Tuesday, October 26, 2010

quick hello from the Co-PI (Abigail Firey, Univ. of Kentucky)

I come to T-PEN as the director of a project that has as one of its central activities the transcription of unedited, usually unprinted manuscripts: the Carolingian Canon Law project. It is a highly collaborative project, designed to receive contributions from scholars present and future, known and unknown, in order to build a “conceptual corpus” of the legal texts known to Carolingian jurists. Because of its open nature and the need for transcriptions prepared to the highest editorial standards, the project will benefit enormously from a tool that allows easy transcription and simultaneous preparation of an encoded file (we are using TEI-P5) without any knowledge of markup required on the part of the contributor, and that also allows ready verification and correction of transcriptions. Transcribing is – as experienced scholars know!—a demanding task, and there are dangers lurking. We had a strange experience on the CCL when we were reviewing a transcription that had been prepared from an existing electronic version of a text and then altered to match the manuscript readings: until we started line-by-line proofreading, we did not notice that very familiar words in the first rubric were, in fact, missing in the manuscript! If the transcriber had been using T-PEN to create a new transcription, there likely would not have been the error; even if the presumed reading had crept in, it would have been easy to check and correct the transcription. Our other challenge has been to keep up with encoding transcriptions (we haven’t, is the short answer). We cannot wait to implement the “auto-encoding” function of T-PEN, so our research assistants can then dig into serious scholarship, instead of encoding all the time! (Some readers may remember Stan Rogers’ “White Collar Holler” (“Can you code it? Program it right!”)

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