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Matthew Steggle
Digital Literary Studies and Early Modern Literature
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"Knowledge will be multiplied": Digital Literary Studies and Early Modern Literature

Matthew Steggle

The paradox of digital literary studies is that it takes a discipline notorious, in lay circles, for its suspicion of "fact," and its emphasis on the importance of interpretation and ambiguity rather than raw data, and it gives that discipline a set of tools which are, above all, about accessing, searching, and manipulating large amounts of raw data. As Douglas Adams puts it, à propos of the related discipline of philosophy, there is no point sitting up all night arguing that there may, or may not, be a God, if a computer can give you his phone number in the morning. Of course, literary studies are far more complex in their relation to factuality than such a reductive analysis would suggest, but all the same, in the ensuing survey of projects which have sought to develop a digital dimension to studies of early modern literature, relatively little will be said about the development of "new" raw primary data. Instead, a recurring theme will be the ways in which data which already, in some sense, exist, are repackaged, resorted, made searchable, and, above all, made accessible by the tools of digital literary studies.

In the first section, I argue that the digital "revolution" is made possible by, is shaped by, and must be considered in relation to the major scholarly projects of the pre-digital age. This proposition could perhaps be applied, to some extent, to most academic disciplines, but a number of converging factors make it particularly important in the field of early modern literature. The first part of my argument discusses some of these factors, relative to the projects, many of them Victorian in origin, which shaped, and shape through digital resources, our sense of the early modern.

If much of the digital revolution is about providing new ways of accessing existing data, then the ease of access itself is a crucial factor. The second section of the article surveys the development of e-texts of early modern literature, from single-handed labors of love to Early English Books Online, relative to themes of availability and usability; authority and completeness; and the opportunities raised by new ways of searching existing data, especially in the field of attribution studies. The third section moves on to online scholarship and discussion, broadly defined, in electronic lists, electronic forms of journal, and blogs. Many of the themes of the earlier sections —problems of authority, opportunities of novel ways of searching, and above all, questions of access — recur in the histories of exemplary projects in this section. Thus, the questions raised by the emerging discipline of digital literary studies in this field are both theoretical and practical.

The piece concludes by considering one theoretical, and one practical, extension of those questions. The theoretical extension is the emerging field of "Renaissance information": scholarly work which considers early modern literature and culture in terms of contemporary discourses of information and knowledge. The practical extension is a case study of one of the causes célèbres of Shakespearean studies in the past ten years, the controversy around the attribution to Shakespeare of the poem A Funeral Elegy (1612). This controversy was most obviously digital in that computer-aided analysis was used on both sides of the argument about the poem: but it was also digital in that many of the arguments themselves were conducted online, or in forms which show the increasing complication and interdependence of print and electronic media. Through the Funeral Elegy affair, I will argue, one can see a transition from traditional scholarship to a new, and in many ways less exclusive, order in which online texts and tools make knowledge, of all sorts, more easily accessed, more quickly searched, and more widely shared.

Developing a Canon

There is no scholarly agreement on exactly when the digital revolution in Renaissance and seventeenth-century literature got under way. Some trace its origins back to the early 1970s, and the first e-text of Paradise Lost: others consider that it only became mainstream in the past five years, with the arrival, in the form of EEBO, of an application which so obviously not merely supplemented, but entirely supplanted, a standard existing non-electronic method. The truth is that, informally at least, most academics tend to trace the start of the digital revolution in early modern studies to the moment when they themselves first adopted an email account. But in the case of early modern literature — the phrase I will use here in place of the more mouth-filling alternative term, Renaissance and seventeenth-century literature — the origins of the revolution go back into the early twentieth century and beyond.

What is distinctive about the early modern period, compared to the others under consideration in these essays, is the extent to which its literary canon is made finite and describable, first, by the invention of printing during that period, and second, by the relatively small numbers of books printed. As a general principle, every extant book printed in England or in English in the early modern period is likely to be recorded in one of two great catalogues, A. W. Pollard and G. R. Redgrave's A short-title catalogue of books printed in England, Scotland, & Ireland and of English books printed abroad, 1475–1640, which appeared in its first version in 1926, and Donald Godard Wing's Short-title catalogue of books printed in England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and British America and of English books printed in other countries, 1641–1700, which first appeared in 1945. Guided by the first of these two catalogues, generally now known as STC I, and later by Wing's (or STC II as it is now referred to), Eugene Power's University Microfilms project was able to gain access to the great American and British libraries — access to the latter made easier by the threat of impending war in the 1930s — and produce a series of microfilms aiming to reproduce every page of every book listed in Pollard and Redgrave and in Wing. The first microfilm units of this epic publication were issued in 1938, and it is due for completion in the next five or ten years.1

We will turn in a later section of this article to the digitization of the University Microfilms project as Early English Books Online (EEBO), but what is important to note for the moment is that STC I and II together hold out the prospect of representing the whole canon of English printed books from the period. Clearly, STC I and II are imperfect, even in their revised forms. Most obviously, STC II is deficient in its representation of ephemera, and EEBO, for instance, augments them with the catalogue of the Thomason tracts and with the Early English Books Tract Supplement. Nonetheless, in principle, one would be surprised to come across an early modern book — particularly an early modern book in public hands — which is not in STC I or II, and such a find would be worth publishing with a view to ensuring its incorporation in the next revision of STC. The STC catalogues hold out the possibility of perfectibility.

Clearly, too, printed books are not the whole story. The vibrant manuscript culture of the early modern period remains largely outside the panopticon-like view of such catalogues of printed material. But for printed books, thanks to labor before and during the early decades of the twentieth century, the early modern period is describable much more securely than either the medieval period (where they do not feature) or the later periods where the books are simply more numerous and more varied.

In ways other than the purely bibliographical, early modern literature is unusually well described, thanks, once again, to work which took place well before the digital revolution made it possible to interrogate that work in new ways. Early English printed drama is particularly well charted, thanks to a series of catalogues, each building on their predecessors, and stretching back from more recent incarnations such as G. E. Bentley's The Jacobean and Caroline Stage all the way to works like Gerard Langbaine's A new catalogue of English plays containing all the comedies, tragedies, tragicomedies, opera's, masques, pastorals, interludes, farces, &c. both ancient and modern, that have ever yet been printed, to this present year 1688. This set of catalogues offers, in effect, successive refinements of a dataset of early modern drama, in which each play is associated with sets of data such as date of composition, authorship, company, venue, and genre. This long run of cumulative scholarly work has ensured that English drama was particularly well represented in The Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature (1941), which means, in turn, that there is an almost comprehensive collection in the Chadwyck—Healey database Literature Online.2 Similarly, printed English poetry and fictional prose are well documented in a series of secondary works.

Biographical data about those involved in literature and drama in this period is also easily available to the electronic researcher. The number of actors documented in connection with early modern theater is sufficiently small that sources such as Nungezer's Dictionary of Actors (1929) could aim for completist coverage, and just as Nungezer was succeeded by G. E. Bentley's list in The Jacobean and Caroline Stage, so Bentley's is already, de facto, in the process of being succeeded by David Kathman's ongoing project, the Biographical Index of English Drama Before 1660.3 As for writers, the original Dictionary of National Biography, published between 1885 and 1900, appears to have had a policy of including every creative writer of the early modern period who was able to get a poem into print. As a result, even a writer of the stature of Dunstan Gale (fl. 1596), almost unknown to biographical history and the author of a single poem pithily and accurately described by Kenneth Muir as "both dull and bad," gained an entry in the DNB.4 The effects of that continue to propagate, thanks to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography's policy not to exclude anyone who was included in the original DNB, with the result that there is a fresh entry on Gale in the new version, completed in 2004 and available not just in print but in a magnificent and fully searchable online edition.5 The work done by the writers of Victorian printed sources continues to be felt, directly and indirectly, in the digital data now available to researchers.

