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The Grub Street Project: A Digital Social Edition of London in the Long 18th Century


Abstract and Figures

This article suggests that Jerome McGann’s proposal for social text editing can be applied to editions understood not as one author’s works, but rather as networks of publications by many authors and editors. The ability to create such an edition has been hampered in the past by the inability of HTML to express the semantic richness of TEI XML. However, by adopting the new semantic tags, custom data attributes, and microdata introduced with HTML5, an interoperable digital social edition can be feasible. The Grub Street Project, an edition of books, pamphlets, and data from 18th-century London, is a test of this premise.
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Digital Scholarship in the Humanities
Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of EADH
doi: 10.1093/llc/fqw003
This is a post-print archive. Please refer to the published article when citing.
The Grub Street Project: A
Digital Social Edition of London
in the Long 18th Century
Allison Muri, Catherine Nygren and Benjamin Neudorf
University of Saskatchewan, Canada
This article suggests that Jerome McGann’s proposal for social text editing can be
applied to editions understood not as one author’s works, but rather as networks of
publications by many authors and editors. The ability to create such an edition has
been hampered in the past by the inability of HTML to express the semantic
richness of TEI XML. However, by adopting the new semantic tags, custom data
attributes, and microdata introduced with HTML5, an interoperable
digital social edition can be feasible. The Grub Street Project, an edition of books,
pamphlets, and data from 18th-century London, is a test of this premise.
The Grub Street Project is a collaborative social edition of 18th-century London
that links four main categories of informationprinted publications and artworks,
people, places, and tradesto represent a network of the city’s social, spatial,
creative, and material relationships from 1660 to 1830. This work is premised on
the proposition that digital publications are suited to present not merely standalone
editions of particular documents or works, but alsointrinsicallyrelationships
through linked documents. Jerome McGann (1983, 1991, 2001, 2006, 2011, 2014)
has frequently articulated, following D.F. McKenzie (1985), a social theory of text
proposing that the scholar’s attention should be directed not only upon the ‘text’
the linguistic features of a documentbut at the composite ‘semiotic fields’ of
docu- ments and social relations in literary production and reception (Buzzetti and
McGann, 2006). Expanding on McGann’s concept of the social text, the Grub
Street Project tests how a social digital edition might consist of not only a single
‘work’, but instead a ‘network’ of documents with social, material, and textual or
artistic relationships.
The edition ( is comprised of: (1) maps, plans, prints, and
books and pamphlets printed and sold in 18th-century London; (2) a relational
database of place names, place descrip- tions, and place name alternates, trade
locations, London’s people, especially those involved in the book trade as authors,
publishers, printers, and booksellers, and bibliographical data for approxi- mately
360,000 works printed and sold in London from 1660 to 1830 (Fig. 1); (3) it will
incorporate 2,000 xml texts encoded in TEI-Lite from the ECCO-Text Creation
Partnership and several thousand more released from the EEBO-Text Creation
Partnership; (4) in addition to these transcriptions, the site also contains editions
(in progress) of individual documents with their own editorial apparatus and with
high-resolution facsimiles of the originals; (5) the transcriptions and editions are
being prepared to be linked to the maps and to place descriptions, people, and
organizations in the database. The intent is that these editions of individual
documents, along with the other marked-up texts, maps, images, and database
entries, will demonstrate how a digital scholarly edition can present not simply a
single book, but many linked books, pamphlets, prints, events, places, and people
within multiple complex spatial and social environments (Figs 24).
Perhaps it may seem a provocative claim to call this set of documents by multiple
authors and editors an ‘edition’ rather than an ‘archive’, ‘collection’, or simply
‘website’. It is deliberately so, at the very least as an exercise in speculation on
what our work is as editors of digital texts, and what the limitations of a digital
text are in an online environment. If one edits a collection of documents related by
‘author’, for example, the New Variorum Shakespeare, the process is not
inconsistent with the processes of editing a collection of multi-authored documents
related by space, time, and communication. To restrict editorial projects to the
familiar constraints of document/text/work is unnecessarily limiting in an online
environment. What to call the products of this work has long been at issue. For
digital editorial projects ranging beyond document/text/work, ‘archive’ has been a
common but a protean term, readily exchanged with ‘edition’. Well-known
examples include The William Blake Archive (ed. Eaves et al., n.d.) and The
Rossetti Archive (ed. McGann). The William Blake Archive, recipient of the MLA
Prize for a Distinguished Scholarly Edition in 2003, contains Blake’s illuminated
books, his commercial illustrations, his prints, drawings, and paintings, and his
manuscripts and typographic works. The editors describe the archive as ‘an online
hypermedia environment. ... a hybrid all-in-one edition, catalogue, database, and
set of scholarly tools’ (‘What do we mean by an Archive?’). McGann’s
terminology to describe The Rossetti Archive is similarly fluid: first characterizing
the collection as an ‘archive rather than an edition’ (McGann, 1995), he later
labelled it ‘a hypermedia scholarly ‘‘edition’’‘ of texts (linguistic objects), books
(bibliographical objects), images, and sound, which incorporate facsimile,
diplomatic, critical, and variorum editorial models (McGann, 2010, p. 39). As
Kenneth Price has asserted, ‘archive in a digital context has come to suggest
something that blends features of editing and archiving’ (para. 22). However,
‘archive’ is a problematic term, not only for the reasons identified by professional
archivists (see, e.g. Theimer), but also for the reason that these collections are
edited documents, more akin to a multi-volume collection of an author’s works
than to a collection of papers and memorabilia belonging to a single person.
