On edited archives and archived editions


Building on a longstanding terminological discussion in the field of textual scholarship, this essay explores the archival and editorial potential of the digital scholarly edition. Following Van Hulle and Eggert, the author argues that in the digital medium these traditionally distinct activities now find the space they need to complement and reinforce one another. By critically examining some of the early and more recent theorists and adaptors of this relatively new medium, the essay aims to shed a clearer light on some of its strengths and pitfalls. To conclude, the essay takes the discussion further by offering a broader reflection on the difficulties of providing a ‘definitive’ archival base transcription of especially handwritten materials, questioning if this should be something to aspire to for the edition in the first place.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3


  1. 1.

    As Patrick Sahle posited the second part of his Digitale Editionsformen: ‘Das Kennzeichen des gegenwärtigen Medienwandels ist nicht so sehr ein Wechsel des Medien, sondern vielmehr ein Transmedialisierung!’ (2013: 161; see also 162).

  2. 2.

    In ‘Edition, Project, Database, Archive, Thematic Research Collection: What’s in a Name?’ Price weighed a series of alternatives against one another and makes a case for switching to the concept of ‘arsenal’ instead (2009).

  3. 3.

    See: http://www.beckettarchive.org/introduction.jsp. Note the use of the word ‘series’ here, another term to add to the list – and one that is again perhaps more firmly rooted in print culture.

  4. 4.

    Gerrit Brünning, one of the collaborators on the Faust Edition explained as much at a talk that he gave at the University of Antwerp as part of the Platform Digital Humanities Lecture Series (26 March 2018).

  5. 5.

    More specifically, Eggert mentions the ISO-646 character set. This character set is a successor of ASCII (the American Standard Code of Information Interchange), and the predecessor of today’s international standard character set called Unicode.

  6. 6.

    In fact, Shillingsburg’s own list of these ‘visual elements with semantic force’ for manuscripts explicitly includes ‘insertions above and below lines and in margins’ (2015, 17).

  7. 7.

    In his paper, Shillingsburg foresees two exceptions to this rule: ‘a new authoritative witness to the work or the discovery of error in the original work’ (2015: 24). But the images that represent the document may need to be updated as well, if the edition wants to conform to newer and higher digital imaging standards. Such an update will invariably have a number of implications for the image-text linking tools that the content management framework uses, but it may also have consequences for the text, if the new image clarifies a textual feature the discovery of that the old image could not.

  8. 8.

    The CHCA and its multi-version-document (MVD) encoding scheme are discussed in more detail elsewhere in this volume.


  1. Beckett Digital Manuscript Project. Retrieved March 30 2018 from: www.beckettarchive.org.

  2. Boot, P. Fischer, F. and Van Hulle, D. (2017). Introduction. In Boot, P. Cappellotto, A., Dillen, W., Fischer, F., Kelly, A., Mertgens, A., Sichani, A., Spadini, E., and Van Hulle, D., (Eds.), Advances in digital scholarly editing. Papers presented at the DiXiT conferences in the Hague, Cologne, and Antwerp (pp. 15–22). Leiden: Sidestone Press.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Brünning, G., Henzel, K., & Pravida, D. (2013). Multiple encoding in genetic editions: The case of Faust. Journal of the Text Encoding Initiative, 4, 1–12 http://jtei.revues.org/697. Accessed 23 April 2019.

  4. Dahlström, M. (2000). Drowning by versions. Human IT, 4(4) http://etjanst.hb.se/bhs/ith/4-00/md.htm. Accessed 23 April 2019.

  5. Dahlström, M. (2009). The Compleat edition. In M. Deegan & K. Sutherland (Eds.), Text editing, print, and the digital world (pp. 27–44). Basingstoke: Ashgate.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Dahlström, M., & Dillen, W. (2017). Review of Litteraturbanken: the Swedish Literature Bank. RIDE, 6. https://doi.org/10.18716/ride.a.6.2.