Indeed, what is true of bibliography, and of biography, for this period, holds true for lexicography as well, in the form of the Oxford English Dictionary, a project begun in 1857 and published in its first form between 1884 and 1928. The distorting factor here, as so often in early modern studies, is Shakespeare: the enormous prestige attached to the language of Shakespeare in the nineteenth century, and the enormous energy devoted then to its glossing, means that early modern English (albeit, perhaps, a particularly "literary" flavor of early modern English) is unusually well represented in the OED. And whereas the Victorian DNB bequeathed to its successor the Oxford DNB its shape and outlines, and some small sections of its text, the first edition of the OED still, at the time of writing, makes up the bulk of the text of its subsequent incarnations. The second edition, completed in 1989, was a matter of adding new entries rather than reshaping the existing ones, and the first edition entries will remain in place until the completion of the third edition, currently under way. Thus the product which became available in CD-ROM form in 1992, and in subscription website form in 2000, traces not merely its origins but most of its fabric back to the work of James Murray's team.6 Of course, the data in the Oxford English Dictionary are accessible in ways never before imaginable to researchers of early modern literature, thanks to full-text searches of the dictionary, and tools such as proximity searching and wildcard searching: but the skeleton of that data derives from a much older research effort. The stress on the novelty of electronic resources should not disguise the extent to which they are built out of preceding research.

Electronic Texts

If one of the themes of this chapter is that the electronic revolution in early modern studies stands on the shoulders of much earlier work, another theme is that it is only the very easy availability of the resources that has made that revolution possible, a point which can be illustrated, with regard to electronic texts, by a personal anecdote. In 1993, as a graduate student interested in Renaissance constructions of Aristophanes, I went to my university's computing service to ask if I could do a search across the electronic texts that they held in order to locate occurrences where Aristophanes was referred to by name. The computing services staff explained to me that they did indeed have a collection of literally dozens of early modern electronic texts, in various markup formats and on various media, each donated by a researcher who had prepared it in connection, usually, with a project of linguistic analysis or concordance-making. However, although they held these texts, there was no convenient way of making the whole database available at once for cross-searching. They offered, instead, to give me any one text of my choice on a diskette. Although these electronic texts were available — in one sense of that word and for certain sorts of analysis — they weren't available for the sort of unsophisticated and speculative one-off cross-search that I wanted to perform on them.

By the time I completed my doctoral thesis, and by dint of much reading, I had amassed a collection of perhaps three dozen early modern texts which make reference by name to Aristophanes, references which formed the basis for my assertions in that thesis about the cultural currency of Aristophanes in the period. By contrast, in autumn 2004, a brief full-text search on Early English Books Online — a check which took under a minute — showed up 136 texts published before 1660 which make reference to Aristophanes by name. Even worse, these numbers do not stay static as EEBO's provision of full-text continues to progress. The same search, repeated in spring 2006, revealed, just as quickly, 205 texts that name the Greek comedian.7 The sheer brute force of these resources entirely changes one's ability to find certain sorts of data in early modern literature. But before giving proper consideration to EEBO, it is necessary to review the other ways by which electronic texts of the Renaissance became available and searchable.

As well as the resources which are likely to be featured in other discussions in this volume of the rise of e-texts — Project Gutenberg, the Internet Public Library, Representative Poetry Online, and so forth — some initiatives have been of particular interest to early modern studies, and this chapter will survey them briefly, concentrating on ones which have survived the test of time and are still generally available.8

Risa Bear's Renascence Editions project has been an inspiration to many working in the field for its combination of scholarly care and aesthetic sensibility. Its origins lie, firstly in Bear's career as a typographer, and secondly, in the experience of being a student: " While working on the M.A. in English at the University of Oregon, in 1992, I became interested in producing texts for internet distribution as an alternative to writing term papers." Bear ended up spending a year of her spare time typing the entire Faerie Queene into a computer, and then going through and adding in, before and after every italicized word, the tags <i> and </i>:

I … created the Faerie Queene as an HTML coded text, hand coding with macros in a program called PCWrite on a 286 computer, uploading to the University's server via XMODEM at 300 baud, and checking my work with LYNX, the text-based browser available on the mainframe. My first HTML project, then, was a single work, in eight files, comprising some two million characters.9

Bear's Faerie Queene was published in 1995, and has been in constant use ever since. Alongside it there are now around two hundred other early modern texts, edited by Bear and a team of volunteers, and all prepared with the belief that HTML is a form of typography and deserves the respect given to other forms of that craft. Bear's project has also provided a home for work whose roots go back much further, such as Judy Boss's transcription of the ten-book version of Paradise Lost, originally made in 1971. In a world where the innovations heralded by Renascence Editions have become so much the norm, it is worth stressing how strange and intoxicating an idea it seemed, at the time of its inception, that early modern texts not necessarily available in an academic's local library could be downloaded, for free, in minutes, onto a computer anywhere.

There are several points of contact between Renascence Editions and Anniina Joki-nen's Luminarium project, a mine of online information on medieval, Renaissance, and seventeenth-century literature, based around a series of author-centered pages.10 First, and perhaps most conspicuously, neither is concerned with revenue generation, nor with the gaining of "conventional" academic authority. Jokinen, indeed, calls her site a labor of love. Perhaps a cause of that is a similarity in their origins: like Renascence Editions, Luminarium started not out from the experience of being a teacher, but from the experience of being a student. Jokinen writes: "The site started in early 1996. I remember looking for essays to spark an idea for a survey class I was taking at the time."11 A page of links to online essays quickly grew into a site containing author quotations and biographies. As for electronic texts, the power of Luminarium lay in the combination of a careful list of links to e-texts scattered around the web, together with Luminarium's own project of easily accessible HTML texts mostly based on Victorian editions (so that, again, the new technologies are, in effect, propagating the work of nineteenth-century scholars). For instance, in the case of Ben Jonson, Jokinen's combination of links to other sources together with her own transcriptions of William Gifford's modern-spelling edition made accessible large chunks of Jonson's work to anyone with a modem. Renascence Editions and Luminarium are representative examples of a class of projects which might also include Dana F. Sutton's Philological Museum, specializing in neo-Latin works, and elegantly juggling text, translation, and commentary; The Milton Reading Room, a site of texts and commentary developed by Thomas H. Luxon and his students at Dartmouth College from 1997 onward and now covering much of Milton's poetry and prose; the Early Modern English Dictionaries Database, under the guidance of Ian Lancashire, providing a searchable reference tool; and the Memorial web edition of Alciato's Book of Emblems, combining text, translation, image, and cross-reference to other emblem series and other emblem sites.12 All four of these projects date back to the 1990s; all four are still online; I've personally used all four as the best ways of answering research questions.

