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Manuscript Genetics & Samuel Beckett

Over at the Samuel Beckett Digital Manuscript Project website, the future possibilities for literary research are being expanded.  A collaborative project of the Centre for Manuscript Genetics (University of Antwerp), the Beckett International Foundation (University of Reading), the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (Austin, Texas) and the Estate of Samuel Beckett, the website significantly improves the  digital tools for scholarship into Beckett’s manuscripts, bringing the results (at least theoretically) to everyone.  Here’s how the website describes the aims of the project:

The Beckett Digital Manuscript Project aims to contribute to the study of Beckett’s works in various ways: by enabling readers to discover new documents and see how the dispersed manuscripts of different holding libraries interrelate within the context of a work’s genesis in its entirety; by increasing the accessibility of the manuscripts with searchable transcriptions in an updatable digital archive; by highlighting the interpretive relevance of intertextual references that can be found in the manuscripts. The Project may also enhance the preservation of the physical documents as users will be able to work with digital facsimiles.

The purpose of the Beckett Digital Manuscript Project is to reunite the manuscripts of Samuel Beckett’s works in a digital way, and to facilitate genetic research: the project brings together digital facsimiles of documents that are now preserved in different holding libraries, and adds transcriptions of Beckett’s manuscripts, tools for bilingual and genetic version comparison, a search engine, and an analysis of the textual genesis of his works. The work on this project proceeds in a modular way. Once the electronic genetic edition of a work is completed, the accompanying analysis of the work’s genesis is published in print with a selection of facsimile images. – Dirk Van Hulle & Mark Nixon

I hope this is the wave of the future and that more libraries and estates will enter into projects such as this one.  Unfortunately, the Beckett project limits access to those willing to pay annual fees starting at  €25 and going upward.  I’d love to see something like a day- or week-pass offered.  Nevertheless, I encourage Vertigo readers to go check out the partially-locked, albeit still impressive demo.  If the demo leaves you asking still more questions, read the Manual and the Technical Documentation for a much more detailed sense of how the tools work.

Equally impressive is the project’s dedication to transparency, seen not only in the thorough documentation noted above, but also in the excellent section on Editorial Principles.

[By the way, I’ll be taking a short break from my ongoing coverage of the new book Saturn’s Moons: W.G. Sebald – A Handbook.  I’m headed out of town momentarily and have decided that a tome weighing in at 1.495 kilograms will not be in my carry-on luggage.  More in a week or so.]

One Comment Post a comment
  1. It’s interesting to know, in relation to this posting, that Nobel Prize winner J.M. Coetzee published a dissertation that involved computational/semantic analysis of Beckett’s texts.

    August 15, 2011

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