DSE 2014 Recap #1
As 2014 draws to a close, it is time to recapitulate this year of digital scholarly editing on our DiXiT blog. I will concentrate exclusively on the German editing sphere, which on the one hand is an opportunity to make some advertisement for digital editions of my lovely Heimat and on the other hand an occasion to capture some observations about current trends, needs and the state-of-the-art in digital scholarly editing. While in 2014 a lot of interesting projects have just started and will hopefully show their first outputs in 2015, I know only about two digital editions which have been launched completely new: the digital edition of the correspondence of August Wilhelm Schlegel and the correspondence of Erich and Luise Mendelsohn. Probably I missed further launches (two seems very little even to me), and if so, please let me know and excuse my ignorance.
In this post I want to summarize the themes and scopes as well as outline the characteristics of these two publications which are both editions of letters. Hopefully soon, a second blog post based on the presented sources (which in some ways are representative for the whole German editing landscape) will follow and represent a general outline of observations on the current status of digital scholarly editing in Germany.
So, the exciting part will be the second post, nevertheless you should go on reading even now 🙂
The digital edition of the correspondence of August Wilhelm Schlegel
August Wilhelm (von) Schlegel (1767–1845) was a German essayist, translator, critic and poet. He is a protagonist of early comparative literature and modern linguistics, but overall he is known for his critical essays and translations of William Shakespeare. Together with his more famous brother Friedrich, he is considered to be one of the decisive figures of German Romanticism.
The digital edition of August Wilhelm Schlegel’s correspondence has been published as beta version in June 2014. Funded by the German research foundation it is a joint project between the SLUB Dresden, the Philipps Universität Marburg and the Trier Center for Digital Humanities. The aim of the digital edition is to create a corpus of Schlegel’s entire correspondence which comprises about 4500 letters (letters by Goethe, Schiller, and Schleiermacher among them) and allows a deeper investigation on his communication network as well as supports the research on the diffusion of ideas and concepts of Romanticism.
The edition includes sources of two different types: letters which are transcribed for the first time and correspondences which have already been previously published in print. The latter will be adapted in their printed transcriptions (via OCR and double keying) instead of being completely new transcribed. Both types of sources will be encoded according to the TEI and supplemented by facsimiles, or of the document or of the previous print edition or of both. Besides offering full-text search the project plans to enrich the content with normdata (e.g. GND, geoNames), to index entities (names, places, works, journals) and to create an interface with the Kalliope database, a central register for autographs and estates, as well as with other digital collections. At present, as the digital edition is still in beta-state, only a few letters show all enrichment and functionality which every letter will be assigned with in the future.
When I saw a presentation of the project in 2013 critical voices have been raised that from an editorial and philological point of view it would be questionable to combine primary sources and already printed editions. As reasons the editors specified the lack of time and financial sources, which I personally consider good arguments for such a combination. In the end – thinking pragmatically – it is better to have something than nothing. Moreover the prints are not simply digitized but have been completely adapted to the digital medium (encoded in TEI, searchable, separation of data and representation, etc).
A particular interesting aspect of the research done in the context of this edition is the investigation on the historical and literary semantics of the correspondence, which is based on methods for knowledge representation: analysis of content, frame semantics and ontologies. Build on this triad, the creation of a thesaurus is projected which will shed light on the knowledge of the period, in particular on the ideas and concepts of Romanticism and their relations and diffusion. The upcoming Editio will contain an article of Jochen Strobel, explaining the strategies and workflow much more in detail. However, this research approach is a good example that an edition can be more than just an ‘edition’, but even support research on concepts, genres and mechanisms belonging to literary and historical studies and further, also being an object itselfs for testing methods of digital humanities.
The Erich Mendelsohn Archive:
The Correspondence of Erich and Luise Mendelsohn 1910-195
Erich Mendelsohn (1887–1953) was a German Jewish architect, who is particularly famous for his expressionist architecture in the 1920s in Berlin. He is also known as pioneer of Art Deco and Streamline Moderne architecture. In 1910 he met the cellist Luise Maas who he married five years later. In 1933, due to the rise of the National Socialism in Germany, he fled to England, and worked there as well as in Palestine and Israel. From 1941 until his dead he lived in the United States, Los Angeles.
Mendelsohn himself never returned to Berlin after 1933 but his written estate was brought back in 1975 to the city where his career begun. Since then, his letters are held at the Kunstbibliothek, separated from the corresponding letters by his wife, held at the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles. With the Erich Mendelsohn Archive, funded by the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation, the letters which date from 1910 until 1953 have been unified digitally. The edition was completed in early 2014 and comprises 1410 letters from Erich and 1328 letters from Luise.
The correspondence is ordered by years which can be navigated via a time line. Each year is assigned an introductory note, which summarizes the events of the respective year. The letters themselves are commented too, transcribed in XML/TEI and supplemented by facsimiles. Further the users can choose between different text views: with or without line breaks and TEI code. Other options are to export the letter via mail, to print it, to view its metadata in Kalliope, and to get its PID. Names of people, places, projects, institutions and periodicals are captured and indexed, partly with norm data. Additionally to the edition of the letters, the EMA provides photo material from Mendelsohn’s estate, a rich bibliography and (a still empty) link list.
The correspondence gives not only deeper insight into the ideas and work of the architect and into the private live and love with his wife Luise. Above all they are reflecting the political and social situation of the first half of the 20th century.
Particularly positive to underline in the EMA is the fact, that the letters are put in a broader context as well as enriched by background information. The introductory text for each year is absolutely necessary to understand the content of the correspondence. Further the commentary is a helpful support to understand certain contexts mentioned in the letters, and at the same time it is not to extensive. Finally the edition offers even additional materials such as photos and a bibliography. Last but not least, for those among us with some sense for good taste, the edition looks even great.
. . .to be continued.