Case Study: The John Foxe Project (TAMO)

Project Title: The John Foxe Project (TAMO)

Type: Semantic Markup

Address: http://www.johnfoxe.org

 

Introduction and Definition

Semantic data is data marked up, however lightly or heavily, in ways which reflect the semantic content of a text, rather than its structure.  In this case the text is encoded in XML and follows all TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) guidelines and recommendations for standardisation produced by W3C XHMTL namespace (http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml).  Using a standardised or extensible markup language (XML) avoids potential pitfalls of using multiple vocabularies which might otherwise pose problems of recognition or cause data errors.  This markup is used to provide annotation and navigation on top of the original text documents. 

Two editions of the text can be examined side-by-side on the same screen by choosing a link on the side menu that produces two interfaces on one window at the same time.  Different pages on the same edition or separate editions can also be examined through this duo-interface providing flexible comparison of text alongside various optional apparatus that provides a scholarly extension upon the text. 

 

Project description

John Foxe’s The Acts and Monuments Online (TAMO) is the final product from the British Academy John Foxe Project.  It reproduces online and in a searchable and comparable format all four editions of the Acts and Monuments published during its author’s lifetime.  The final edition (published in 1583) of Foxe’s book was initially marked-up as semantic data by the project team for presentation as a CD-ROM but was soon refashioned for online development.  In 2004 the Variorum edition was released containing all four editions but only partially complete.  In 2011 the final TAMO edition was launched containing the four editions in their entirety alongside extensive textual apparatus, commentary, bibliographies, and essays.  Accurate comparison between editions and data retrieval were essential goals for the project due to the unmanageable length of each edition of the Acts and Monuments (roughly 2000 pages per edition) and the importance of variations and changes between editions that had previously been ignored and erased from the previous standard editions produced in the nineteenth century.        

The Acts and Monuments is useful for historians wishing to study sixteenth-century England in particular but to make best use of the text a need was identified to draw out information concerning names of individuals; locations; Latin and Greek text (and their translations); woodcut location and identification.  In addition the excessive length of each edition required breaking down into manageable chunks with indices added for greater accessibility.  The project used a mixture of soft and hard semantic techniques and tools to achieve the aim of making each edition, and comparisons between editions, searchable for greater discoverability and analysis. 

 

Use of Tool

  • Thematic divisions

The text or each edition of Foxe’s book has been divided up via XML markup according to theme to create a new index to aid navigation.  The index is available either as an index in the side menu whilst searching through the editions or as a static page with url links to all editions in the apparatus section.  The index in the apparatus is useful, as it tells users instantly where each section begins in all four editions.  Although adding a somewhat false framework on the text (the original text is not broken up in this way), the divisions do not interfere with the text itself but are simply available as an additional aid on the menu system.  For researchers the text would be significantly more difficult to navigate using the traditional index that Foxe himself provided due to the new digital format and to the different types of questions researchers are likely to ask of the text.   

  • Commentaries (text; glosses; woodcuts)

Commentaries are provided for all sections of the text (in part divided up through the thematic divisions) and woodcuts, using a static page or accessible through a reveal within the body of the text for each relevant page (available via the side menu).  The glosses commentary is only available for books 10 and 11.  The commentary on the text is complete but takes a reduced form for Book 1.  The woodcut commentaries are complete throughout. These are provided through XML markup that crosses between editions.

  • Latin/Greek translations

Most Latin/Greek sections have been translated.  These can be accessed either from the apparatus menu as a static webpage or from a menu on each page of the marked-up text.  Greek and Anglo-Saxon fonts, macrons, marginal glosses, as well as text in different typefaces, are all provided in the edition using Unicode in some instances.  Although the digital edition cannot entirely replicate the look and design of the original, the varied use of fonts and typefaces transfers these elements to the online edition and provides English translation where applicable. This opens up aspects of the text previously difficult to access.

  • Cattley Pratt References

The standard text edition was edited by Cattley and Pratt in the nineteenth century.  Although this edition contains many faults – including the conflation of all four editions into one – many of the references are still useful.  Unfortunately these references have only been made available for books 10-12 on TAMO limiting their usefulness here to the contemporary portion of Foxe’s book.  Again, these commentaries are available via a static page on the apparatus section or in-text on the side menu.

  • Textual transpositions and variations

Not very well advertised or described by TAMO, the textual transpositions and variations were written in order to show in a tabulated form the additions and re-orderings of Foxe’s text between the four editions.  The potential of these tables, however, is somewhat diluted in the final edition because of a lack of explanation on the site.

The Acts and Monuments contain numerous names and places, some of which are hard to identify as specific people or places.  These form an obvious and useful semantic dataset through which researchers can transverse the content of the texts.  Links are largely only available for the 1583 edition, although the parallel location of the text in the earlier editions is noted but not linked.  As per the other tools, the peoples and places databases are available through the side menu or on a series of static pages ordered with an alphabetical index in the apparatus.  These databases are more extensive for the contemporary books (10-12) than for the earlier books but are nonetheless available throughout.

 

Further possibilities

The extended apparatus in TAMO is designed to grant researchers the greatest access to a large swathe of text and images in multiple and comparable editions.  In essence the approach is little more than an extension of traditional indexing and commentary methods but re-appropriated for digital format.  Similar approaches would be useful for any marked-up text of great length where multiple research interests require varying access to topics, themes and elements within the text itself.     

The equivalent Holinshed Project (http://www.cems.ox.ac.uk/holinshed/) has also included a dual screen option for comparison between editions and has added links to the EEBO copies of the text.  Navigation is via regnal year or chapter sub-heading, which both correspond to the original editions.  The text has again received semantic text markup; however, this project has chosen to provide less in the way of commentary and apparatus alongside the text itself.  

Due to time constraints certain elements of the apparatus were not completed for the entirety of the text, limiting its usefulness for some forms and areas of research.  Nevertheless the semantic markup makes the texts approachable and searchable in ways unavailable previously.  It is now possible to search for names, places, and terms in the text to gather statistics on word-use, interest or discussion on various topics through the use of semantic text processes. 

 

Conclusion

TAMO is a good example of a project that has used varying techniques of markup to provide annotations on an old text for the purpose of enabling users to get to specific information in a large body of text while allowing for the further complication of variant editions of that text.  Much of the work has been to provide additional information about the text or provide a series of access points for users that go a long way to making the text(s) manageable and searchable.  Much of this is prescriptive; a guide for users to access the text, to compare variance between texts, and to provide a scholarly apparatus over the top of the original text.  However, the text itself is still allowed to speak on its own accord, with the markup acting as an optional addition.    

Last modified: Friday, 28 September 2012, 11:44 AM