Modeling the digital scholarly edition beyond TEI, pt.1

Report of the workshop “TEI and neighboring standards,” with presentations from Stefanie Gehrke, Øyvind Eide and Peter Boot at the first DiXiT convention, 15th September 2015, Huygens ING.

By Merisa Martinez and Frederike Neuber.

Just in time for the end of the summer, the DiXiT network opened the beginning of the cold season with its first convention at the Huygens Institute in The Hague. In contrast to the previous camps where the fellows learned about several fields of digital scholarly editing, this time we presented our first research results. Nevertheless, there was still time to learn something new in two parallel workshops on Tuesday, one of which was entitled “TEI and neighboring standards.” The content of the workshop was so varied and complex that this post will be split into two parts. The first one is dedicated to Stefanie Gehrke’s presentation on Open Annotation, Shared Canvas and IIIF, and the second one (following shortly) will cover Øyvind Eide’s presentation on Ontologies and CIDOC CRM and Peter Boot’s contribution on Metadata standards.

Annotating and sharing digital facsimiles

Although John Unsworth defines annotating as one of seven scholarly primitives, in 2000 he wrote:

Shared annotation is, for all scholarly intents and purposes, impossible on the Web. Some interesting though clunky schemes and workarounds have been developed […], but there’s not a lot you can do in this regard.

Fifteen years later, even if we are still far away from an easy and shared annotation of scholarly resources in the WWW, models and technologies have evolved and are on the way to become future standards. By the example of the Biblissima project, Stefanie Gehrke introduced us very gentle and with a lot of explanations to Open Annotation, Shared Canvas and IIIF (pronounced /triple ai ef/).

Without going too deep into the highly complex structure of the data models, in this blog post we want to summarize their major scopes and illustrate to what extent an implementation of these models can support us in our editorial work as well as increase the openess of digital scholarly editions in the context of the Semantic web.

Open Annotation and Shared Canvas

The Open Annotation Data Model defines an interoperable framework for creating associations between related resources, so called annotations, which should be published via the web as Linked Open Data in JSON-LD. The most common use case is attaching a piece of text to a single web resource, i.e. a digital facsimile. An annotation is considered to be a set of connected resources, typically including a body and target, where the body “says something” about the target.

Open Annotation Data Model

Open Annotation Data Model

In line with the Open Annotation data model, Shared Canvas is a Linked Data based approach for representing digital facsimiles of physical objects in a collaborative environment. The resource being modeled is a single item (a book, a manuscript, a painting) rather than the intellectual work embodied within it (the text or other content). A “canvas” is an abstract two dimensional space that represents a single view of some part of the physical item. For example, a book would have one Canvas per side of a page, or multiple smaller ones if it made more sense to view it in sections (e.g. columns).

Shared Canvas

Shared Canvas


The goal of the International Image Interoperability Framework is to give scholars access to images hosted in different repositories, to define a set of APIs that support interoperability between those image repositories and to develop shared technologies which support the presentation, comparison, manipulation and annotation of digital images. IIIF consists of an image API providing a standard image delivery API and a presentation API providing structural and presentation information.

IIIF - Definition of URI

IIIF – Definition of URI

Perspectives for digital scholarly editions

Implementing OA, SC and IIIF can support and facilitate several tasks of editorial work and scopes of a digital scholarly edition.


  • a codicologist who wants to bring together fragments from, for example, the Codex Sinaiticus, which are dispersed in different repositories
  • an editor who wants to retrace the genesis of a work by studying manuscripts from different digital archives
  • a book historian who wants to compare the design of various editions of the same work held in different digital libraries
  • a group of editors who want to add multiple annotations to a manuscript in order to explore it in a collaborative way
  • an editor who wants to create the “ideal text” be re-arranging the page order
  • an art historian who wants to refer to single zones on highly illustrated manuscripts, which could be enabled easily without complicated descriptions by using a stable URI


To be continued. . .





Biblissima Project:

Shelley-Godwin Archive:

Commentary Text Archive:



OpenEdition suggests that you cite this post as follows:
neuber (September 28, 2015). Modeling the digital scholarly edition beyond TEI, pt.1. DiXiT. Retrieved July 23, 2024 from


I am based at the Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities in Graz. I graduated in Editorial Philology in Berlin where I worked in the field of digital scholarly editing of mss and prints. I am interested in modern ms and print studies, theories and concepts of writing, text and editing theories, media transitions at the turn of the ct. 19|20.

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