Models and Training:

The Elizabeth Gaskell Journal: Digital Edition presents the work of a first-time digital editor, so the dissertation required, in addition to research and writing, extensive training and study. As part of the process of creating this edition, it was necessary to learn XML, Xpath, XSLT, HTML, CSS, JavaScript; the roles of these languages in creating the project are further detailed below. The website files were coded by hand, as was the Edition file containing the transcription and markup. The transcription was also verified in a two-step process with volunteer readers to ensure accuracy.

I have adopted standard practices in scholarly editing, as I have learned them through my training through the Digital Mitford Project as well as training at the Institute for the Editing of Historical Documents. This digital edition is primarily modeled on The Digital Mitford Project. The Editing policies I have adopted were developed based on my training in TEI at Digital Mitford Coding School, and my training as an Editor in using the Digital Mitford Codebook. The alternate view input box and interactive notes function of the Edition were created through adapting the code which creates similar features on the Digital Mitford site. The Edition's design draws upon the scholarship and presentation of multiple other Digital Editions, including The Shelley-Godwin Archive, The Jane Addams Papers Project, and The Washington Papers. This new digital edition of the journal makes Gaskell's journal — and for the first time, facsimile images of the manuscript pages — available together for an online audience, with scholarly notes and annotations, as well as contextualizing materials.

As a digital dissertation, the Elizabeth Gaskell Journal: Digital Edition models a range of digital humanities skills as well as literary analysis. The project, as is true of all DH work, is immensely collaborative. While the encoding, research and writing has been created by a single Editor, the scope of the Edition has required seeking out additional models and collaborative relationships. I am deeply grateful to the many people who have made this project possible, and who are mentioned by name on the acknowledgements page of the website.

The DH community at Michigan State University provided me with a broad base of training in Digital Humanities methods. I received my initial training in TEI encoding through the Digital Mitford Coding School, led by Dr. Elisa Beshero-Bondar, at the University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg in 2016. I am indebted to Dr. Beshero-Bondar for her tireless hours teaching me encoding principles and practices, and to her students who assisted me in some of the more difficult steps required to create the website and its files. I also received training in Documentary Editing through the 2018 Institute for the Editing of Historical Documents, sponsored by the Association for Documentary Editing (ADE) and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). Additionally, I have benefited from the example of other digital dissertation scholars, in particular Dr. Amanda Visconti, whose work and immense archive of digital dissertation resources has provided inspiration and methodical processes that have proved invaluable.

Scope of the Project

This small-scale digital edition was designed to fulfill dissertation requirements within the temporal, financial, and educational constraints that accompany graduate education. Gaskell's journal currently resides in the Brotherton Library Special Collections at the University of Leeds, Great Britain. The journal is a brief manuscript, at 78 handwritten pages. Given the expected two year time frame for dissertation completion, the journal was judged to be small enough to allow for completion of the edition, including time to obtain the appropriate training, and yet lengthy enough to justify in-depth analysis.

In addition to the time constraints, the project was designed to accommodate the limited financial resources available. While this project has received generous funding in the form of a Student College Research Abroad Monies award (SCRAM) through the MSU College of Arts and Letters to support on-site research in the UK, two Research Enhancement Awards from the Department of English at MSU and a stipend from the ADE (Association for Documentary Editing) to support travel to training institutes (Digital Mitford Coding School and the Institute for the Editing of Historical Documents), the project was otherwise individually funded by the Editor. Costs included the purchase of the XML Editing software: oXygen, as well as maintenance upgrades, and purchase of the domain name wherein the Digital Edition resides. The total costs of the dissertation were $6,281; $6000 of these costs were covered externally by the funding sources above, with the remainder paid by the Editor, as indicated in the table below.

