Ethica Complementoria Digital Scholarly Edition – Redux. Pt. 8: Proofreading

Day 8 of my summer research leave

After yesterday’s distress, I decided to shift my attention from cleaning up the remaining files with transcriptions to finishing the proof-reading of edition princeps of the Ethica Complementoria, printed in Nürnberg in 1643, and held at the Bavarian State Library in Bamberg. I made it; I finished proofreading and now wait for the results.

Screenshot of the DTAQ proofreading modus with a page from the 1643 Ethica and its transcription

The 1643 print, or A1 as I baptized it in my reconstruction of the print history and genealogy, was the second Ethica text for me to transcribe. I started working on this transcription as early as 2013 when I received the digitised copy in PDF, for which I paid what felt like a small fortune. I strongly believed in creating my transcription in XML, working in the markup as I went, and using the full TEI P5 tag set without customisation. This was because I had not yet found a repository where I felt I could put my digital edition and make it accessible to digital humanities colleagues and the community of early modern German studies, which was still very far from being digitally savvy at that time. I had previously experimented with TextGrid as a virtual research environment and as a repository, but the user interface made it hard for me to commit fully. So, in the end, I gave up and used MS Word for my transcriptions: it was more convenient for my eyes and allowed a more intuitive form of applying markup to the text.

As time went by, I contacted the German Text Archive, and they agreed to host my edited texts and integrate them into their corpus of German texts. The condition was that I had to use the DTA base model, a customized version of the XML TEI P5 standard they had developed meticulously. Now, the problem was to convert the transcription of the text and the markup from a DOCX file into XML and map it onto the DTA base model. I felt that time was not on my side. During these years, I was severely ill and could not use a keyboard and mouse for writing, but I had to use a microphone and dictation software. Using these to convert the files, making the necessary adjustments and writing and tweaking scripts was out of the question. Instead, I contracted a fellow digital humanist who specialized in creating transcriptions using double-keying and converting them into XML. We agreed to process not just the transcriptions of the 1643 Ethica but also A2 (between 1643-1646) and B6 (1660), which I had transcribed in the meantime. I felt fortunate that someone else could help me with an insurmountable task at the time. When I received the files, I didn’t check them as properly as I should have. And about that, I learned only much later. In 2017, I was back full-time working on my doctoral dissertation, and the Ethica project lay dormant for a while.

In 2018, I delivered the XML files of A1, A2, and B6 to the DTA, and quite a few issues became apparent; the markup didn’t quite fit the DTA base model, and there were some other oddities, which I thought I could address quickly, but instead, my life got turned upside down, and other things were more important. It took me until early fall 2019 to return to the texts and try to fix some of the issues, but the attempt was half-hearted. I had just started a new job after being on an extended sick leave, and this job had nothing to do with edition philology, early modern book history, literature, or digital humanities. It wasn’t even a research position, but administrative, and there was no room for using work time on a project like this. So it lay dormant again.

In 2020 I changed jobs again, this time to a permanent and academic position. But life happened again; not only did Covid-19 massively shift my professional and private focus, but other family-related developments took priority. It wasn’t until after the summer of 2021 that I would take another look at the edition that was waiting for me to make the final checks and fixes on the DTAQ servers.

Today, another two years later, I have completed proofreading the version of my transcription and markup used for the DTAQ. It wasn’t the ‘final’ many times proofread version I had as a DOCX file with handwritten annotations. I filed 85 tickets with requests for changes: some mistakes I made transcribing, some markup issues, and some HTML presentation issues, which probably stem from my XML file not entirely conforming to the DTA base model.

So, ten years roughly from receiving the pdf of the digital copy of the 1643 print to finally checking the transcription, encoding and presentation on the DTA repository didn’t feel that long. But they were too long. In the meantime, someone else published their study edition with commentary based on the editio princeps. Something I will now have to refer to and make it very clear and evident how far my digital edition differs from their print/pdf edition. If not for the ethical reason of academic honesty and transparency, then to protect my work from being perceived as a copyright issue. Editions are a bit of a grey zone regarding copyright or German Urheberrecht. I do not believe this will be considered the case for my edition and the study edition, but I must mentally prepare for whatever will come. Fingers crossed.