Debate continues over what to call the productions of digital editorial worka
database (Folsom, 2007); an archive with a markup structure (McGann, 2007); a
work-site (Eggert, 2009); or something memorable that is not a project, an archive,
an edition, a database, or a digital thematic research collection (Price, 2009). If a
reader can move seamlessly from a page in Ned Ward’s The London Spy (1703) to
a linked map, to information about a person, or his A Trip to Jamaica (1698), then
one might propose a social premise that the entire collection of scripts and
stylesheets, markedup texts, images, and database on that server is in its entirety
one extensive document of London and its people and their communications,
editable with varying degrees of access by formally declared editors and by reader
interactions. The Grub Street Project proposes that on the web a digital social
edition should be more than a representation of a solitary book, separated from all
other works, authors, and social agents by its former binding.
Take, for example, one node in such a network: Alexander Pope’s The Dunciad
Variorum (1729), a revised version of The Dunciad in Three Books (1728) with
the addition of new commentary and apparatus. There is no extant manuscript of
Pope’s first Dunciad, but evidence survives in what are known as the First and
Second Broglios, readings from manuscripts that were transcribed by Pope’s
friend Jonathan Richardson junior, and included as annotations in a copy of the
1728 Dunciad and the 1736 Dunciad Variorum. Three typesettings or true
‘editions’ of the original Dunciad have been identified(Vander Meulen 29). Keys
to the Dunciad appeared almost immediately to identify Pope’s targets, who
appeared in the poem as only initials or blanks. The readers of the first Dunciad
had been presented with a series of riddles, and the keys published subsequent to
its appearance showed in print what they had misunderstood, sometimes
embarrassingly so.
The 1729 Variorum edition gave the names in full and included ponderous notes
by the fictional scholar ‘Martinus Scriblerus’. Scriblerus was designed to continue
Pope’s attack on Lewis Theobald who in his in his Shakespeare Restored; or, A
Specimen of the Many Errors As Well Committed As Unamended by Mr. Pope, in
His Late Edition of This Poet (1726) had insulted Pope by correcting mistakes in
his edition of The Works of Shakespear (1725), but also to mock a general
stereotype of pedantic and wrong-headed textual scholars. The Variorum edition
thus included in Scriblerus’ annotations paraphrased and directly quoted material
from the pamphlets that had been published in response to the 1728 publication.
Just over a week after the Variorum appeared, piracies began to appear and, of
course, numerous rebuttals: Pope had attacked booksellers, authors, critics, and
public figures alike. The Variorum was years later followed by a sequel, The New
Dunciad (1742), and The Dunciad in Four Books (1743), a revised version of the
original poem and sequel from 1742, with new commentary and apparatus. Pope’s
Dunciads are the results of dialogue over many years in print, in letters, and in
conversations. These books, material manifestations of the work called The
Dunciad, all existed in relations with other publications, with contemporary events,
with printers and booksellers, with Pope’s readers, his editors, his friends, and his
enemies. How and where the books were produced, printed, sold, read, and
responded to (both in 18th-century printed works and in 21st-century digital
iterations), all may be understood as facets of a social edition.
In the text of the 1728 and 1729 Dunciads is another network of relationships:
Pope creates an extensive bibliography and symbolic topography of London
society: Valerie Rumbold’s edition of the works lists over 400 people in its
biographical index, and Pope mentions other printed works and places in London
and around the world hundreds of times in the poem and its apparatus. The ‘digital
social edition’ of The Dunciad Variorum now in progress is intended to present a
variety of social, commercial, temporal, spatial, and intertextual relationships
associated with the production, reception, and interpretation of the constellation of
Grubstreet materials printed and sold in London that provoked, responded to, and
revised the 1729 text. To draw on Foucault’s proposition, it attempts to show the
city’s utopias (unreal spaces that are a direct or inverted analogy for the real
spaces of society) and heterotopias (real spaces of difference, counter-sites where
social and spatial arrangements are ‘simultaneously represented, contested, and
Grub Streetjudicially and administratively part of the wealthy City of London
was located in a relatively impoverished area just outside of the City Wall in
Cripplegate Ward. It was the supposed home to ill-educated and poorly paid hack
writers scratching out their living in cramped garrets. Figuratively, ‘Grubstreet’
has no particular topography or temporality: it is a fog of dulness inhabited by
dunces. In this sense, the term characterizes the tension between the idealized
classical city and culture of the Augustans, with London imagined as a new
Athens or Augustan Rome, and the inversion of all such principles in a world of
ill-educated literary hacks and unscrupulous money-grubbing printers and
booksellers. ‘Grubstreet’ signified inferior hack writing, crass commercialism, and
the degradation of literary values. Famously described by Samuel Johnson in his
Dictionary as ‘a street near Moorfields in London, much inhabited by writers of
small histories, dictionaries, and temporary poems; whence any mean production
is called grubstreet’ (1755), it represents the cross-currents of dialogue between
‘low’ (gossip and scandal in newspapers and pamphlets, titillating or
sensationalistic novels) and ‘high’ (poetry, sermons, new scientific and literary
journals, etc.) culture in print.