Projects like these, like Luminarium and Renascence Editions, were important because they made electronic texts of early modern literature easily available, in numbers, and — a supplementary consideration — generally made them visible to search engines. None of them, though, aimed to be comprehensive. On the other hand, one resource which did have that aim — within its self-set limits — was Chadwyck-Healey's Literature Online, also known as LION, which relied not on labors of love, or on dubious automatic optical character recognition (OCR), but on large-scale, industrial-style data entry. The LION procedure was to take the earliest version of a text, and have a professional operator type it into a computer; meanwhile another operator would be typing in the same text, and discrepancies between the two would be examined as a way of weeding out errors. Using this double-keyboarding technique, LION claimed an accuracy rate of 99.97 to 99.995 percent in its transcriptions.13LION had its first incarnation in a series of CD-ROMs, but it gained a new level of power when it became available through IP recognition, thus ridding the user of all the inconveniences of engaging with the discs on which the data were stored. (A review by Catherine Alexander, for EMLS, catches the start of the online version in 1999.14) Literature Online's texts were, of course, old-spelling, and marked up with various forms of metadata identifying, for instance, the difference between stage directions and dialogue within a play, although this metadata is generally invisible to the end user. Building on the comprehensive bibliographies discussed in Section 1 above, Literature Online aimed to provide e-texts, edited to a single consistent standard, of almost everything conventionally classified as early modern literature. For the first time, there was a corpus on the basis of which it seemed possible to make reasonably definitive pronouncements.

One use of this work is exemplified by articles such as Gabriel Egan's "Hearing or Seeing a Play?: Evidence of Early Modern Theatrical Terminology."15 Egan uses LION to demonstrate that, in spite of the often-repeated statement that early modern theater was thought about as primarily an auditory, rather than a visual appearance, the phrase "hear a play," and its myriad variants of spelling and phrasing, is much rarer than the equivalent phrase "see a play," and all its myriad variants of spelling and phrasing, across the literary writing of early modern England as represented in LION in 2001. This is, on the one hand, an interesting result, from the point of view of how one thinks about early modern attitudes to theater. On the other hand, it also asks questions about the wider methodology of corpus search using LION and similar resources. One subset of these problems relates to the variability of early modern spelling, most obviously "u/v," "i/j," and terminal "e," but also all the other variants of orthography. Egan's answer in this piece is to methodically list all the plausible combinations and work through them. Similarly, a researcher searching the full-text for passing references to the brothel "Holland's Leaguer" must work through variant spellings of the second word alone including "leagver," "leagure," "leagar," and "leager." Such tasks are now facilitated by to some extent by LION's "include typographical variants" option. This recently introduced option works methodically and mechanically through a series of permutations of the search term, based on the combinations of substituting u/v, i/j/y, w for vv or uu, and s for f; it thus offers a shortcut for certain sorts of search, but, equally, does not claim to be a panacea, since in the case of "leaguer" it would only catch the first of the four variant spellings listed above.16 In addition, Egan's article raises all sorts of questions about the selection biases that have operated ever since some works were printed and some not; that have continued throughout the processes that have seen some publications survive in numbers, and some fail to survive in even a single copy; and that are still felt in the decisions about "literary" status made by the CBEL which determine whether or not a text is represented in the starting corpus.

Such issues are particularly pressing to scholars wishing to make statements based on negative evidence adduced from LION: statements about what LION appears not to contain. Early modern attribution studies, for instance, adopted LION with enthusiasm, as offering a large database of texts to act as controls, particularly for statistical approaches based on multivariate analysis of the relative frequencies of common words.17 More will be said later about attribution studies, but for the moment it is worth noting that LION, which serves as one of the principal staples of such work, is also an important and powerful resource in the provision of texts of all sorts, for all purposes, to scholars and students of the early modern period.

While LION is limited by its definition of the literary, it is empowered by its broad chronological sweep. This doesn't merely mean that it is possible to compare plays and poems from across the centuries, although it does: it is also particularly useful in dealing with early modern literature, in that it allows the reach of a scholar to extend into the manuscripts of the period. Thus, it is possible to search LION for all the plays performed (according to its metadata) between 1620 and 1630, and that search pulls out results (such as the anonymous The Fatal Marriage) which remained in manuscript until the twentieth century.

I have argued that LION's usefulness compared to collections on the scale of Luminarium, Renascence Editions, and Representative Poetry Online lies not just in the fact that it offers more texts than them, but also in its ambitions to comprehensive coverage — in the fact that it aims there should be no texts, within its self-imposed limits, which it does not cover. The same is already partly true of the most powerful single resource for early modern studies, Early English Books Online. At the time of writing, EEBO contains page images of every page of around 95,000 books, out of the approximately 125,000 listed in STC I and II, so that it can provide instant access to a large majority of the surviving printed texts of early modern Britain. As noted at the start of this chapter, EEBO is the end-product of microfilming efforts which began before World War II, and in one sense there is nothing in the "original" EEBO which is not in that microfilm collection. However, as anyone who ever used the microfilm will attest (and it is a sign of EEBO's position of dominance that one can even write that sentence), it was not a user-friendly medium. It required, first, finding a library that had it; secondly, negotiating the torturous collation of the appropriate STC catalogue with the cross-index, a book consisting solely of two columns of numbers; finding the microfilm, whether by locating it in one of its cabinets or by putting in a request form to a librarian; loading the microfilm onto the spindle; whirring or creaking it through to the required book and the required pages (assuming, that is, that it turned out to be the right film); and attempting to print it on a reader-printer, a device that took the fallible moving parts of a microfilm reader and added to them the fallible moving parts of a photocopier. When I think of using the STC microfilms, I think of perishing rubber bands, uncoiling films, the smell of toner, and headaches behind the eyes. EEBO is simply a faster, better, and more flexible way to get at the images originally committed to the microfilm, enabling a researcher to spend less time locating pages of the book and more time reading them.

That product — essentially, EEBO as originally released — was at once recognized as an "invaluable research tool," even though the execution of it then was crude compared to the speed and fluency with which it works for most university users now.18 Also deserving of mention here as a comparably powerful resource is Gallica, the digital arm of the French Bibliothèque Nationale.19Gallica offers facsimile images of hundreds of books from the early modern period, mostly in French and Latin. While the terms of reference of the catalogues on which EEBO is founded encourage an insular view of England's relation to continental Europe, a project like Gallica offers wider horizons. Indeed Gallica is in one respect more path-breaking even than EEBO, certainly for academics who are not actually physically based in the Biliothèque Nationale. The microfilms from which EEBO takes its images are, as discussed above, hard to find and inconvenient to take copies from, but they are accessible in numerous libraries around the world. But in opening up to worldwide readers the riches of the Biliothèque Nationale, Gallica makes available texts which before were even harder to find and to copy.

This is not to deny, though, the power of EEBO, a power which has continued to increase with the advent of the Text Creation Partnership. This is a project based around a methodology of double keyboarding similar to that used by LION to create full-text transcripts of, in the first instance, 25,000 of the books in EEBO. At the time of writing, 11,055 books have been completed, and the result is a large and constantly expanding corpus of fully searchable text which is already having revolutionary effects both on research projects, such as that on Aristophanes described at the start of this section, and on teaching. Of course, EEBO does not make, and will never make, LION redundant: rather, the two databases offer different ways of examining the data. If EEBO's self-imposed restrictions relate to its date range and to its limitation to print culture, its strength is the range of print culture it enables a reader to get at — not merely literary texts, but sermons, cookery books, guides to arithmetic, and factual material of all sorts. EEBO holds out the prospect of getting a truer sense of proportion than ever before about the extant print culture of early modern Britain.

