Genetics and pdf

I have been reluctant to practice genetic editing so far. Not that I disregard the importance and/or meaning of such editions, but I did not think that we were fit for that. My main worry was that it would take too much time working with elaborate genetic tools like critical apparatus, that it would slow down our publication rhythm for a meager benefit. I had decided to solve the tension between content tagging and genetic tagging in favor of the first, which made it necessary to encode a pretty big text quantity to be able to make something out of it. Time-consuming genetic encoding was made superfluous by the necessity of delivering text masses.

When we started approaching canonical authors, it became clear that my solution was not necessarily the best one. At first, I thought it had to do with the difference between letters and texts: we cannot do as much content tagging on the literary works as we do on the letters, considering people, works, places don’t play such a great role there. So the tagging of the “Romantic Key Texts” mostly concentrates on rendering the materiality of the manuscript. I realized during the work on the Chamisso letters that the imperative of genetic encoding had to do with the necessity of an authorial enunciation (e.g. to provide for an ultimate text and not for any text) in the case of authors that cannot tolerate to be treated like we don’t care what the word it is that has just been stroked through.

In the end, we developed a complex tagging system that tries to deal with both identifying content entities and rendering manuscript materiality. It has taken a great deal of time to conceive said system, it still takes plenty of time to implement it (we haven’t encoding half of the third of the fourth of what I had hoped for this fall). What is more, I find it less and less satisfactory. One of the reasons why it is so is that it addresses the genetic issue not as a research question, but as a problem to get rid off.

The preparation of the grant application for the August Boeckh Encyklopädie achieved to make a shift in the conception necessary. This only became clear to me when I changed the title of the project  last week. From a “historisch-kritisch”, I switched to “genetic”, because this is what the project was describing.

Now that the grant application is out (or will be in one hour or two), I can finally show you what the pdf test page looks like! – Looking forward to hearing your commentaries on it, because I intend to improve the method for our other documents.


Positively Dawesome Feature

There is no such word as dawesome, I know. But I could not think of an adjective starting with a d that would express fully my enthusiasm for our progress on the production of pdf-files on the basis of our XML/TEI documents.

It is only natural that a publisher would not be very accommodating when you come to him saying: “Hey, we will have everything online first: would like you to then make a book out of it?”. As much as I understand the publisher’s  reluctance though, fact is that this is what we need (and by we I don’t just mean me, but also the scientific community at large). The digital edition of the Encyklopädie will provide a dynamical work and query environment.  What should the paper version provide for?

I gave that question some thought yesterday and came up with a list of ideas and questions:

On the level of a single dataset

  • 2 buttons: pfd this document / pdf this page
  • On each pdf:

–          Metadata in italic on top

–          Abbreviations expanded

–          No line breaks, no gaps, no unclear passages, no strikethrough

–          Additions appear, being marked as different from the text (bold?)

–          Page breaks marked (page nb?)

–          What about third hands? Do we keep them in the pdf?

–          Changes in script (latin/german) marked

–          In case of marginalia, separation of the text’s body in 2 columns (maybe we need to encode this in the XML document?)

–          Tagged persons, works, places are ignored

–          <note> with a resp-attribute at the bottom of the page (separated by a short line)

–          Act and scene appear at the top of the page

–          Styles for titles to be defined

–          Possibility to generate several pdfs depending on the text layer? (Boeckh-Encyklopädie)


On the level of a subcorpus (1 „pdf this subcorpus“ button)

–          Front page (define styles)

–          Add a table of contents after front page (with page numbers)

–          Index of persons, works and places: after the main text – with or without page numbers?(the pdf is not supposed to be there to search something…)


In the following minutes, Anna reacted by saying we need to show gaps, etc. And it turned out, especially, when Bertrand Gaiffe sent us the first conversions he had made (without having gotten much information from us as to what we want), that it would be much better to work with a double footnote apparatus than with a second column.

Of course, making pdfs doesn’t equal making a book, by far. But concerning the Encyklopädie for instance, it would offer the possibility to generate a pdf for each historical layer of the text (1809, 1810/11, 1816, etc.), and the book version would provide for a recapitulation of the text in the version of 1865. My fear (that we would in the end not do something so much different from what Bratuschek did in 1877, e.g. a cumulative compilation) would not be justified. We really are doing something different. And we hope to find a publisher that sees the potential and the meaning of this too.

There is still a lot of work to do there. I hope to be able to post a nice sample in a few days already!