Increasingly lacking centralized control and shamelessly market-driven, by the end
of the 17th century, London’s printing trade had been marked by lapses in legal
regulation of the press, Civil War, and finally by the lapse of the Licensing Act in
1695. By the time The Dunciad was published in 1728, Grub Street’s association
with literary hacks was purely figurative: the ‘Grubstreet’ press represented a
danger to traditionalist critics and scholars, and to government and monarchy. It
also inaugurated the new unruly print culture that was the beginning of the modern
press, and a burgeoning new network of commercial transactions within which
‘low culture’profit-oriented, ephemeral, and commonwas distributed and
consumed. Grub Street signifies, then, both a qualitatively defined cultural space
and a real street.
To create a digital social edition of The Dunciad Variorum, ‘all the Grubstreet race’
of Pope’s symbolic human geography must be recognizable in terms of both real
and imagined space, in terms of books and pamphlets and their printing and
distribution, and in terms of authors, printers, and booksellers and their trades.
Brean Hammond was first to suggest that The Dunciad could be read as ‘the
imaginative representation of the Popean heterotopia’ (p. 231), and the Grub Street
Project edition follows his lead in attempting to represent a social and cultural
space online that makes this imaginative representation accessible alongside, and
layered over, other representations of the city and its people. Foucault defined
heterotopias and utopias as having ‘the curious property of being in relation with
all the other sites, but in such a way as to suspect, neutralize, or invert the set of
relations that they happen to designate, mirror, or reflect. These spaces, as it
were ... are linked with all the others, which however contradict all the other sites’.
In opposition to utopias which were ‘fundamentally unreal spaces’, Foucault
suggested heterotopias are real locales ‘outside of all places, even though it may
be possible to indicate their location in reality’ (p. 24). If we imagine a particular
digital edition of The Dunciad Variorum within the larger edition of 18th-century
London, we can imagine another way of mapping space to books, that is,
visualizing the city’s mapped topographies alongside its imagined literary
topographies. The digital social edition should allow for views that illustrate the
tensions between the highbrow (yet scatalogical) representations of what print
culture ought to be, and was not, by such authors as Alexander Pope, and the
unapologetic lowbrow humour, a no less exaggerated but perhaps more candid
representation of London and its culture by such Grubstreet ‘hacks’ as one of
Pope’s dunces, Ned Ward, whose The London Spy (1703) is a related node in the
network of 18th-century London.
1 Method
The first stages of the Grub Street Project were to plan the organization of data
and the tools for viewing and annotating maps, and to begin the work of gathering
images and data: that is, to build a relational database of place names and
identifiers, place descriptions, person names and identifiers, map coordinates,
trade locations, and bibliographical data capable of being mapped to ‘zoomable’
high-resolution digital maps of London from 18th-century London. The maps
include John Strype’s Survey of London and Westminster (1720), John Rocque’s
Survey of London (1746), and Richard Horwood’s Plan of London and
Westminster (1799). Strype’s 1720 map, photographed from a single 26-by-19-
inch sheet folded and bound within Volume 1 of his two-volume Survey, currently
has the most content associated with it: places (streets, squares, alleys, wards,
parishes, and major buildings) and tours. Single-sheet maps are the first to be
associated with place IDs, while maps assembled from multiple sheets (Rocque
and Horwood) are being prepared in Photoshop to join the warped pages as
seamlessly as possible into a single image.
The place-name data associated with the maps by place identifiers are assembled
from public domain texts such as Henry Harben’s Dictionary of London (1918),
James Elmes’ A Topographical Dictionary of London and Its Environs (1831), and
Henry Benjamin Wheatley and Peter Cunningham’s London Past and Present: Its
History, Associations, and Traditions (1891). Additional place name alternates
will be added over time as microdata is applied to documents, as described below.
If updated information is needed, Grub Street contributors can also add their own
place descriptions. At present there are just over 5,000 default names and just over
11,000 variant names for the streets, alleys, courts, and the like, and significant
buildings of London. Any place still extant in London can be associated with
latitude and longitude values, which will be pulled from the database to
dynamically provide data for the markup in the transcriptions and editions. The
database also contains bibliographical data for approximately 350,000 publications
printed and sold in London from 1660 to 1830: these are in the process of being
connected to the maps by assigning place identifiers to the place names specified
in the imprint (e.g. in the imprint ‘London: printed for Henry Brome, at the Gun in
Ivy-Lane’, Ivy Lane is assigned the same place ID as the Ivy Lane place
description in the database, and also linked to the x, y coordinates on the map).