So far, the discussion has focused on a series of projects to create corpora of texts. One thing that Renascence Editions, Luminarium Editions, LION, Gallica, and EEBO all have in common is that they are none of them concerned with adding value by annotating the texts they compile into their corpora. The final part of this section will consider electronic editing and commentary as an activity.

An exemplary project here is the Internet Shakespeare Editions project, under the leadership of Michael Best.20 Best set out in 1996

to create a website with the aim of making scholarly, fully annotated texts of Shake-speare's plays freely available in a form native to the medium of the internet. A further mission was to make educational materials on Shakespeare available to teachers and students: using the global reach of the internet, I wanted to make every attempt to make my passion for Shakespeare contagious.

This seemingly simple set of objectives becomes interestingly complicated as we look at what is involved. What do we mean by a "scholarly" text? What is "full annotation"? And, most challenging of all, what kind of text is "native to the medium of the internet"?21

Best's project uses peer-review to ensure scholarly quality:

the central metaphor is a Library, a virtual space in which only peer-reviewed materials are published. To take advantage of the more informal traditions of the internet, however, we also have an Annex to the Library where materials valuable to the scholarly community — but not yet fully reviewed — can be published.22

In order to ensure a consistency of markup and annotation across the edition as a whole, in which each play is being edited by a separate editor, ISE has extensive and detailed editorial guidelines, against which the submitted work is measured in the process of peer-review central to the ISE model. In an adaptation to the requirements of different users of the text, ISE has three different "levels" of annotation — level one, reflecting the needs of school students, and offering straightforward word-for-word glosses; level two, offering full scholarly annotation, as in a standard print edition, but enhanced by opportunities to link to images, video, and other forms of multimedia representation; and level three, offering opportunities for detailed discussion of the sort that a print edition would be forced to handle in an appendix.

Just as there is more than one level of scholarly annotation in ISE, so there is also more than one version of the text being annotated, depending upon the requirements of the reader. The ISE project views Shakespeare's texts as documents existing in multiple forms — old-spelling and modernized spelling; quarto and folio versions; and page-by-page pictorial facsimile of those originals. All of these versions are tied to one another for easy comparison. The markup is in XML, and this, too, can be output in various forms to create TEI-compliant XML documents. ISE is a work in progress, which promises to be one of the most serious and scholarly contributions to online editing. It is a benchmark for the current generation of heavyweight editions of Renaissance texts, in which an electronic component is fast becoming a sine qua non. The Cambridge Works of Ben Jonson, for instance, will be published with the texts and ancillary material also available through a subscription-only website, while the Complete Works of Richard Brome, currently in preparation, is to be published in electronic form as its primary medium, and intends to make extensive use of multimedia possibilities such as video clips in the course of that electronic edition.23

A taste of what might be achievable in such an edition can be gained from the Interactive Shakespeare Project, prepared by the Theatre Department of Holy Cross College, Worcester, Massachusetts.24 At the heart of this project is a modern-spelling text of Measure for Measure, with hotlinked annotation which appears in a separate frame on the screen, while yet a third frame contains stills from a production of the play. The text is also enriched with a series of red-boxed links in the left margin to secondary materials: to suggestions for exercises; and to questions to prompt a reader. A video clip of the whole scene in production is also accessible. The whole thing is carefully produced, beautifully executed, robust, and still accessible to anyone seven years after its completion (Figure 4.1). What the Interactive Shakespeare Project does for explicitly pedagogical purposes may give a glimpse into what scholarly editions of the future will look like. With electronic texts becoming increasingly a part of the scholarly landscape, exercises like the Interactive Shakespeare Project point the way to the next great challenge: not mere availability, but usability.

Figure 4.1  Screenshot of the Interactive Shakespeare Project. Source: A1S1.

Literary Scholarship and Criticism Online

Discussion lists

Discussion lists were early, and important, factors in the development of an online community of early modern scholars. Lists such as HUMANIST were influential in shrinking the distance between scholars in institutions separated widely by geography and other factors. A particularly interesting example, and one which might serve as an exemplary case study, is provided by the long-running and still extant list, SHAKSPER, "the global electronic Shakespeare conference." SHAKSPER was established in July 1990, with a dozen members, under the editorship of Ken Steele, who, indeed, cited HUMANIST as a model in his first message to the list. Steele's opening message also implies that the original intention of the list was to seek some sort of formal affiliation to the Shakespeare Association of America, which did not materialize, but in other ways what is surprising is how modern the early correspondence of the list feels, with announcements of performances; debates about historical fidelity; and, lurking in the background at once like the snake in the garden of Eden, the shadowy presence of anti-Stratfordians.25 Only the list's name, in which Shakespeare's surname had to be rendered in an eight-letter form in order to meet the requirements of the early operating systems, obviously indicates the difference in technology from today, a difference which is also elided by the ease with which the archives may now be accessed and navigated. Whereas the archives of the list are now accessed through a clear and well-laid-out website, designed by Eric Luhrs for a readership for whom web browsing is intuitive, the SHAKSPER archives were previously accessible only through an arcane series of listserv commands (for instance, by writing an email consisting of the wonderful phrase GET SHAKSPER BIOGRAFY), or through downloading and searching an entire year's records as a text file.

In 1992 Hardy M. Cook took over as list owner and moderator, a post which he still holds, reading and reformatting each contribution before sending it out to the list — a policy which, although guaranteeing the list is spam-free, is labor-intensive. As SHAKSPER grew in numbers of subscribers, so questions of community, audience, and etiquette became more intense. In one respect, the lists were recapitulating the experience of early print journals, such as Notes and Queries, which offered a "medium for intercommunication" between a virtual community of scholars, and whose early history can itself be described using the terminology of lurkers and flame wars; in another, they were reenacting the experiences of non-virtual Shakespeare societies, in which questions of seriousness versus pleasure, exclusivity versus inclusivity, and cohesion versus competition are repeating themes.26

In the case of SHAKSPER, the most obvious source of friction in terms of all three of the above categories is anti-Stratfordianism. As Cook has written,

I tried to be as patient as I could with the primarily Oxfordians, who were generally non-academics and who had begun to flood the list with posting. However, after a while, I deemed as a responsible Shakespearean firmly ensconced in academia that I could no longer tolerate the misleading, conspiracy-laden ramblings and banned further discussion on the topic.27

The result was the establishment in 1995 of a usenet group, humanities.lit.authors. shakespeare or HLAS, which is open to all aspects of "alternative" theory and authorship conspiracy, as well as more conventional questions, and which has been receiving over a thousand posts per month for the past eight years. This compares with an average, for SHAKSPER over the past few years, of between two and three thousand posts per year. HLAS is thus a far more active forum than SHAKSPER, even though it does not gain the academic recognition of its elder sibling. In the words of Gary Allen, writing on SHAKSPER in 2001, "Think of SHAKSPER as the lovely gardens where esthetes in Grecian garments wander at their ease, then think of HLAS as the concert hall where 140 ill-paid musicians are flailing away at 'The Ride of the Valkyries'."28 Among the worthwhile consequences of HLAS, incidentally, is Terry Ross and David Kathman's Shakespeare Authorship Page, "Dedicated to the proposition that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare," which is to be celebrated as a clear and careful statement of how we know what we know about Shakespeare, and how scholarship actually works.29

Even without the Oxfordians, Baconians, Marlovians, Derbyites, and assorted other non-believers, most of whom migrated to HLAS, debate has continued on SHAKSPER about what are, and are not, acceptable topics of discussion. How often, for instance, is it necessary to have debates about in what sense, if any, Shakespearean characters can be thought of as real people? One large category of material ranges across reviews of Shakespeare films, announcements of Shakespeare theater productions, and detection of Shakespeare allusions in popular forms from sitcom to political cartoon to pornographic film. What does, and does not, constitute something worth drawing to the attention, however briefly, of SHAKSPER's 1,300 members? At the time of writing, SHAKSPER's editor has proposed to move, like the early editors of Notes and Queries, from the position of mere facilitator to something more like a gatekeeper: "the Editor only posts contributions that he believes are of interest to the academic Shakespearean community."30 Thus, one might see the first step in the process of a discussion list turning into a reviewed publication.

