Monday, April 9, 2012

Progress Report

Recently, the four editors and architects of the Homer Multitext project together with several students presented a panel at the Classical Association of the Middle West and South's annual meeting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The panel was entitled "Reinventing the Critical Edition: New Developments in the Homer Multitext Project." The guiding theme of our panel was our assertion that the critical edition needs to be reinvented for the digital age. Each of our presentations explored different aspects of the process of putting together a modern critical edition, from the photography and data management to transcription and editing to the linking of text and images to the publication and finally to the scholarship that can build upon such an edition. It was our hope that the panel would add up to a demonstration that for almost any literary work, but especially those that have survived through the complex and hazardous transmission of many many centuries and various changes in the technology of reading from antiquity, the digital realm offers a superior editing environment. We also hoped to show that, in the case of the Homeric poems, none of the early manuscripts with scholia has ever yet been truly published. We are planning to change that.

The panel was also an opportunity for us to talk about various developments in the project since the last time we presented at CAMWS, in 2008. I'd like to publish quick report here on our blog as well, and also say some things about what we are working on for the future.

We have now published images of five manuscripts, including the two eleventh century manuscripts of the Iliad with scholia from the Escorial Library in Spain, and the images of another, the Genavensis 44 (13th century with a unique set of scholia) will be available soon through a partnership we have made with the E-Codices project of Switzerland. Several of our manuscripts are available for browsing via a new manuscript browser , and images of all manuscripts are freely available in various sizes from our archive at the University of Houston. We have a new website and this on-going research blog. A book about the Venetus A manuscript is freely available from the project website, and a documentary about the digitization of that manuscript has been produced by the University of Kentucky's Center for Visualization and Virtual Environments. (And students at the VIS Center are the creators of a Venetus A ipad app.) We have undertaken the long work of fully publishing each manuscript by transcribing all of the various texts and paratexts within them, and linking these transcriptions to the images in exciting ways. We have also begun publishing new XML based editions of the Homeric papyri. We have received grants from the National Science Foundation and have experimented with cutting edge photography techniques. Christopher Blackwell and Neel Smith continue to refine the Canonical Text Services, which serves as the digital architecture of our project. Casey Dué and Mary Ebbott have each spent a sabbatical semester scrutinizing the Escorial manuscripts of the Iliad, our most recent additions to the project, in order to better understand what texts and commentaries they contain and how they relate to the other manuscripts that transmit the Iliad, and they regularly publish their findings on this blog. We have accomplished all of this with the invaluable help of many teams of undergraduate researchers. Over the past four years students at Brandeis University, the College of the Holy Cross, Furman University, Georgetown University, Harvard University, and the University of Houston have made transcriptions of papyri and manuscripts and editions of the texts they contain, they have mapped images to texts, they have researched and written about unique features in the manuscripts, and they have devoted countless hours to helping us better understand the historical documents that transmit the Iliad. Each summer we hold a two week seminar on Homeric poetry for undergraduates at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, DC, where we train new teams of undergraduates to begin work on the project. This year students from Trinity University and the University of Washington will join us.

What comes next? By the end of the academic year 2012-2013 we plan to publish XML transcriptions of the entire contents of the first six books of the Iliad in the Venetus A (including the scholia and prolegomena), linked to the already published images. This is part of a larger project to fully publish the entire contents of the Venetus A. Also by the end of 2012-2013 Casey Dué and Mary Ebbott plan to have completed the bulk of a co-authored book about the Escorial manuscripts of the Iliad. Christopher Blackwell and Neel Smith will continue to focus much of their energies on directing teams of undergraduates, while at the same time working with individual and institutional partners to implement the Canonical Texts Services in other places, since indeed the CTS is broadly applicable and is being used by a variety of different projects already. Neel Smith also plans to write a book—for more on which you'll have to stay tuned.

We are always interested in having new teams involved in the project, and we very much hope to digitize additional manuscripts and papyri in the coming years. Please contact Casey Dué and Mary Ebbott with any proposals for collaboration.

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