Other data to be imported into the database include addresses, trades, and
tradespeople from Henry Kent’s London business directories published annually
(17321828). As a starting point, permission has been granted to incorporate data
(40,000 records of trade names, trade descriptions, trade types, street names, and
years) from Kent’s Directories of Businesses in London, 17591828 (Tilly) into
the database for publication on the site. Further, more precise data will emerge
over the long term from research of Sun Fire insurance records held at Guildhall
Library, Royal Exchange Assurance records, land tax records, and other such
A significant effort in this first phase of development has gone into developing
usable maps and map editing interface, a book reader display and book editor, and
data cleaning (still ongoing). A script for extracting person names and place names
from book imprints proved reasonably successful (e.g. the name following ‘printed
for’ or ‘for’, or ‘printed by’, ‘impensis’, or ‘Imprime ́’, or ‘sold by’ and preceding
address words could generally be extracted and assigned a trade ID for publisher,
printer, or bookseller; similarly addresses could be extracted from the text
following ‘at’, ‘at ... against’, ‘at ... over against’, ‘at ... on’, ‘at ... in’ ‘at the sign
of the’ and preceding the date of publication). Clearly this is not a perfect process:
an imprint such as ‘London: printed, and sold by M. Cooper, in Pater-Noster Row,
1744’ is a straightforward case, whereas the script did not capture all the relevant
data in ‘London: printed for G. Terry, No 54, Paternoster Row; J. Davidson, No 7,
Postern Row, Tower Hill; and J. Baker, No 226, Oxford Street; where all
Booksellers may be supplied. Sold also at Providence chapel; and at Monkwell-
Street Meeting, every Tuesday Evening, MDCCLXXXIX. [1784]’. Eighteenth-
century spelling is notoriously inconsistent; likewise, addresses notoriously vague
until street numbers were introduced in the 1760s. This required an interface to
edit and merge the addresses associated with the publications (Fig. 5). This data
cleaning is an ongoing process, as is editing and merging people names (Fig. 6).
Other challenges for data cleaning and augmentation include identifying
booksellers and publishers for false imprints, and from incomplete imprint
information when the roles were actually quite complicated, especially in the 18th
century when congersassociations of booksellers who shared investments in
printing rightsbecame common (see, esp., Raven, 2001, 2007, 2009, on the
complexity of sorting out these issues in his mapping of more precise addresses
for booksellers in particular regions of London). In other words, the data will
always lack some certainty, but continuing this activity of refining dataand
involving editorial teams on the projectwill result in an operative repository of
the spatial topography of London’s book trades online.
The maps are available to researchers to create accounts and make their own tours
(layers of data over the base data of streets, buildings, wards, and parishes). The
map interface is built so that contributors with minimal training can add layers
(streets and buildings, wards, any topographical features, including bookseller and
printer locations), and tours (Fig. 7), much as users can do with Google Earth.
Periodically, points of interest added by users to map tours can be checked for
accuracy and added to the main field associating streets and buildings with
particular maps. The tours enable readers to see a particular interpretation of the
city. For example, a tour of John Gay’s Trivia: or The Art of Walking the Streets
of London (1716) (Fig. 8) allows a reader to follow Gay’s narrator through
London’s streets, and to discover more about any particular place in the tour,
including an editorial narrative and general place information. The tool that allows
participants to create their own tours (for teaching, research, to map ancestors’
locations, etc.) provides a means to capture extra place point data to augment
existing data, and it extends the notion of the digital social edition from the
network of 18th-century texts to include a network of 21st-century editors.
The next stage has been to develop the interface for reading editions or
transcriptions of individual works, and for editing the works, and to create several
exemplary editions (all of which are still in progress):
The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope (1714), edited by Allison Muri;
Ingratitude: To Mr. Pope, an anonymous pamphlet (1733), edited by
Allison Muri;
The Dunciad Variorum by Alexander Pope (1729), edited by Allison Muri
and Catherine Nygren;
The London Spy by Edward Ward (1703), edited by Allison Muri and
Benjamin Neudorf; and
A Trip to Jamaica with a True Character of the People and Island by
Edward Ward (1698), edited by David Oakleaf.
Originally, the editions of individual books and pamphlets were conceived as
being encoded in TEI-compliant XML. However, this was always a problematic
proposition for a project that aimed to reach a wide audience of readers and editors,
and to represent a network of linked documents: although the XML Linking
language XLink defined methods for creating links, it was not supported by
browsers, and to display these documents on the Web required server-side
processing or translation to HTML. Conversely, although HTML was likely the
most successful document markup language in the world, and supported by
innumerable browsers on innumerable computers worldwide, it lacked the
semantic richness of TEI XML. However, the resolution in 2007 that the new
HTML working group of the W3C would work with the WHATWG (a
collaboration between Apple, Mozilla, and Opera that began in 2004) on the
development of the HTML5 specification meant that development of
interoperable,1 semantically rich digital editions for the web became a significantly
more plausible goal. In October 2014, after significant testing for interoperability,
the W3C gave HTML5 Recommendation status.
HTML5 introduced new semantic tags and custom data attributes (data-*) that
made it possible to encode texts with data specifically oriented to text editing for
which there are no appropriate attributes or elements, and which could then be
readily accessed and manipulated through javascript or jQuery. It also introduced
the <canvas> element, which meant the first experimental maps of London using
Adobe’s proprietary Flash software could be replaced with an open format.
Moreover, the wide range of open source tools for data manipulation, editing, and
parsing presents a wide range of possibilities for readers to read, edit, or reuse
these texts.
For individual editions and transcriptions, text markup will be converted from
XML in the case of ECCO-TCP or EEBO-TCP documents, or if unavailable from
the Text Creation Partnerships, simply marked-up in HTML5. The basic unit for
each document is the original page, stored in the ‘book_page’ table of the database.
HTML5 allows for semantic data with minimal or even no information lost from
such conversions and, moreover, the ability to create editions using markup that is
more familiar than TEI to the majority of users (and future editors), and that
already has a plethora of tools for editing, data manipulation, query, and display.
Conversion is reasonably straightforward, for example, as shown in Table 1.
