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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.

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


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Dillen, W. On edited archives and archived editions. Int J Digit Humanities 1, 263–277 (2019).

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  • Digital scholarly editing
  • Textual criticism
  • Archives
  • Editions