Table of Costs and Funding Sources for The Elizabeth Gaskell Journal: Digital Edition

Funds Required For: Amount: Date: Funds Supplied By:
Digital Mitford Coding School (registration and travel) $600 May, 2016 Research Enhancement Funds Award, Department of English, MSU
Purchase of Oxygen XML Editior software with one-year maintenance pack $125 December 8, 2016 Editor
Renwal of Oxygen 2-year support and maintenance pack $43 December 8, 2017 Editor
Training: Institute for the Editing of Historical Documents (IEHD) (Hotel & per diem, 6 days) $1200 June, 2018 Research Enhancement Funds Award, Department of English, MSU
Training: IEHD (Travel to Olympia, WA) $1200 June, 2018 Stipend included in acceptance to Institute; Sponsored by NHPRC, ADE
Research (on-site): (Flight to UK, hotel & per diem, transportation in-country, 7 days) $3000 July 28-August 4, 2018 SCRAM Award (Summer College Research Abroad Monies); MSU College of Arts & Letters
Purchase of Domain Name for Edition Website $15.00 February 23, 2020 Editor
Upgrade and Renewal of Oxygen maintenance pack $109 January, 2020 Editor

An additional $1200 in originally projected costs were rendered unnecessary in the later stages of the project. The Brotherton Special Collections' digitization of images of the manuscript made it possible to import their high-quality images into the project without the need to obtain copies.

Technological Infrastructure:

Multiple digital tools were utilized to store, track and build the digital Edition file and the website that presents it to the public. A list of tools and software used is available on the dissertation website. The code files were written and developed using Oxygen XML Editor text editing software.

Git Version Control:

The files for the digital edition are stored and version-controlled through a GitHub repository. In addition to tracking the project through maintaining a record of changes through the Git version-control system, the GitHub repository simultaneously allows a venue for the online publication of the code underlying the project, participating in a movement that enables the free sharing and remixing of encoding structures and examples to enrich further online projects and data models.

Reclaim Hosting:

The Elizabeth Gaskell Journal: Digital Edition domain name was purchased by the Editor personally and has been mapped to the account held by the Editor through Michigan State University (MSU). The website is hosted via a Reclaim Hosting account provided to the Editor by MSU through August 2021. Reclaim is a commercial hosting service contracted by MSU "to provide its graduate students and faculty with a full commercial web hosting package and domains that they control in order to build online spaces for professional portfolios, digital projects, and more" (MSU News). At the end of the MSU-provided hosting period, I will migrate the hosting service to a personal account where I will continue to run the site and update the project, adding additional modules as I am able.

TEI Encoding

The Elizabeth Gaskell Journal: Digital edition provides a new transcription encoded in eXtensible Markup Language (XML), an international standard for editing documents in the humanities and history, as defined by the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) and utilizing their current P5 Guidelines. The TEI was founded in 1987 "to develop, maintain, and promulgate hardware- and software-independent methods for encoding humanities data in electronic form" (TEI History). TEI documents are written in XML, which was published in 1998 by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) (Burnard, What Is The TEI?). The TEI Consortium was founded to write and maintain Guidelines, which define a broad tag set to be used in textual encoding. The TEI guidelines provide labels and definitions for a standard group of elements and attributes. The Guidelines are extensive, but also allow customization and have grown with the community of users and the projects being created. TEI projects customize their use of the TEI through schemas, which declare subsets of the entire TEI to be used within individual projects and can also modify the usage suggested in the Guidelines to fit their own projects.

XML Markup

According to Digital Humanities expert and practitioner, Lou Burnard, "An XML document consists of a sequence of human readable characters, with no special additional codes or binary data. The characters < and > are used to mark the start and end of tags within this sequence."(Burnard) XML uses these sets of tags (or elements) around or within portions of the text to 'mark' them as containing structural or semantic metadata. Most tags are paired, consisting of an opening and a closing tag, which surround the text they mark. Syntactically, XML tagging is hierarchical; an XML document 'is said to be well-formed if it respects the syntax… with start- and end- tags both present and correctly nested' (Burnard). The exception to this is milestone tags, which are self-closing, and do not occur in pairs. Self-closing tags are used to balance the need to encode visual and semantic moments in the text which would normally break the XML hierarchy. For example, a paragraph is often marked in XML by placing <p> tags around the text. When a paragraph, however, flows from one page onto the next, the milestone tag <pb/> which is self-closing and does not require pairing, can be inserted within the paragraph tags. Without milestone elements, markup for each individual page and paragraph would overlap, breaking the hierarchy.

