The Dalhousie Manuscripts Project: Navigating the Ethics of Digital Editing

Date

2024-03-07

Authors

Sprouse, Sarah J.
Valles, Sarah Banschbach

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Abstract

The objectives of this project are to produce a digital edition of a pair of manuscripts held at Texas Tech University's Special Collections collectively called the Dalhousie Manuscripts. This edition features high-resolution images of the manuscripts in a IIIF viewer, TEI-coded diplomatic editions of the text, bibliographies, and critical apparatus.

Description

Two manuscripts containing the largest corpus of poems of the famous sixteenth-century poet John Donne are held in the Southwest Collections Library at Texas Tech University. The DMSS contain what many scholars consider the "definitive" versions of Donne's poems - poems that have been edited and included in well-known poetry collections and in textbooks designed for survey courses. In addition to Donne's work, the DMSS contain poems by Francis Bacon, Francis Beaumont, and others, including unique English and Scottish Renaissance lyrics. A black and white facsimile of the manuscripts was edited and published in 1988 by Ernest W. Sullivan II and David J. Murrah. Sullivan's edition shed new light on Donne's authorship practices, on the dissemination of his poetry, and on issues of reader response. However, the quality of the images in the facsimile is poor, which is a serious impediment to scholarship. TTU currently has low-res images of the DMSS available online, though there is no critical apparatus, transcription provided with them. Much has changed in the world of Renaissance studies and book historical scholarship in the 30 years since the facsimile. Revisiting the MSS, situating them in current scholarly conversations, and rendering the manuscripts more accessible by using contemporary technology will open new dialogues and lead to new discoveries about Donne's poetics, early modern reading practices, and early modern manuscript creation. We plan to produce a digital facsimile and edition that will make available not only high-res, full-color facsimile images of the DMSS, but also a new transcription, translation, and edition of its contents. This digital edition will include a descriptive bibliography, annotations and notes, a critical bibliography that will be periodically updated, a search function, side-by-side features for images, transcriptions of the poems, editions of the poems, imaging of the binding, and the collation information. This digital edition will make widely available a resource for teaching, scholarly study, and public perusal. We intend to seek certification of the edition from the Modern Language Association's Committee on Scholarly Editions via external review by Donne scholars. This digital edition serves as the basis for our ongoing research project, the product of which will be a book that considers the full contents of the manuscripts. This book project asserts the value of lesser-known poets as well as the critical importance of manuscript context to the study of Renaissance texts. Most critically, we argue that the manuscripts were produced in Scotland by a group of aristocratic scribes who left behind their own lyrics, jokes, and poetry. Rather than wresting the DMSS away from Donne scholars, we intend to open these manuscripts up to the field more broadly for those interested in early modern Scotland, systems of punctuation, and literature as social activity. These manuscripts, we argue, highlight social engagement in the 17th century and the ways in which the Scottish aristocracy both consumed and lampooned news from England. By virtue of the Donne poems included and the sequential order of the MSS' contents, the DMSS are closely related to British Library Lansdowne MS 740, as well as to Huntington Library MS 198. Helen Gardner and Herbert Grierson believed the Donne poems in these three MSS belong to the Group II Donne MS tradition and must have been copied from a now-missing exemplar. However, because scholars focus primarily on Donne as the value indicator of these MSS, the rest of the poems have not received much (if any) attention. Our desire to contextualize the Donne poems within the holistic structure of the DMSS yields some interesting finds. A plentitude of Scottish orthographical evidence, author attributions, and ownership marks prompted us to hypothesize that the manuscripts were not, in fact, transcribed in London and then transported to Edinburgh as previously supposed. Instead, we wondered: What if the DMSS had been transcribed in Scotland all along? The data collection methodology was Archival research; transcription, translation, and editing.

Keywords

2024 Faculty and Student Research Poster Session and Research Fair, West Texas A&M University, College of Fine Arts and Humanities, Poster, Poetry, John Donne

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