Table 1 Examples of conversion from TEI XML to HTML5
<PB N=“x” REF=“y”/>
<div class=“pg” data-pagenum=“x” id=“y”>
<p> … <pb facs="tcp:25804:4"/> … </p>
<div class=“pg” data-pagenum=“x” id=“y”><p> …
<div class=“pg” data-pagenum=“x+1” id=“y+1”><p
<div class=“pg” data-pagenum=“x” id=“y” data-
<div class=“pg” data-pagenum=“x” id=“y” data-
<div class=“pg” data-pagenum=“x” id=“y” data-
<DIV TYPE=“section”>
<DIV1 TYPE=“frontispiece”>
<section data-book=“frontispiece”>
<DIV1 TYPE=“title page”>
<div class=“pg title_page” data-book=“title_page”>
<DIV1 TYPE=“dedication”>
<section data-text=“dedication”>
<DIV1 TYPE=“publisher’s
<section data-text=“publishers_advertisement”>
<DIV1 TYPE=“letter to publisher”>
<section data-text=“letter_to_publisher”>
<div class="lg" data-text="lg">
<span class="l" data-text="l">
<GAP DESC="duplicate" EXTENT="1
page" DISP="1 page duplicate"/>
<span class="gap" data-text="gap" data-
gapdesc="duplicate" data-gapextent="1 page" data-
gapcontent=" 1 page duplicate "> </span>
<head type="sub">
<h2 data-type="sub">
<section data-text="closer">
<section data-text="signed">
<section data-text="salute">
<foreign xml:lang=”la”>
<i data-lang=”la”>
<hi rend="sup">
<seg rend="decorInit">
<p class="decorInit">
<hi rend="dropcap">
<p class="dropcap">
<g ref="char:EOLhyphen"/>
While markup reflecting the structure of books and pamphlets is an important
aspect of Grub Street documents, it does not provide the fundamental components
for a digital social edition. Rather, it is the creation of linked data that will enable
the documents to be examined as part of a social network (of books, people, places,
events, trades/ organizations) both within the site (the Grub Street edition of
London) and beyond (major search engines, linked data browsers). As part of the
WHATWG Living HTML Standard, HTML5 introduced microdata, and in 2011,
Google, Bing, and Yahoo! announced, a joint collaboration to create
and maintain a common data vocabulary for structured data on web pages,
focusing primarily on microdata. With the support of the major search engines,
creating and sharing semantic dataand making it discoverableneed not be a
project-specific activity. Microdata is simple to markup and, embedded in visible
HTML, easy to maintain; using open source software, it can readily be converted
to Turtle, RDF/ XML, JSON-LD, or N-triples.3 The ability to produce linked data
on the web is what makes the social-edition-as-network feasible. Formerly, while
HTML could express links between documents, it was not expressive enough to
express links between data in the documents, that is, to express the connections of
individual linked entities. Linked data can establish relationships between
structured data both within the Grub Street edition of London, and globally on the
Internet. For example, the microdata for a reference to Rag Fair (Rosemary Lane,
now Royal Mint Street) on page 55 of The Dunciad Variorum appears as follows,
automatically generating a dropdown menu in the book reader with links to place
information and maps (Fig. 9):
ensigns of <span itemscope itemtype1⁄4‘‘’’
itemid1⁄4‘‘⁄43880’’> <span
<span itemprop1⁄4‘‘geo’’ itemscope itemtype1⁄4‘‘http://schema. org/GeoCoordinates’’>
<meta itemprop1⁄4‘‘latitude’’ content1⁄4‘‘51.510548’’ />
<meta itemprop1⁄4‘‘longitude’’ content1⁄4‘‘-0.070177’’ /> </span>
Adding all of this by hand is not a trivial task, and potentially prone to error, so
latitude and longitude information, when available in the database, is generated
dynamically if the itemid is present. Additionally, a tool is being developed to
allow readers/editors to select words in a text, search the database for a person,
organization, or place, confirm the ID from the description if present, and in so
doing automate markup.
Not only does the addition of microdata enable search engines to parse out
semantic information and identify ‘The Tower’ as a particular place, but it enables
certain relationships within the Grub Street site to be established: places
mentioned in documents can then be associated with maps and descriptive
information, as well as visualized in terms of frequency and, where appropriate, as
patterns of movement through London within that document. The place ID is
specific to the Grub Street Project, a necessity where a gazetteer with identifiers
for place name and place name alternates for 18th-century London is not otherwise
publicly available for free distribution. Books are identified by ESTC number, and
people are identified by Grub Street identifiers, again because of a paucity of
complete name lists for 18th-century London. The Online Computer Library Center
has granted licence to use Virtual International Authority File identifiers in the
project, which provides access to linked names for the same entity across the
world’s major name authority files for libraries, but these do not generally include
names of publishers, printers, and booksellers, or other people not associated with
books. Seeking other opportunities to share tables of identifiers for these various
entities across projects is a goal for future development.
2 Outcomes and Implications
Markup and proofreading of the first editions are still ongoing, so early work has
mainly focused on overall design, user interface design, and smaller proof-of-
concept tests (for example, what kind of evidence does literary mapping provide to
a literary scholar?). A study of Pope’s 1729 Dunciad Variorum has produced some
results that reveal promise (Muri, 2011a,b). The maps of 18th-century London,
overlaid with data about the book trade and about Pope’s use of space as a
figurative device in his poem, provide new insights into how that real space and its
literary, social, and material networks were perceived by Pope and his readers.
