We’re nearing the tail end of Women’s History Month, and Women Writers Online, a database of transcriptions of early modern women’s writing, is still free to access for the rest of the month! WWO’s contents include short and long poetry, plays, novels, essays and religious content, midwifery books, and more. Writers at all levels of fame are represented, from Elizabeth I and Aphra Behn to anonymous and pseudonymous writers. Here are just a few of the texts:
Cavendish, Margaret (Lucas), Duchess of Newcastle: The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing-World, 1667. An early work of sci-fi!
Neither was it a wonder that the men did freeze to death; for they were not onely driven to the very end or point of the Pole of that World, but even to another Pole of another World, which joined close to it…
By this Poetical Description, you may perceive, that my ambition is not onely to be Empress, but Authoress of a whole World; and that the Worlds I have made, both the Blazing- and the other Philosophical World, mentioned in the first part of this Description, are framed and composed of the most pure, that is, the Rational parts of Matter, which are the parts of my Mind…And in the formation of those Worlds, I take more delight and glory, then ever Alexander or Cesar did in conquering this terrestrial world.
Sowernam, Ester: Esther Hath Hang’d Haman, 1617. One of several responses to Joseph Swetnam’s misogynistic pamphlet “The Arraignment of Lewd, Idle, Froward, and Unconstant Women”, this text methodically points out holes in Swetnam’s logic and refutes his points in like manner.
He runneth on, and saith, They were made of a Rib, and that their froward and crooked nature doth declare, for a Rib is a crooked thing, &c. Woman was made of a crooked rib, so she is crooked of conditions. Joseph Swetnam was made as from Adam of clay and dust, so he is of a durty and muddy disposition.
Barbauld, Anna Laetitia (Aikin): Poems, 1773. Poetry about nature, politics and current events, the poet’s friends, and other subjects.
From glittering scenes which strike the dazzled sight
With mimic grandeur and illusive light,
From idle hurry, and tumultous noise,
From hollow friendships, and from sickly joys,
Will Delia, at the muse’s call retire
To the pure pleasures rural scenes inspire?
Will she from crowds and busy cities fly,
Where wreaths of curling smoke involve the sky,
To taste the grateful shade of spreading trees,
And drink the spirit of the mountain breeze?
And from her Sins of Government, Sins of the Nation, 1793:
If an oppressive law, or a destructive war, were of the nature of a volcano or a hurricane, proceeding from causes totally independent of our operations, all we should have to do, would be to bow our heads in silent submission, and to bear their ravages with a manly patience. We do not repent of a dangerous disorder or a sickly constitution, because these are things which do not depend upon our own efforts…But we are called upon to repent of national sins, because we can help them, and because we ought to help them.
There are some, whose nerves, rather than whose principles, cannot bear cruelty — like other nuisances, they would not chuse it in sight, but they can be well content to know it exists, and that they are indebted for it to the increase of their income, and the luxuries of their table.
Davies, Lady Eleanor: The Benediction, 1651. Davies published a number of works in which she interpreted Biblical prophecies in Daniel and Revelation through anagrams, numerology, and other tools to apply to current events. She anagrammed her own maiden name, Eleanor Audelie, as “Reveale O Daniel.” This document asserts God’s blessing on Oliver Cromwell.
By whom Decypher’d that Generals Thundring Donative his the Crown and Bended Bowe (Rev. 6.) That Seal or Box of Nard opened; as much to say, O: Cromwel, Renowned be Victorious so long as Sun Moon continues or livever.
Anagram, Howl Rome: And thus with one voice, come and see, O: C: Conquering and to Conquer went forth.
Take a look at the WWO database while it’s still Women’s History Month!
We’re nearing the tail end of Women’s History Month, and Women Writers Online, a database of transcriptions of early modern women’s writing, is still free to access for the rest of the month! WWO’s contents include short and long poetry, plays, novels, essays and religious content, midwifery books, and more. Writers at all levels of […]MORE
Rosarium has been up and running for a few months, but I don’t think it’s been officially announced anywhere, so: Rosarium is live!
The Rosarium Project is an online collection of nonfiction writing about roses compiled and TEI-encoded by Julia R. Tryon, Assistant Professor and Commons Librarian for Research & Education at PC. It is expected to be of use to garden historians, to gardeners who may be interested in learning about older techniques and cultivars, and to scholars of leisure activity and lifestyles.
Currently the collection contains magazine articles dating from 1894 to 1922, with an eventual goal of expanding its chronological scope backwards to the sixteenth century. It is fully searchable. Results are sortable by date, reverse date, journal, title, or author, and can additionally be filtered by rose variety or other subject, by rose color, and by journal type (literary, women’s, arts, gardening, etc.). The user can add records to a bookbag which can then be emailed, generate citations, and learn more about people and terms mentioned in the articles by reading pop-ups which appear when names are clicked.