Other long-lived and well-balanced lists of interest to scholars of early modern literature include MILTON-L, a list on Milton associated with a fine website.31 SIDNEY-SPENSER is a particularly interesting example of a list which emerged from the combination of two separate lists, formerly SIDNEY-L and SPENSER-L. The combined identity has worked well, partly because of the list's strong sense of on- and off-line community, reflected in its frequent discussions of the festivities associated with the Sidney and Spenser sessions in the annual meetings at Kalamazoo. The Sidney-Spenser list, too, is associated with an excellent website, or rather two excellent websites, a relic, perhaps, of its bifurcated past: The Sidney Homepage, maintained by Andrew Zurcher, and The Spenser Homepage, maintained by Gavin Alexander.32 Both host numerous documents, articles, and links, likely to be of interest to scholars of Spenser and Sidney. Significantly, both also host the homepages of associated print journals. The Sidney Homepage hosts an archive of tables of contents of issues of the paper Sidney Journal, while the Spenser homepage does the same for the paper journal Spenser Studies and also includes the abstracts. At the time of writing, one article in the Sidney Journal back catalogue has turned from a bare title into a blue underlined title, with the entire text of the article behind it, perhaps a sign of things to come in journals generally.33 As with SHAKSPER, one can see the start of a process where the gap between listserv, website, and academic journal is starting to shrink.

E-journals and other scholarly e-publications

Some projects, however, have gone down a different path, and used the electronic medium to produce peer-reviewed e-journals which resemble, to a greater or lesser extent, their print equivalents. I will take as a test case in this section the history of the e-journal Early Modern Literary Studies, a history which exemplifies many of the wider questions and problems that have dogged the development of early modern e-journals.34

Early Modern Literary Studies is a peer-reviewed online journal, publishing articles on all aspects of early modern literature. No registration or subscription is required, and it is available for free to anyone anywhere in the world with access to a web browser. Since its foundation in 1995 EMLS has published over a hundred and fifty scholarly articles, and over two hundred and fifty reviews of books, films, plays, and multimedia products. In a typical week, its servers record around 6,000 different readers in eighty different countries.35

EMLS was originally set up by its founding editor, Ray Siemens, to be accessible not merely through a web browser, but also by gopher, and even as an email sent in ASCII form.36 Siemens recruited a distinguished international editorial board to review the submissions; established norms for how to cite the journal; and arranged for the journal to have a PURL, or permanent URL, which would stay the same regardless of where, physically, the journal was hosted. The advantage of a PURL over a conventional domain name is that PURLs are administered by the OCLC, a worldwide federation of libraries, so that one doesn't have to be able to continue to pay fees to an internet service provider to keep it operative. In other respects, the journal set out to mimic the conventions of paper journals. It was assigned an ISSN, it set out to get indexed in the sources where scholars would normally look for details of print publications — sources like ABELL and the MLA; and it was published in three discrete "issues" per year, even though the website would have allowed continuous updating. Strikingly, although EMLS has made use of the multimedia properties of online publication — non-linear articles; images; sound clips; videos; even virtual reality fly-throughs of early modern theaters — its experiments in encroaching on the territory of the discussion lists have met with only limited success. Something about the analogy with a print journal deters academics from engaging in dialogue in the context of the e-journal, except in the format appropriate to print journals — namely, relatively slow-moving and carefully wrought exchanges of positions, in the "readers' forum" section of the journal.

In some ways, more pressing than the purely technical details of developing the journal have been the institutional issues: how the journal is supported; how people gain credit for publishing in the journal; and how to ensure the long-term availability and future of the journal. This piece will consider each of these in turn, using EMLS as an example.

EMLS is supported, in effect, by the university department of the academic who edits it. In the case of EMLS, as with SHAKSPER, the academic involved does all the editing and production work by themselves. Partly as a consequence, EMLS is published in HTML. More elegant and structured ways of encoding data are certainly technologically feasible, but HTML is readable by even the most basic of web browsing software; it is accessible to search engine spiders; it is robust; and if anything goes amiss, the editor can solve the problem themselves rather than having to call for technical support. The journal's success, and its continued wide readership, is partly a product of this "tractor technology" approach to the basic architecture, with the technological innovations —images, sound, video, and others — sitting on top of a structure which is very simple for the reader to navigate through. On the other hand, the tractor technology approach also has an eye to the journal's long-term future. The fact that the editor can sustain it single-handed insulates the journal from threat of the crises that beset long-term projects when the funding dries up, or when institutional support is unavailable.

As for the question of the recognition gained from publishing in an online journal, there is a deep suspicion of something that is "only" digital, particularly among a profession so heavily invested in the printed word. According to a commonly held prejudice, online journals are seen as "write journals" — places which exist more for contributors than for readers.37 In spite of EMLS's rigid peer-review policy, and in spite of institutional statements proclaiming the validity of electronic publication, this is an issue the journal continues to contend with. The best form of reply, really, is to continue to publish high-quality material, and to collect admiring references to the work that the journal does.38

As for securing the long-term future of the journal: one part of this strategy, already identified, is EMLS's low-tech approach. The content of the journal is archived at the University of Toronto and the National Library of Canada, and EMLS is also now involved in Stanford University's LOCKSS project, a project to create multiple and constantly updated caches of the journal's contents at research libraries around the world.39EMLS has syndication agreements with publishers including the Thomson Gale group, which is one route by which EMLS articles, although born digital, are starting to appear alongside the electronic incarnations of print articles.

Otherwise, "true" e-journals devoted to the early modern field remain surprisingly thin on the ground. Renaissance Forum, based at the University of Hull, is one of the longest established, "an electronic journal of early-modern literary and historical studies." Early Modern Culture has a remit which leads it more into cultural studies, and is written in the format of an "electronic seminar," looking for dialogue with the papers under discussion. Honorable mention should be made of Borrowers and Lenders: The Journal of Shakespearean Appropriation, which although not strictly devoted to the early modern, is certainly of interest to anyone working on Shakespeare. The Early Modern Journal, a project based at Claremont Graduate University which aimed to publish work by graduate students, is not to be found at the moment of writing, its home page being replaced with advertisements for hypertension remedies.40 In practice, though, what has happened is that it has become usual practice to cite print journals from electronic sources without mentioning the intermediate electronic source. Projects such as LION, JSTOR, and Project Muse offer either facsimile reproductions, or text which has gone through optical character recognition; individual publishers offer electronic access to their current and past journal issues, and even to extracts from current books, sometimes requiring subscription and sometimes not; old and current journal articles and books are being put online unofficially, and with varying degrees of rigor, by a host of independent contributors to the internet.41 Indeed, in some areas of interest to literary scholars of the early modern, early secondary sources are turning up in the Google Books project and even Eighteenth Century Collections Online. Electronics is changing the face of the scholarly journal: however, the extent of this change is masked by the prevailing convention of still citing the paper "original," even when that original has only been seen through the medium of a facsimile.