Prosopography File

An XML prosopography index which gathers information on all the relevant people, places and texts within the journal was produced simultaneously with the transcription file. This prosopography assigns unique xml:ids(unique identifing values)to each entity within the journal (as well as several others referenced in the contextual documents produced as part of the edition), which are tracked and validated through the schema to ensure consistency across project documents. The use of xml:ids is more thoroughly discussed in the Editing Policy. The prosopography gathers relevant detail about these entities that can be used to provide annotations and indexes, and can be mobilized in later stages of the project to connect Gaskell's social network to those of other prominent figures in the period, and to create data visualizations to support the project. The visualizations can be developed through the use of data obtained from the edition file. Xpath, a query language used to select nodes of an XML document, can be used to read quickly through the XML hierarchy to determine, for example, how many times each individual within the text is referenced. The resulting data could be organized into a table and output as a cluster visualization depicting the relative frequency with which Gaskell refers to each in the journal.

Project Schema

In addition to the core transcription, the digital edition of the journal makes use of an ODD file. The journal's ODD file governs the code through setting rules and structures against which the transcription is validated. This ODD validation ensures that the code conforms to a correct, hierarchical TEI structure, while also ensuring the project's own consistency in the usage of uniquely assigned xml:ids and designated subset of TEI tags. The project also implements XSLT (extensible stylesheet transformations) which transform the XML transcription into a machine-readable html file for display on web browsers.

XSLT: Extensible Stylesheet Transformations

The Elizabeth Gaskell Journal: Digital Edition also implements XSLT (extensible stylesheet transformations) which convert XML into a machine-readable HTML file for display on web browsers. The "Key People" page of the Edition website was produced via an XSLT transformation of the prosopography file. The edition's core HTML digital edition page uses XSLT to seamlessly combine the TEI edition file with data from the XML prosopography file, enabling users reading the digital edition to mouseover and see notes about key people, which are drawn from the prosopography. XSLT was also used to create the HTML table of contents that begins the edition. The well-formedness of XML, together with XSLT, also allows the use of identity transformations, which can be written to make simultaneous adjustments throughout the code file, should updating be necessary. Additional website pages have been encoded using HTML and the entire Edition website is styled with a single CSS file. JavaScript has been added to the Digital Edition page to create an input box, which allows users to select between annotated and simple reading views of the text.

IIIF: International Image Interoperability Frameworks

I am grateful to the Brotherton Special Collections, whose investment in the long-term availability and sustainability of the manuscript, currently in their possession, produced the IIIF images which the edition imports. The Brotherton images of the journal pages are facilitated and implemented through IIIF technology (International Image Interoperability Frameworks). According to the IIIF website,

The IIIF standards are a set of shared application programming interface (API) specifications for interoperable functionality in digital asset repositories. Using JSON-LD, linked data, and standard W3C web protocols such as Web Annotation, IIIF makes it easy to parse and share digitized materials, migrate across technology systems, and provide enhanced image access for scholars and researchers. IIIF Information

IIIF (recently amended to IxIF to allow flexibility in promoting openness for multiple media formats) makes images available using a universal API (application programming interface), which locates the files at a persistent link. The advantages of IIIF are twofold: first, the images are merely displayed through the API, which means they do not have to be stored on the site; second, the images are provided in a high-resolution format. As IIIF makes its materials available without requiring users to have their own copies, it does not require explicit copyright permission. The IIIF image links were obtained through the IIIF manifest JSON manifest file, available on the Brotherton Special Collections website. This JSON file was searched and collated by the editor into a dataset, now available on the GitHub repository, which provides a linked open data list of all the IIIF images of the manuscript produced by the Brotherton Special Collections.

Tools and This Digital Edition

The resulting Digital Edition is built on the understanding that the use of these digital tools makes available to the reader the methodological and editorial decisions that underlie the presented text of the journal. The complete TEI edition file is available on the site. The digital medium also offers the option of allowing readers a choice between a simple reading view of the text and an annotated version. Throughout, the policy of this edition has been to adhere to Gaskell's own choices; the XML markup, however, makes it possible to simultaneously encode a regularized alternative to obscure spellings or chirography (as in the case of Gaskell's "long s" usage), which enables the reader to engage with the text at a level they are comfortable with. The use of encoding also makes possible new levels of analysis through digital tools that can provide insights into Gaskell's social network.