Here are a few screenshots:
Rosarium has been up and running for a few months, but I don’t think it’s been officially announced anywhere, so: Rosarium is live! The Rosarium Project is an online collection of nonfiction writing about roses compiled and TEI-encoded by Julia R. Tryon, Assistant Professor and Commons Librarian for Research & Education at PC. It is […]MORE
This past September was the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London, and the Museum of London has augmented its commemorative “Fire! Fire!” exhibit with a Minecraft map in which players explore the city and fight the fire as it occurs. (NYT article here – one Youtube video of gameplay can be watched here.) One stated goal of using games to convey historical information is to attract and engage children and non-traditional museum patrons — but it’s also interesting to think about ways in which the game might provide a new learning experience even for people with a more conventional history background. For instance, you might read in a book or article that the spread of the fire is partly attributed to the Mayor’s delay in ordering the destruction of houses to create firebreaks — but you could also, as in the gameplay video linked above, run a long way through confusing, similar-looking burning streets to find the Mayor and bring him to the site where the fire started, because your objective as a player is to get him to give the order, and then feel the frustration when he refuses! (Empathy is a subject that comes up in discussion of history-based and history education video games.)
Another video game-related map is Pudding Lane Productions’s 2013 Cryengine map of the area where the fire began, which won the “Off the Map” competition for developing 3D video game scenery based on maps from the British Library. The developers’ discussion of their process reveals some of the challenges that also face scholars working with historical documents. Using the maps as their source, they were able to lay out the streets and the footprints of the buildings, but found that the resulting model was not cramped enough and lacked vitality. Revisions increased the overhang of buildings’ upper stories into the streets, as well as adding crates, carts, vendors’ stalls, wares hung outside shops, washing lines, and other “props” that wouldn’t have made it onto maps, but that were nonetheless a part of London and people’s experience of life in the city. Additionally, they added as many real attested businesses as possible, using historical sources like Samuel Pepys’s diary; this lends the map a great deal of accuracy, but also highlights the gaps in our knowledge of day-to-day life, since most of the houses and businesses on the map did simply have to be generic and modular.
Interestingly, the Pudding Lane developers also mention that “[o]ne key issue caused by following the source material so closely was that a lot of seventeenth-century London looked very similar”. They addressed this by using different palettes in different areas. (This map doesn’t have any people on it, but if it had, perhaps the difference in areas would be established by populating them with different kinds of non-player characters going about their business.) This issue is very prominent in the less-sophisticated Minecraft map as well, but in that game it might be a feature instead of a bug.
This past September was the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London, and the Museum of London has augmented its commemorative “Fire! Fire!” exhibit with a Minecraft map in which players explore the city and fight the fire as it occurs. (NYT article here – one Youtube video of gameplay can be watched here.) […]MORE
Leah Grandy, of the Loyalist Collection at the University of New Brunswick Libraries, has a few recent(-ish) posts on paleography, or deciphering historical handwriting. Grandy notes here that paleography training—previously thought to be necessary only for people studying medieval and early modern texts, which may be written in styles such as blackletter or secretary hand that they don’t necessarily encounter much in their modern lives—may also need to be extended to students and researchers of later centuries as well. Cursive, previously a staple of early education, is no longer taught in many schools, and as a result, undergrads are arriving at college who have trouble reading 18th-20th century handwritten primary sources. As someone who has deciphered written annotations for the Women Writers Project and sometimes transcribes documents on Shakespeare’s World for fun, I’m used to people recoiling in fear and/or disgust at the idea of facing down secretary hand, but it’s strange for me to think about people having a similar reaction to cursive!
In this post, Grandy offers a really helpful set of tips for reading or transcribing handwritten documents—whatever style they’re written in. Among them: comparing unclear letters/words to identifiable ones; looking up people and places; transcribing what you can identify and leaving blanks before coming back; guessing and going with your gut! If you’re a student or researcher dealing with handwritten primary sources, check it out.
Leah Grandy, of the Loyalist Collection at the University of New Brunswick Libraries, has a few recent(-ish) posts on paleography, or deciphering historical handwriting. Grandy notes here that paleography training—previously thought to be necessary only for people studying medieval and early modern texts, which may be written in styles such as blackletter or secretary hand […]MORE
The long-awaited (at least by me) Folger Digital Anthology has been released! The Folger Shakespeare Library, whose online texts of the Bard are something of a gold standard, announced a little while back that they’d also be releasing an online anthology of TEI-encoded non-Shakespearean plays from the early modern period. The collection includes 403 plays that were performed professionally between the 1576 construction of The Theatre, England’s first successful permanent theatre, and the 1642 closure of the theatres due to the English Civil War. Some of the plays are old chestnuts that already have a bunch of online transcriptions, but in browsing the genre categories (which include the comedies, tragedies, and histories familiar to fans of Shakespeare, but also tragicomedies, morality plays, classical legends, pseudo-histories, and more – Meaghan J. Brown, the project leader, discusses genre decisions here) I found some that, as far as I can tell, were not previously accessible to the general public online.