The flourishing book trade along the Strand and Fleet Street is personified in the
figure of the goddess-like Dulness and all her dunces celebrating their new King at
St. Mary le Strand in Fleet Street, at Temple Bar, at Fleet Ditch next to Bridewell,
and at Ludgate. Pope’s self-representation in this topography of dullness is that he
is far removed from it, indeed that he is abused and maligned by the devotees of
Dulness, the dunces, the ‘Grubstreet race’ who hold their celebratory games (a
race in which one of the contestants slips in a puddle of urine, a pissing match, a
diving contest into the sewer that was Fleet Ditch) in the Strand and Fleet Street.
Pope, adopting a voice of omniscience from far above the excremental mire,
excludes himself from the base contests of booksellers competing for the popular
author of racy novels Eliza Haywood, and of writers competing for the honour of
excelling at their love of dirt and flinging the most filth at their opponents, all for
the sake of lowbrow commercial success. However, as I have shown elsewhere
(Muri, 2011b, 2016), Pope’s portrayal of himself as somehow outside of the
unsavoury bookselling trade in the Strand and Fleet Street does not reflect the
reality that Pope’s own market was more clearly situated there than a number of
his dunces. Figures 1015 show booksellers’ and printers’ addresses by street for
works by Pope, Eliza Haywood, and Ned Ward from 1700 to 1725. Though his
first publications in collections were within the City Wall in the established book
market near Stationers Hall and St. Paul’s Cathedral, Pope’s market was soon
relocated in the area without the Wall around Temple Bar in Fleet Street. Fleet
Street had long been home to printers and booksellers, but the area around St.
Paul’s remained the centre of the book trade until early in the 18th century, when
they began to move westward to Fleet Street and the Strand, perhaps in search of
new markets in this district of merchants, taverns, and shops, close by the theatres
in Covent Garden and Drury Lane. This places Pope’s own market squarely in the
business of commercial muckraking along with his dunces. Eliza Haywood’s
popular novels were sold at locations distributed across the larger city: inside the
City proper, in the City without the wall in the area of Temple Bar and Temple
Gates, and to the west in fashionable Covent Garden and Pall Mall. The
relentlessly crude books of the infamous ‘Grubstreet’ hack Edward Ward,
conversely, focused largely on the city and its politics, and were sold to an
audience mainly inside the City Wall in the locale of the City’s civic government
and financial district.
Visualizing the fictional route of the dunces through the city also led to new
insights into the possible location of Edmund Curll’s shop just off Fleet Street, and
provided evidence that seems to support David Vander Meulen’s suggestion that
Pope wrote a ‘progenitor of the full Dunciad’ around 1720 (p. 8) (Muri, 2011b).
Aside from these exercises in quantification and visualization, another aspect of
this project is to provide access to digital facsimiles of the original documents:
while Franco Moretti’s oft-noted proposal for ‘distant reading’ (2005) has obvious
applications in the analysis of digital editions, markup and dynamically generated
statistical visualizations can never fully replace the value of close reading, and
traditional scholarly analysis of the pages of texts and books: digital documents
have also provided new insights into the social network of Alexander Pope’s
friends and their books, and their contributions to the allusive illustrations in The
Rape of the Lock (Muri 2016). The social edition is also a matter of seeing in
facsimile the books that 18th-century readers saw and read and responded to. While
the markup of exemplary editions is still in progress, we may begin to see even
now that a script to filter out and visualize place and person references in The
Dunciad’s poem proper versus the ‘Remarks’ and ‘Imitations’ belowwhat
Cynthia Wall has called the ‘subterranean world of the notes’ (p. 127)could
illuminate our understanding of the work in new ways. So too could a comparison
of such visualizations from Pope’s work and that of his supposed dunces: is the
city of Pope’s imagination comparable to that of Ned Ward? Ward’s London Spy
was far more circumspect in naming peopleindeed the Devil might be the most
commonly named characterthan was The Dunciad Variorum, but his satire was
arguably no less pointed.
The Grub Street Project brings a new vision for the digital edition as a social text,
and it suggests that the admirable vision for the TEI can be adapted and extended
to engage with the semantic web. It asks us to reconsider the ends of a scholarly
edition: rather than adopting the author as cynosure in the editorial process to
present a repository of the variants of monumental works, or an ideal version of
whatfor exampleAlexander Pope wanted the Dunciad to be, the Grub Street
Project suggests the digital social edition demands that we consider any one of the
author, or the particular idiosyncratic book or print, the bookstore or the coffee
shop, as a node in a network of relationships. In this project, every node is as
important as any great work: the creative edition of Shakespeare’s ‘Works’ by
Alexander Pope so derided by Lewis Theobald is as crucial as would be a newly
discovered manuscript in Shakespeare’s own hand.
