are interested in being mostly authors. For the persons, finding out names, life dates (not always very accurate, but precise enough for us), and relevant relatives or important relationships (which consists in connecting together two entries of the index of persons) is only marginally problematic. Getting the unique identification number for each person is not as easy as I thought. I did for instant not manage to get a PND number (the German standard) for Ocellus Lucanus. This Pythagorean philosopher might all in all not be very well known, he still was translated by Marquis d’Argens and his translation dedicated to Frederick the Great. In that sense, you can say that he definitely played a role in intellectual exchanges in Prussia in the early 1760s.

Then there is the occupation. I knew this would be rough. Defining someone’s occupation really depends on what you intend to do with the data. Does it matter that Boeckh is a Classics specialist or that he is a Professor at the University or that he is a Member of the Academy of Sciences? I see this category as the one most likely to have little unity depending on who did the encoding. In order to prevent these coherence gaps, I said the occupation has to be defined in 4 words top. But there are some people it actually makes sense to give more information about, especially if PND, DBN, wikipedia and co know less than we do. On the other hand, I was at a loss when I had to add Moses to my index this afternoon. What was his occupation?

And then there is the index of the works. The rule I suggested was that in case we find no reference to a specific edition, we take the first one. Now that is driving me into the devil’s kitchen, as the Germans say. In his letters to Beausobre, von Buch is developing a theological argument and quoting the Bible. Super, now I have to be a historian of theology to know which edition of the Bible a Prussian gentleman is most likely to use around 1760. Then, I have what I thought would be the advantage that von Buch is reading mostly books that were just published and got public attention. I was delighted to see he is reading the Nouvelle Héloise in the year it was published. But could not retrace where the book was published first. Same thing for Frederick’s Military instructions to his Generals (obviously a hit, a second edition was published not even a year later…). It really is a moral problem for me to redirect these books he quotes in 1762 to information on an edition of 1764. And I still have not found a single trace of “les propos de table de sanssouci en traduction allemande” he talks about several times. Cannot believe it: there is so much about Frederick the Great going on in Berlin, considering he turned 300 a week ago. And still no idea what that book might be.

I clearly will need to touch base with reality soon and decided to go to the Weblogs conference in Munich in March!

Anne Baillot

I am a Professor of German Studies at Le Mans Université. My areas of research include German literature, Digital Humanities, textual scholarship and intellectual history.

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2 Responses

  1. Anne Baillot says:

    Thanks a lot!

  2. Dear Anne,

    there is a PND entry for Ocellus Lucanus at


    Stefan Cramme

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