The long-awaited (at least by me) Folger Digital Anthology has been released! The Folger Shakespeare Library, whose online texts of the Bard are something of a gold standard, announced a little while back that they’d also be releasing an online anthology of TEI-encoded non-Shakespearean plays from the early modern period. The collection includes 403 plays […]MORE
The musical Hamilton, winner of a slew of awards including (most recently) 11 Tonys, has gained notice as a vehicle for educating children and teens about the early history of the United States. Public interest in the Founding Fathers’ lives and views is high — at the moment, Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography of Alexander Hamilton is at the top of the NYT’s paperback nonfiction bestseller list, where it has resided for 35 weeks, and also appears on the e-book nonfiction bestseller list, while Nathaniel Philbrick’s new book on George Washington has a place on the hardcover list. Some die-hard musical fans have moved beyond the Chernow biography into primary sources like Aaron Burr’s journals and John Laurens’s letters.
It’s not only the musical’s content that’s gained a spot in the public eye, though — its critical acclaim and widespread popularity have meant that DH-esque projects relating to its lyrics have attracted mainstream attention of a kind that similar projects on other subjects rarely get. Raplyzer, Eric Malmi’s 2015 program analyzing assonance and other rhymes in rap lyrics, was covered in a handful of sources as a light “computers, whatever will they do next” story — the non-specialist sources largely focused on the aspect of the project where the computer generated raps of its own, rather than on its analysis. (It goes without saying that rhyme analysis tools developed by literature scholars for poetry, like this one by Elise Thorsen and David J. Birnbaum, don’t even get that media attention.) Meanwhile, in 2016, Hamilton’s reputation led the Wall Street Journal itself to develop an algorithm similar to Malmi’s to use on the show’s lyrics; due to the show’s broad appeal, this was widely shared online.
Although the website Genius, a database of rap lyrics and other content with crowdsourced annotations, had been widely covered before its association with Hamilton, observers took particular note of the speed and thoroughness with which the site’s users marked up the show’s libretto. Genius’s strength, as it related to Hamilton specifically, lay in the breadth of knowledge of its crowdsourcing crowd: hip-hop aficionados picked up the references to Grandmaster Flash, Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z, fans coming from a musical theatre background noticed the shout-outs to South Pacific and The Last Five Years, and history buffs provided more context for details that are elided or come up only in passing, like the Battle of Fort Necessity, the Whiskey Rebellion, Hercules Mulligan’s slave Cato, or New York’s prominence in the 1770s. These annotations help a reader understand the musical both as a 21st-century document and as a narrative of the 18th-19th century.
Crowdsourced digital humanities projects frequently deal with much larger corpora than this, which need to be put into indexable form before they can be used by researchers. Such projects are therefore less subjective and less demanding of subject area knowledge. A selection of crowdsourced DH projects:
- Shakespeare’s World: Transcribe handwritten recipes and letters from early modern England
- Metadata Games: Identify and tag images, audio, and video
- AnnoTate: Transcribe artists’ diaries and sketchbooks
- Operation War Diary: Tag people, dates, troop movements, and other key details in WWI unit war diaries
- What’s on the menu?: Transcribe historical restaurant menus
- 18thConnect/TypeWright: Proofread and correct mechanical transcriptions of 18th-century documents
Hamilton fans who would like to read the title character’s writings can find them at Founders Online. A few that may be of interest:
- “The Farmer Refuted”, actually far more eloquently insulting than its paraphrase in the musical
- First preserved letter from Hamilton to Eliza Schuyler, his future wife, apologizing for having offered to drive her and a friend to a party before remembering that he was not a good enough driver to do so
- Draft of an Opinion on the Constitutionality of an Act to Establish a Bank, one of Hamilton’s most noted political successes. This draft, with cross-outs and additions, is an interesting look at Hamilton’s thought process!
- Letters between Hamilton and Aaron Burr (1, 2, 3, 4) leading up to their duel, signed — indeed — “I have the honor to be your obedient servant, A. Hamilton/A. Burr”
- And many more!
The musical Hamilton, winner of a slew of awards including (most recently) 11 Tonys, has gained notice as a vehicle for educating children and teens about the early history of the United States. Public interest in the Founding Fathers’ lives and views is high — at the moment, Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography of Alexander Hamilton […]MORE