  7. Eggert, P. (2005). Text-encoding, theories of the text, and the “work- site”. Literary and Linguistic Computing, 20(4), 425–435.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Eggert, P. (2017). The archival impulse and the editorial impulse. In P. Boot, A. Cappellotto, W. Dillen, F. Fischer, A. Kelly, A. Mertgens, A.-M. Sichani, E. Spadini, & D. Van Hulle (Eds.), Advances in digital scholarly editing. Papers presented at the DiXiT conferences in the Hague, Cologne, and Antwerp (pp. 121–124). Leiden: Sidestone Press.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Evenson, J. (1999). Electronic Archives: Creating a New Bibliographic Code. Paper presented at the ACH-AALC conference in Charlottesville. USA: Virginia.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Faust Edition. Retrieved March 30 2018 from: http://beta.faustedition.net.

  11. Henny-Krahmer, U., & Neuber, F. (2017). Editorial: Reviewing digital text collections. RIDE, 6. https://doi.org/10.18716/ride.a.6.0 Accessed on 30 March 2018.

  12. Huitfeldt, C., & Sperberg-McQueen, C. M. (2008). What is a transcription? Literary and Linguistic Computing, 23(3), 295–310.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Litteraturbanken. Retrieved March 30 2018 from: https://litteraturbanken.se/start.

  14. Neuber, F., & Henny-Krahmer, U. (2018). Editorial: Digital text collections - take two, Action! RIDE, 8. https://doi.org/10.18716/ride.a.8.0.

  15. NietzcheSource. Retrieved March 30 2018 from: http://www.nietzschesource.org.

  16. Nixon, M., & Van Hulle, D. (2017). Samuel Beckett’s library. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Price, K. (2007). Electronic scholarly editions. In S. Schreibman & R. Siemens (Eds.), A companion to digital literary studies (pp. 434–450). Malden: Blackwell Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Price, K. (2009). Edition, Project, Database, Archive, Thematic Research Collection: What’s in a Name? DHQ, 3(3) http://www.digitalhumanities.org/dhq/vol/3/3/000053/000053.html. Accessed 23 April 2019.

  19. Robinson, P. (1996). Is there a text in these variants? In R. Finneran (Ed.), The literary text in the digital age (pp. 99–115). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Robinson, P. (2009). What text really is not, and why editors have to learn to swim. Literary and Linguistic Computing, 24(1), 41–52.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Robinson, P. (2016, 6 October). The Revolution is Coming. Paper presented at Digital Scholarly Editing: Theory, Practice, Methods. ESTS 2016 / DiXiT 3. Antwerp, Belgium.

  22. Robinson, P., & Solopova, E. (1993). Guidelines for transcription of the manuscripts of the wife of Bath’s prologue. In N. Blake & P. Robinson (Eds.), The Canterbury Tales project occasional papers (pp. 19–52). Oxford: Office for Humanities Communication.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Sahle, P. (2005). Digitales Archiv–Digitale Edition. Anmerkungen zur Begriffsklärung. In M. Stolz (Ed.), Literatur und Literaturwissenschaft auf dem Weg zu den neuen Medien. Bern: germanistik.ch https://www.germanistik.ch/publikation.php?id=Digitales_Archiv_und_digitale_Edition. Accessed 23 April 2019.

  24. Sahle, P. (2013). Digitale Editionsformen. Zum Umgang mit der Überlieferung unter den Bedingungen des Medienwandels. Teil 2: Befunde, Theorie und Methodik. Norderstedt: Books on Demand.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Shillingsburg, P. (1996). Scholarly editing in the computer age. Theory and practice (3rd ed.). Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Shillingsburg, P. (2015). Development principles for virtual archives and editions. Variants. The Journal of the European Society for Textual Scholarship, 11, 11–28.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Steinkrüger, P. (2014). Review of Nietzschesource. RIDE, 1. https://doi.org/10.18716/ride.a.1.4.

  28. Van Hulle, D. (1999). Authenticity or Hyperreality in hypertext editions. Human IT, 1, 227–244 http://etjanst.hb.se/bhs/ith/1-99/dvh.htm. Accessed 23 April 2019.

  29. Van Hulle, D. (2009). Editie en/of Archief: modern manuscripten in een digitale architectuur. Verslagen en Mededelingen van de Koninklijke Academie voor Nederlandse Taal- en Letterkunde, 119(2), 163–178.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Wout Dillen.

Additional information

Publisher’s note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Dillen, W. On edited archives and archived editions. Int J Digit Humanities 1, 263–277 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42803-019-00018-4

Download citation


  • Digital scholarly editing
  • Textual criticism
  • Archives
  • Editions