The nature of this work, of course, is that project management, design, data
cleaning, preparing maps and images, establishing permissions, adding content,
research, and markup are all time-consuming processes, and the best evidence of
the suitability of this approach for the digital social edition remains to be seen. It
would be an understatement to say that this is an ambitious project. Nevertheless,
the networked edition of 18th-century London was already begun long before the
Grub Street Project was first imagined. A critical mass of transcriptions is
available for use, thanks to the work already undertaken by the EEBO-TCP and
ECCO-TCP. Other images and texts in the public domain have been made
available for re-use by Wikipedia,4 Wikimedia Commons,5 and New
networks being established through the work of Laura Mandell and 18thConnect
are helping to raise awareness of the need for connections between distributed
scholarly works. The next steps for the Grub Street Project, then, are not so much
to build a vision of an unsustainably ambitious project, but rather to build on the
work of what so many larger projects have already contributed to a digital edition
of London, and to embark now on further developing a community of readers and
editors, to establish partnerships with other scholars of the digital 18th century, and
to begin to imagine the editorial project as a prospect of sharing data in a global
While the widespread adoption of e-book readers such as Kindle, Kobo, and
Apple’s iBooks, and apps such as ‘Alice for the iPad’ (Atomic Antelope, 2010),
‘Our Choice’ (Gore, 2011), ‘The Waste Land’ (Touch Press, 2011), or
‘Frankenstein’ for the iPad indicate a growing acceptance of digital books, they
also indicate a thorough entrenchment in the model of the printed work, where
every e-book is a standalone work beginning and ending at its virtual covers, and
connected to others in the network in only the most limited of ways (e.g. Kindle’s
public notes and highlights). In terms of scholarly editing, Peter Robinson rightly
pointed out a decade ago that there were in his estimation ‘two things missing
from almost all electronic scholarly editions made to this point’: ‘up to now,
almost without exception, no scholarly electronic edition has presented material
which could not have been presented in book form, nor indeed presented this
material in a manner significantly different from that which could have been
managed in print’. Robinson (2003) advocated for ‘what may be called fluid, co-
operative and distributed editions’. He later characterized the ideal digital edition
as one freed from the encumbrance of the interface: this ‘deconstruction of an
edition into separable parts, possibly held on different servers, each capable of
being made by separate scholars, and each capable of being linked with others in
an infinity of ways ... will provide immediate and convenient access to
information about the text they are reading, with the ability to order, filter and
arrange this information onscreen as they wish’ (Robinson, 2010, p. 160). This
model may prove to be revolutionary for textual scholars concerned with tracing
textual variants, authorial intention, and editorial emendations or corruptions.
Others have postulated that the social edition should ‘extend our understanding of
the scholarly edition in light of new models of edition production that embrace
social networking and its commensurate tools’, specifically, to employ social
media and engage citizen scholars in such activities as collaborative annotation,
user-derived content, folksonomy tagging, community bibliographies, and text
analysis (Siemens et al., 2012; also Muri, 2006, 2009, pp. 2456, 2011).
There are unlimited models to test that will deconstruct the understanding of
‘scholarly edition’, and over time, some of those will undoubtedly result in new
approaches to literary scholarship. In the digital environment, an edition need not
be based on the model of a book, it need not centre upon a great author, it need not
be founded solely upon the textual or social history of a particular work, and it
need not be edited by solitary scholars. Digital scholarship should entail
experimentation that extends, pushes against, or even relinquishes what we have
traditionally accepted as the means and ends of creating scholarly editions.
Various discussions at the Social Digital Scholarly Editions workshop and
conference from which these proceedings originate focused on standardizing tools,
on the best methods and the most qualified people to edit or transcribe texts, on the
standards set by the TEI, and on its usability, on what is appropriately scholarly,
and what is lamentably ‘not’ scholarly in a social edition. However, we need still,
and for some time to come, to pursue new and possibly destabilizing activities that
digital scholarship and editing present both to editors and to their audiences. We
are hopeful that a digital social edition of 18th-century London can contribute
meaningfully to that investigation.
This work was supported by the University of Saskatchewan, the Canada
Foundation for Innovation, the Saskatchewan Innovation and Science Fund, and
the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
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1 ‘Interoperability’ means not the choice of absolutely consistent tags but that the
documents can be viewed, edited, and searched with consistent functionality in browsers
and other software regardless of vendor, without modification. It also means that the
documents can be viewed, edited, and manipulated by the same tools that have been built
for HTML documents without restricted implementation—for example, the open source
WYSIWIG text editor CKEDITOR is already being used for map annotations, and will
be usable with just a few modifications to add consistent semantic markup to the
documents in the Grub Street Project. The fact that semantic data are recognized by
major search engines also means that semantic interoperability has a greater degree of
global application than has been realized with TEI in XML format.
2 Conversely, RDFa has been found to result in about three times higher error rate than
other formats (‘RDF 1.1 Lite Issue # 2: property vs rel’,
3 Tools such as the W3C ‘Microdata to RDF Distiller’, for example, makes extracting
microdata from HTML5 documents to JSON-LD a straightforward matter.
4 Permission is granted to copy, distribute, and/or modify Wikipedia’s text under the
terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License and, unless
otherwise noted, the GNU Free Documentation License.
5 All material uploaded to Wikimedia Commons must be either in the public domain, or
licensed under a free license that specifically and irrevocably allows anyone to use the
material for any purpose.
6 Although some items have restrictions on bulk reuse and commercial use of the images
of these works in the public domain, a significant proportion are available for use
Figure 1. Grub Street Project database schema.
Figure 2. Relationships of people to place: hypothetical view of people associated with St.
Paul’s Cathedral.
Figure 3. Relationships of events to place: hypothetical view of events associated with the
Bull’s Head Tavern.
