Report: SHARP 2013 Digital Projects and Tools Showcase

In mid-July the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading
& Publishing (SHARP) met
for its twenty-first annual conference, “Geographies
of the Book,”
in Philadelphia. Hosted by University of
Pennsylvania, the conference included a three-hour, stand-alone
digital showcase on Saturday, July 20th. Before I turn to the
sixteen projects featured in the showcase, a few words about
the history of digital sessions at SHARP are in order.

The tradition of showcasing digital projects at SHARP
conferences was begun by Dr. Katherine Harris (San Jose
University) for the 2008 conference held in Oxford, England.
Currently serving as the E-Resources Review Editor for SHARP
News
, Dr. Harris continued to organize showcases for
subsequent conferences. These highly popular sessions ran
concurrently with other sessions. Although the 2011 Washington,
DC organizers had attempted to find space to hold a stand-alone
session that would not compete with other panels, space
limitations prevented this desire from becoming a reality. A
successful digital project session for the DC conference,
however, was organized once again by Kathy Harris. Yet, the
2013 Digital Showcase at Penn marked the first time that the
demonstrations of new digital projects and tools at SHARP had a
dedicated time slot of its own as well as a setting well-suited
to such an exhibition.

With a dedicated three-hour running time, the digital showcase
ran from 12:30 to 3:30 pm; it competed for attention with
parallel programming only during its final hour. The showcase’s
location in Penn’s Houston Hall’s Hall of Flags easily
accommodated 16 six-foot tables, each with its own monitor, and
afforded the room for numerous attendees to navigate the
various stations with ease.

Mitch Fraas (UPenn) demonstrates his project.
Photo credit: Alex Franklin (Univ. of Oxford)

Alan Galey (UToronto) demonstrates his project.
Photo credit: Alex Franklin (Univ. of Oxford)

The following is a list of the sixteen projects:

Eight of the sixteen projects deal directly with the early
modern period, and at least two–Mark Algee-Hewitt and Tom
Mole’s Bibliograph and Tim Stinson’s ARC and
Collex–extend beyond the historical confines of the early
modern but possess specific relevance to the period. I have
counted Alan Galey’s The Borders of the Book: Visualizing
Paratexts and Marginalia in Multiple Copies and Editions

among the early modern projects because his work relies on
texts from this period. Yet, his work on digital visualizations
of differences in paratextual features and different readers’
marginalia found in multiple copies of the same books has
larger application, too. All of the projects, no matter what
the period, embody approaches and strategies afforded by the
digital that can help advance work in book history and related
fields. The projects are also at various stages–and you will
notice that some have links, and some don’t because they are
either in very early stages or simply not ready for widespread
release. Bibliograph, for instance, is currently a
prototype, with a beta version in the works for testing; the
project launch date is aimed for 2014 or 2015.

END: Early Novels Database is a collaborative project
involving several Philadelphia academic institutions but still
in the midst of digitization and construction. In contrast,
the Eighteenth-Century English Grammars Database is, in
one sense, “complete, but as Professor Yáñez-Bouza noted, it is
also “an open-end project because one can always add more
grammars and some of the fields could be completed with more
information had we the resources to look into contemporary book
reviews and sales catalogues (e.g. the fields Price and Target
Audience).”

Several of the projects have made previous appearances in EMOB
posts. A
post
last June mentioned ARC (Advanced Research
Consortium), and it is very good to see the progress since
then. The Mellon grant that the Early Modern OCR Project (see
the entry for Jacob Heil) received was announced in a
post
last fall. More recently, EMOB devoted a post to
the
image-matching software
developed at the Bodleian that Alex
Franklin presented at SHARP. Finally, the Mapping the
Republic of Letters
project the EMOB discussed in a

post
several years ago, served as the inspiration for Mitch
Fraas’s Expanding the Republic of Letters: India and the
Circulation of Ideas in the Late Eighteenth Century
.

Explore and comment!