Saturday, December 23, 2017

Ecdosis and the Charles Harpur Critical Archive

Now that we have are close to finishing our first historical digital edition, the Charles Harpur Critical Archive, it was time to articulate the technical design that led to its realisation. It is also worth reflecting on what we achieved. The extant papers of Charles Harpur (1813-1868) consist of 5,225 manuscript pages ranging in difficulty from easy to diabolically complex, 674 published newspaper poems, 140 letters on 403 manuscript pages, and 250 published pages in book form. To give you some idea of how large that is just to print the last version of each poem took Elizabeth Perkins 1000 pages. We have included all the versions, which is three times that much plus all the notes to the poems and the letters, which is double that again. So think 6,000 pages of printed matter. And we did it, including an elaborate user interface, in just 3 years. We recorded every last deleted full-stop. Here's a sample, in case you thought it was easy:

The technical design that made this possible is now described in outline on the CHCA website and also the revised website that will eventually supplant it. It is a general system that can be reused to create a wide range of other editions.