The newest area of interest in early modern studies, and one where, again, the technology remains to be proven, is the early modern blog. Three early entrants into what will doubtless be a burgeoning field might be mentioned here: Adam Smyth's Renaissance Lit blog, the collaborative project Blogging the Renaissance, and Sharon Howard's Early Modern Notes.42 At the time of writing, blogs are yet to prove themselves as respectable tools of the early modern researcher: but, given the trajectories followed by discussion lists and e-journals, it is surely only a matter of time.

Renaissance Information

Forecasting the future direction of a field is notoriously difficult, but if academic blogs are one possible Next Big Thing, another idea whose time is frequently said to be coming is the application to Renaissance studies of contemporary ideas about information and information revolutions. Many analogies, indeed perhaps too many analogies, can be made between the Renaissance and the contemporary world in this respect. Early modern manuscript publication is often described as offering the sort of informal hand-to-hand dissemination of documents now associated with email. Equally, though, the culture of electronic publication could be described as suffering, as discussed in the previous section, from something analogous to the much-debated idea of the Renaissance "stigma of print." A ground-breaking collection of essays published in the year 2000, The Renaissance Computer, started to explore Renaissance culture from the perspective of "knowledge technology." Renaissance works, in this account, could be read not as a single linear narrative, but as information-retrieval systems deploying an array of hypertextual features such as indices, marginalia, and illustrations. At the time, The Renaissance Computer seemed likely to herald a major new field of enquiry.43 Since then, relatively little work has appeared in this interesting, and perhaps neglected, area of early modern studies.

Case Study — A Funeral Elegy

This chapter closes with a case study of a single controversy which has run through the online Shakespeare community over the past ten years. The story intersects with several of the themes of this chapter — the interrelation, and also rivalry, of print and online media; the rapid development of e-texts, both for the purposes of text analysis programs and for the purposes of flesh-and-blood readers; and questions of protocols of informal scholarly conversation, and of the status of online publication.

In 1612, there appeared in print, under the initials "W. S.," A funerall elegye in memory of the late vertuous Maister William Peter of Whipton neere Excester (London: G. Eld, 1612). To give a sample of the poem, here are the opening eight of its 578 lines:

Since Time, and his predestinated end,
Abridg'd the circuit of his hope-full dayes;
Whiles both his Youth and Vertue did intend,
The good indeuor's, of deserving praise:
What memorable monument can last,
Whereon to build his neuer blemisht name?
But his owne worth, wherein his life was grac't?
Sith as it euer hee maintain'd the same.

In 1989, Donald W. Foster published a book arguing, on the basis of parallel passages and other evidence, that "W.S." stood for William Shakespeare.44 This discussion will not cover the pros and cons of that identification; nor the various rival identifications which have been proposed — John Ford generally now being regarded as the clear winner of the honor of having written the poem; nor the passage of the Elegy into and out of the Shakespeare canon as measured in publications of Complete Works. What interests me is the effect of digital technologies on scholars' abilities to talk about the poem.

Digital technologies were, indeed, important to Foster's claims about the Elegy, since between 1989 and 1986 he developed a database he called SHAXICAN, which counted the appearance of rare words in the Shakespeare corpus and in a corpus of assorted other available Renaissance e-texts, and measured the Elegy against them. This use of statistical analysis wasn't in itself new, but previously the counting had to be carried out manually — the automation of the process simply made it much more practicable. The unpublished database, and its results, fueled Foster's renewed claims, made at conferences and carried in the media, that the Elegy could be securely identified as a new item in the Shakespeare canon.45 On January 12, 1996, in response to queries on the SHAKSPER discussion list, Foster made a modern-spelling e-text of the poem available on the SHAKSPER fileserver, which helped ignite a long and intense discussion of the Elegy, and of the criteria for establishing its authorship. To understand why posting this transcription had such a dramatic effect, it is important to remember how unavailable the Elegy was in 1996. It could be got at on microfilms, subject to the inconveniences of microfilm detailed above, and it could be found transcribed in Foster's book, but it was still the case that, as Foster wrote, "most SHAKSPERians will not have the text at their disposal."46 Nowadays, with the page images accessible as a matter of course through EEBO — the source for the old-spelling transcription above — this would not be the case.

The ensuing debates make fascinating reading, as SHAKSPEReans apply a range of techniques — considerations of rare words, investigations of historical context, gut feelings about poetic style — to a common problem, in "real time," or at least over a timescale of days rather than years. Many of the posts appeal to vocabulary, using printed Shakespeare concordances: William Godshalk uses one, for instance, to note that line 8 quoted above is, if Shakespearean, "the first time in his undoubted writing that he's used 'Sith as that.' (Correct me if I'm wrong.)."47 Another contributor has access to a CD-ROM of Shakespeare texts, which he can repurpose as an electronic concordance, but notes the limitations of the available materials:

Unfortunately, I do not have Ford's plays in any database and so I cannot discover if the other words are present in Ford's works without carefully reading them. However, given the small sampling I have of Ford, compared to the entirety of Shakespeare, I cannot help but feel it is statistically significant that two of the ten words Shakespeare never used (again, according to my CD), appear in such a small sampling of Ford … 48

Again, technology has simply moved on into the forms described earlier in this chapter, giving the researchers better tools. Debate about the Funeral Elegy on the discussion list (and on HLAS) paralleled a similar debate taking place in the letters column of the Times Literary Supplement, and fueled a series of projects and publications revolving around the development of computer-assisted statistical methods of assessing authorship. Foster's own tools, database, and results were to be published in their entirety on a website (although this never materialized due to difficulties of implementation), but the very fact that they might become open-access encouraged challenges to Foster based on the fact that they were not yet available, and also independent experimentation.49

Debate of the Elegy continued, on and off, on SHAKSPER, with the current of thought generally running against the attribution to Shakespeare, and with some arguments becoming increasingly bitter and ad hominem. In 2002, after years of further work and improving tools had made the grounds of the Shakespeare attribution look increasingly shaky, Gilles Monsarrat published an article in the prestigious, paper-based Review of English Studies, arguing, on the basis of parallel passages, that Ford might have written the Elegy. Monsarrat's approach sidesteps computers altogether, shelving any consideration of statistical text analysis, and declining to engage with the online debate. While Monsarrat is aware of the existence of SHAKSPER, he has not, it seems, read it himself, citing it only through other writers' allusions to it in print articles.50(An effect of this is that he doesn't really give much credit to the work of Richard J. Kennedy, who had pressed the case for Ford's authorship of the poem in a series of postings to SHAKSPER: Monsarrat's article still lingers in a world where online publication appears irrelevant to real scholarship51.) On this article's publication, Don Foster and another of the theory's chief proponents, Richard Abrams, announced their acceptance of the idea that the author of the Elegy was John Ford. Wanting to publish his historical research on the Peter family while the matter was still reasonably topical, Abrams opted for the swift peer-review and production cycle of an online journal, EMLS.52 Abrams and Foster also chose to make their recantations in online format:

As Foster and I were quick to pounce on others' attributional errors, it seemed only fair to move the conversation along by expeditiously acknowledging our own. In light of the new evidence we posted endorsements of the Ford attribution to a venue in which we could control copy (it had been otherwise in our letters to the TLS years before): the online Shakespeare list, Shaksper.53

It could be said that, between 1996 and 2002, in this aspect of the affair, SHAKSPER had supplanted the TLS as the medium of record.

