Digital Thoreau and Huntington Library collaborate to digitize the Walden manuscript

I’m excited to announce that Digital Thoreau has embarked on a new project, funded by an Innovative Instruction Technology Grant from the State University of New York, to produce a fresh encoding of HM 924, the manuscript of Walden.

The grant has made it possible for the Huntington Library to digitize the manuscript and host the manuscript images in its Digital Library, where they can be freely accessed by the public.

The grant team will create online open educational resources on the practice of digital scholarly editing, using the Walden manuscript as a “laboratory” for introducing learners to principles, issues, and tools central to scholarly editing in general and the production of digital scholarly editions in particular.

Whether using these modules as part of a class or on their own, learners will have the opportunity to develop and hone their documentary editing skills by contributing to a brand-new encoding of the manuscript. Using an interactive transcription interface, they’ll be able to view the manuscript images and identify a variety of manuscript features (such as Thoreau’s insertions and cancellations) either through a suite of editing tools or by directly entering XML-TEI.

This new manuscript encoding will serve as an invaluable companion to Digital Thoreau’s current fluid-text edition of Walden, based on a collation of witnesses across the manuscript’s seven draft versions undertaken by Ronald E. Clapper for his 1967 PhD dissertation, The Development of Walden: A Genetic Text. In the intervening years, there has been no comparable effort to chart the evolution of Thoreau’s masterpiece by examining his extensive rewriting and redeployment of passages as the manuscript grew between 1846 and its publication in 1854. We expect that the Huntington’s high-resolution scan of the manuscript will yield numerous new insights and permit the correction of various errors.

The team collaborating on the SUNY grant-funded project, A Laboratory-Based Introduction to Digital Scholarly Editing, includes the following scholars:

  • Dr. Paul Schacht, Professor of English, SUNY Geneseo and Director, Digital Thoreau (PI)
  • Dr. Elizabeth Witherell, Editor-in-Chief, The Writings of Henry D. Thoreau (Princeton University Press)
  • Dr. Elisa Beshero-Bondar, Associate Professor of English and Director, Center for the Digital Text, University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg
  • Dr. Caroline Woidat, Professor of English, SUNY Geneseo
  • Dr. Rebecca Nesvet, Associate Professor of English, University of Wisconsin — Green Bay
  • Dr. Fiona Coll, Assistant Professor of Literature and Technology, SUNY Oswego
  • Dr. Nikolaus Wasmoen, Visiting Professor of English, University at Buffalo

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