Figure 4. Relationships of works to place: view of Edmund Curll’s shop, the Dial and Bible in Fleet Street, listing
the books he sold there. Any edition or transcription available to be read in any identied shop location will be
linked from the map view.
Figure 5. Place merge tool.
Figure 6. Person merge tool.
Figure 7. The Grub Street map editor for adding points, lines, and polygons to maps.
Figure 8. Tour of John Gay’s Trivia: or The Art of Walking the Streets of London.
Figure 9. Dropdown menus generated from database content and microdata.
Figure 10. Eliza Haywood, publishers and booksellers by numbers of imprints, 1700–1725.
Figure 11. Eliza Haywood, publishers and booksellers by location, 1700–1725.
Figure 12. Ned Ward, publishers and booksellers by numbers of imprints, 1700–1725.
Figure 13. Ned Ward, publishers and booksellers by location, 1700–1725.
Figure 14. Alexander Pope, publishers and booksellers by numbers of imprints, 1700–1725.
Figure 15. Alexander Pope, publishers and booksellers by location, 1700–1725.
Although most would agree that the future of the scholarly edition lies in the digital medium, it is the print scholarly edition that is still more often cited and read. The production of digital scholarly editions (DSEs) is still seen as an experimental field whose methodology has not yet settled to the extent that a digital editing project can be approached with the same confidence as the making of a print edition. This article describes an experimental conversion of a print scholarly edition—Giacomo Leopardi’s Idilli by Paola Italia (2008)—into a DSE. This posed a challenge due to the complexity of its internal evidence, but was also relatively short and suitable for an experimental edition. Our objective was to assimilate into a web-based DSE all the information contained in the text and apparatus of the print edition. We also sought to discover whether the making of a DSE today that could fully utilize the affordances of the web, would necessarily place a significant technical load on editors who are more accustomed to solving textual problems. We review briefly a number of generic tools for making DSEs and describe two attempts at making our own DSE of Leopardi’s Idilli: a wiki edition whose primary purpose was pedagogical and a DSE based on the software used to make the Charles Harpur Critical Archive (Eggert, 2019, Charles Harpur Critical Archive. We compare these experiences and draw conclusions about the prospects of making DSEs today.
Full-text available
This essay examines the possibilities for creating digital editions as representations of social and topographical networks of time and space, rather than as standalone e-versions of printed books. La présente dissertation étudie les possibilités de créer des éditions numériques comme représentations de réseaux sociaux et topographiques dans le temps et l’espace, plutôt que comme versions électroniques autonomes de livres imprimés.
Lofty reflections on the cultural significance of information technology are commonplace now. ‘Tedious as they can be, they serve an important social function. Some distribute general knowledge to society at large, some send it to particular groups whose professional history makes information about information an important and perhaps problematic issue.1
The essay is a study of how critical editions work, whether in paper-based forms or in electronic forms. The first section – more than half the essay – gives a close examination to J. C. C. Mays’s superb recent (Bollingen) edition of Coleridge’s poetry. This analysis establishes the terms for investigating the opportunities that digital technology supplies for scholars pursuing a close study of the socio-historical character of literary works. This investigation pivots around the seminal work of D. F. McKenzie, whose theory of the social-text edition argues for a more comprehensive kind of editorial method. This essay argues that the method can be best realized through digital resources. It concludes with a discussion of The Rossetti Archive as a “proof of concept” experiment to test the social-text approach to editorial method.
How should humanities scholars, and especially their educational and research institutions, deal with the digital transformation of their libraries and publishing venues? Although posed repeatedly for about twenty-five years, especially since 1992, the question has become more clearly focused with the rapid expansion of IT resources and infrastructure. The National Digital Public Library initiative, launched in 2010, is a decisive event that allows us to reflect on the early history of digital technology in the humanities. Most pressing is the need for the profession at large to become an informed and active player in the transformation of postsecondary education and scholarship. (JM)
New building schemes, new commercial agendas and new trading practices reshaped the topography of the London book trade between 1695 and 1830. Fixed sites of sale increasingly replaced (but by no means completely supplanted) itinerant traders supplied by cheap book depots. Greater book-trade concentrations in particular streets and precincts supported new trade specializations. Bookshops, printing houses and subscription and commercial libraries followed developers and builders as fashionable London devoured the fields to the west and north of the City. As is often the case, change, especially rapid change, also highlighted continuities and encouraged the exploitation of tradition. Mapping the location of printers, booksellers and allied businesses deepens our understanding of the commercial and cultural orientation of the book trade between the late seventeenth and the mid-nineteenth centuries. As the following seeks to demonstrate, the business of publishing and bookselling, characterized by increasing diversity and a steady expansion of production, was closely allied to the transformation of London during this period. From a relatively modest European capital city, London became an imperial metropolis. The compact clusters of streets and public spaces within the medieval walls turned into the nucleus of a sprawling conglomerate of different neighbourhoods. The practical (if not administrative) fusion of London, Westminster and Southwark during the eighteenth century stretched from the elegance of western and northern squares to the wharves and squalor of the East End, to the workshops and market gardens south of the Thames. By means of its products – and notably by books and periodicals – London was highly visible to the country at large. Commentators acclaimed the flow of goods in and out of the city as a marvel of the age. As John Macky noted in the 1720s, London boasted open gates rather than being encircled by continental-style bastions.