The Funeral Elegy may, in Ward Elliott's phrase, have proved to be "Fool's Gold" in the hunt for texts by Shakespeare (although still an interesting specimen of Jacobean elegy), and the role of SHAKSPER in the response to it emblematizes some of the downsides of being a digital humanist: the discussions were sometimes incompletely informed, repetitive, or long-winded, or else they veered into flame wars, and in any case they were, in effect, ignored in the article which is generally presented as providing the definitive conclusion to the affair. But, equally, the affair started to show some of the potential of even quite straightforward digital technology in a virtual community of humanities research.54 Vickers criticizes Foster, in part, for playing fast and loose with processes of peer review, notably by justifying his assertions in terms of future as-yet-unpublished print articles, but the interesting thing about the SHAKSPER debates is that they provided, in a public forum, a de facto form of public peer review. It was an arena in which Foster could repeatedly be challenged for the non-appearance of the promised data. It was an arena in which nothing said could be unsaid, since as Richard Kennedy noted, "All of my early posts on John Ford can be retrieved from Hardy's archives, Foster's responses, etc."55 It made much more visible the idea that scholarly writing is an act of persuasion, and made those involved question how that persuasion worked. Richard Abrams describes this aspect of the emerging new forum in calling the Funeral Elegy a "poem that has made many thoughtful people in the profession ask themselves what they listen for when they listen to Shakespeare."56(And not just, one might add, in the profession: SHAKSPER's remit is significantly wider than that.)

But the Funeral Elegy affair did more than just provide talk and discourse, acting as a heuristic device for readers and teachers of Shakespeare. It also marked a transition from a world in which few people were expected to have access — to the results of Foster's computer, to the primary texts, to the latest criticism — into a world in which electronic texts, tools, discussions, and electronic versions of publications both born-digital and born-paper were much more available, so that ultimately indefensible scholarship had, one might say, fewer places to hide. This represents perhaps the most powerful continuity between the digital revolution and traditions of scholarship dating back before the twentieth century and even to Renaissance humanism itself.

Digital projects, then, have widened access to the data which form the basis of factual and interpretive claims about early modern culture and literature. This applies to texts produced in that period, now available as e-texts and e-editions; to later scholarship, in particular to the datasets exemplified by the OED and the Oxford DNB; and to new secondary texts, in the forms of discussion lists, electronic publications, and blogs. Effective digital projects have been produced by a variety of agents, from individual enthusiasts to publishing multinationals, and at a variety of levels of technological sophistication. If this survey focuses mainly on internet-delivered resources providing access to text, then that is because these are the technologies which are making the most obvious practical difference to current researchers. It's here, I would argue, that we most see the multiplication of knowledge which gives this chapter its epigraph.

And yet, although that epigraph sounds like it comes from current information theory, its source is somewhat older, and more obviously in tune with the early modern: the Old Testament, mediated through a Renaissance library. Over the entrance to the Bodleian Library in Oxford is inscribed a quotation from the Book of Daniel: Plurimi pertransibunt et multiplex erit scientia [Many shall pass through, and knowledge will be multiplied]. What libraries like the Bodleian offer is also, in a sense, what the digital revolution offers to early modern studies.


1  ProQuest Information and Learning website, <>;Early English Books Online, "About Early Eng-lish Books Online," <>. All references to web pages are implicitly to those pages as they stood on May 10, 2006.

2  F. W. Bateson, The Cambridge bibliography of English literature, 5 vols (London: Macmillan, 1941), and subsequent revisions; among projects which specifically seek to reorder the dataset in particular ways, one might cite the various revisions of Harbage's Annals of English Drama; Tom Dale Keever's Early Modern Drama Database, < tdk3/earlymodern.html>; and Gabriel Egan's Non-Shakespearean Drama Database, <>.

3  David Kathman, Biographical Index of English Drama Before 1660, <>.

4  Kenneth Muir, "Pyramus and Thisbe: a study in Shakespeare's method," Shakespeare Quarterly, 5 (1954), 141–53, qtn from 146.

5  Matthew Steggle, "Gale, Dunstan (fl. 1596),"Oxford Dictionary of National Biography,<>.

6  6 See Jurgen Documentation in the O.E.D: Shakespeare and Nashe as test cases (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980); on the chronology of the OED, see K. M. Elisabeth Murray, Caught in the Web of Words: James Murray and the Oxford English Dictionary (Yale: Yale University Press, 1977), and the Oxford English Dictionary, "Dictionary Milestones: A Chronology of Events Relevant to the History of the OED," <>.

7  These are searches on EEBO, <>, using the search term "Aristophan*."

8  Project Gutenberg, <>; the Internet Public Library, <>; Representative Poetry Online, <>. This last project, which first appeared online in 1994 under the editorship of Ian Lancashire, also illustrates the importance of earlier work to later publication; it is an electronic descendant of a University of Toronto anthology which first appeared in print in 1912. For detailed information on the early evolution of online Shakespeare texts, as well as on some now-defunct or unavailable projects such as Ardenonline, see Michael Best, "Shakespeare and the Electronic Text," in Andrew Murphy, Ed., A Concise Companion to Shakespeare and the Text (Oxford: Blackwell, forthcoming).

9  Risa Bear, "Nexus: Renascence Editions and the Art of Online Publishing," paper delivered at the 2003 meeting of the Renaissance Society of America, online at <>.

10  Anniina Jokinen, Luminarium, <>.

11  Anniina Jokinen, "Luminarium: A Letter from the Editor," <>.

12  Dana F. Sutton, Ed., The Philological Museum,<>; Ian Lancashire, Ed., The Early Modern English Dictionaries Database, <>; The John Milton Reading Room, <>; The Memorial Web Edition of Alciato's 'Book of Emblems',<>.

13  See the LION information page "From Source Text to Screen: The Digitization Process," <>.

14  Catherine Alexander, "Review of Chadwyck-Healey English Poetry, Early English Prose Fiction, and English Verse Drama CD-ROM Databases." Interactive Early Modern Literary Studies (October, 1999): <>.

15  Gabriel Egan, "Hearing or Seeing a Play?: Evidence of Early Modern Theatrical Terminology," Ben Jonson Journal 8 (2001): 327–47.

16  The description of the "typographical variants" option is taken from LION's help text, <>; in the case of "leaguer" and its variants, it may be suggested that a search for "leag*" would get round the problem, but this is unwieldy because of the large number of results for words like "league," "leagues," and "leagued."

17  For a discussion, see MacD. P. Jackson, "Editing, Attribution Studies, and 'Literature Online': A New Resource for Research in Renaissance Drama," Research Opportunities in Renaissance Drama 37 (1998): 1–15.

18  For this phrase, and reports of early glitches, see John Jowett and Gabriel Egan, "Review of the Early English Books Online (EEBO)."Interactive Early Modern Literary Studies (January, 2001): <>.

19  Gallica, <>.

20  Internet Shakespeare Editions, <>; for windows into the evolution of the project, see two Special Issues of EMLS; Michael Best, Ed., The Internet Shakespeare: Opportunities in a New Medium, Early Modern Literary Studies 3.3/Special Issue 2 (January, 1998): <>; Michael Best and Eric Rasmussen, Eds., Monitoring Electronic Shakespeares, Early Modern Literary Studies 9.3/ Special Issue 12 (January, 2004), <>.

21  Michael Best, "The Internet Shakespeare Editions: History and Vision," cited from <>; see also Best, "Shakespeare and the Electronic Text."

22  Best, "The Internet Shakespeare Editions: History and Vision."

23  Prospectus for the Cambridge Works of Ben Jonson, <>.

24  The Interactive Shakespeare Project, <>.

25  See two emails by Ken Steele to SHAKSPER,

26  July 1990, <>; and <>. Patrick Leary, "A Victorian Virtual Community," Victorian Review 25:2 (2000): 62–79, online at <>; my thinking about Shake-speare communities is influenced by the seminar "Shakespeare Forums," organized by Matt Kozusko and Robert Sawyer, which took place at the Shakespeare Association of Amer-ica annual meeting 2006, papers from which are due to appear as a Special Issue of the e-journal Borrowers and Lenders: the Journal of Shakespeare and Appropriation, <>.

27  Hardy M. Cook, "Shaksper: The Politics of an Academic Discussion Group," paper written for the SAA, 1997, online at <>; for another view of SHAKSPER from around this era, see Sean Lawrence, "'That Liberty and Common Conversation': A Review of the SHAKSPER List-serv Discussion Group." Early Modern Literary Studies 2.1 (1996): 16.1–16, <>.

28  Gary Allen, email dated September 5, 2001, cited from <>; HLAS is now accessible through a web browser, for instance at <>, the source for the statistics on levels of usage; for more on HLAS see the HLAS FAQ, online at>. <http://www.shakespeare.

29  David Kathman and Terry Ross, The Shake-speare Authorship Page, <>.

30  Hardy M. Cook, current editorial statement at <>.

31  The Milton-L Website, <>.

32  See, respectively, <>; and <>.

33  See the list of Sidney Journal contents for issue 17.1, online at <>.

34  Early Modern Literary Studies, <>. I should, however, declare a vested interest here, being the current editor of the journal (while the journal's founder is one of the co-editors of the volume in which this piece appears).

35  For a review of EMLS' early history, and a previous stocktaking, see Paul Dyck, R. G. Siemens, Jennifer Lewin, and Joanne Wool-way Grenfell, "The Janus-face of Early Modern Literary Studies: Negotiating the Boundaries of Interactivity in an Electronic Journal for the Humanities," Early Modern Literary Studies 5.3 / Special Issue 4 (January, 2000): 4.1–20, <>.

36  Raymond G. Siemens, "Early Modern Literary Studies: An Editor's Prefatory Statement."Early Modern Literary Studies 1.1 (1995): 1.1–7, <>.

37  For the term, and for many other interesting comments on the reception of e-journals, see Rod Heimpel, "Legitimizing Electronic Scholarly Publication: A Discursive Proposal," Computing in the Humanities Working Papers A.15 (October, 2000), <>.

38  See the page "Reviews of and Awards for EMLS," <>.

39  The LOCKSS project, <>.

40  Renaissance Forum, <>; Early Modern Culture, <>; Borrowers and Lenders: The Journal of Shakespearean Appropriation, <>; the Early Modern Journal, <>; some of the content of the Early Modern Journal is recoverable through an important research tool, the Inter-net Archive, <>.

41  One example of these processes is the online self-archiving now practiced by many academics; another is ITER, a Renaissance-specific collection of online resources developed by a team led by William R. Bowen at <>; a third, outstanding, example is the University of Toronto's Records Of Early English Drama project, who have made their entire series of volumes so far available for free online in the "texts" section of the Internet Archive, <>.

42  See, respectively, <>; <>; <>.

43  Neil Rhodes and Jonathan Sawday, Eds., The Renaissance Computer: Knowledge Technology in the First Age of Print (London: Routledge, 2000); see also Philippa Berry and Margaret Tudeau-Clayton, Eds., Textures of Renaissance Knowledge (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003); Arthur F. Kinney,Shakespeare's Webs; Networks of Meaning in Renaissance Drama (London: Routledge, 2004), using an idea of linkage which draws both on ideas of hypertext and on cognitive theory.

44  Donald W. Foster, Elegy by W.S.: A Study in Attribution (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1989); for a detailed account of the whole saga, see Brian Vickers, 'Counterfeiting' Shakespeare: Evidence, Authorship and John Ford's Funerall Elegye (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), especially the Epilogue, "The Politics of Attribution"; see also the helpful guide of Kathman and Ross at The Shakespeare Authorship Page.

45  The best description of SHAXICON is in a series of emails posted by Foster to SHAKSPER starting on February 11, 1998: <>.

46  Donald W. Foster, email dated January 11, 1996, <>; the text of the poem also appeared in the print journal Shakespeare Studies, but not until the 1997 issue.

47  William Godshalk, email dated February 9, 1996, <>.

48  Patrick Gillespie, email dated August 7, 1996, <>.

49  See, for instances, Hugh Craig, "Common-words Frequencies, Shakespeare's Style, and the Elegy by W. S." Early Modern Literary Studies 8.1 (May, 2002): 3.1–42 <>; a series of publications by Ward Elliott and Robert Valenza, including "Smoking Guns and Silver Bullets: Could John Ford Have Written the Funeral Elegy?" Literary and Linguistic Computing 16 (2001): 205–32; SHAXICAN, an open-source project started by Gabriel Egan, which aims to provide something approaching an emulation of what SHAXICON would have done: <>.

50  Gilles D. Monsarrat, "A Funeral Elegy: Ford, W.S., and Shakespeare," Review of English Studies 53 (2002): 186–203, esp. 187; naturally, this article is cited here from its electronic incarnation as a .pdf available fromLiterature Online.

51  Vickers argues that Foster's attacks on Kennedy were ad hominem (Counterfeiting Shakespeare, 437–9), especially in his allusions to Kennedy's anti-Stratfordianism; but Ken-nedy was an anti-Stratfordian, something manifested on HLAS, and sometimes visible on the edges of his postings to SHAKSPER. Given that Foster and Kennedy were arguing, among other things, about acceptable methods of attribution, this is surely a relevant factor. It does, however, speak to another of the running concerns of the online group: questions of "credentials" and community.

52  Richard Abrams, "Meet the Peters," Early Modern Literary Studies 8.2 (September, 2002): 6.1–39 <>; Lisa Hopkins, editor of EMLS 1998–2003, pers. comm.

53  Abrams, "Meet the Peters," 1; the emails, dated July 13, 2002, are at <>.

54  Ward Elliott, email dated August 19, 2005, <>.

55  Vickers, Counterfeiting Shakespeare, 425–6; Richard J. Kennedy, email dated June 21, 2002, <>.

56  Abrams, "Meet the Peters," 39.

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