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Digital critical edition

A critical edition is a scholarly enriched edition, attempting to construct a text of a work using all the available evidence, where the evidence is accounted for in a critical apparatus, usually in the form of foot or endnotes. Often it will be an edition of a work that has multiple manuscript variants (this occurs mostly in older literature) or several printed versions that differ from each other. You might also see the term scholarly edition used in this context. This emphasises the fact that the edition is the result of scholarly research and is usable and reliable for academic purposes.
Note: a digital critcial edition is a actually a special form of enhanced e-text.

A digital critical usually presents various versions of the text: a diplomatic version (the closest possible representation of the original text), a normalized version (in which the editor has made a number of changes according to clear criteria, such as untangling abbreviations or correcting obvious writing or typesetting errors) and/or atranslation (either from one language to a different language, or from an older version of a language to a more modern one. In addition, a critical edition usually contains various glosses, such as explanations of words, terms, names, commentary and analysis, and inter-and intratextual relationships between words and other parts of the text.

In the research phase and in the production and publication of scholarly editions, digital methods and techniques can play an important role. Using the computer, it is possible to link transcipts and annotations to the relevant parts of the facsimile of the original document. The reader/researcher can usually choose which parts of the edition he or she wants to see. This provides a degree of flexibility that is not possible in printed materials, making a digital critical edition a powerful research tool.

Image CD-ROM Miller's TaleAs yet, most digital critical editions are published as commercial products on CD-ROM. Scholarly Digital Editions is an example of a publisher that specializes in the production and publication of (complex) digital scholarly editions. SDE's website offers a number of interesting previews. For example, have a look at Dante's Monarchia and Chaucer's The Miller's Tale.

Image CD-ROM Achter de SchermenThe CD-ROM Achter de Schermen (available at UB VU) is an example of a Dutch digital critical edition. This edition, produced by Peter de Bruijn, Vincent Neyet and Dirk van Hulle, allows the user to explore and compare all the sources for Willem Elsschot's 'Opdracht' for Tsjip and 'Achter de Scherman' from various perspectives. Each version of these texts has been included in full, both as an electronically searchable transcription and a digital facsimile. The researcher can also choose to view all variants for each version or follow the various steps of the writing process for each sentence.

Below are a number of digital critical editions that are available online.

Walewein ende Keye
Digital critical edition of the thirteenth-century Arthur novel Walewein ende Keye. This edition consists of an introduction and an annotated version of the text. It was developed with the eLaborate program of the Huygens ING.

Web edition of Vincent van Gogh's letters
This fully annotated and fully illustrated website contains all known letters to and from Vincent van Gogh in the original languages (Dutch and French) and in English translation. The letters are available as facsimiles and as transcriptions. The web edition also includes a powerful search function and is freely accessible.

Digital critical edition of Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Publication of The Mark Twain Project Online. This website's customizable interface offers many possibilites for reading and researching the original text and some of its manuscript versions.

Walden: A Fluid Text Edition
Digital critical edition of Walden by Henry David Thoreau.

The Digital Locke Project
Digital critical edition of the manuscripts of the British philosopher John Locke.

Parzival Projekt
Project that is working on a digital critical edition of Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival. This website provides a number of examples of the intended end product (See Editionsproben), which shows a digital facsimile, the critical text, the critical apparatus of variants and manuscript witnesses in four separate windows.

For more digital critical editions, see A catalog of Digital Scholarly Editions.

Other topics in this section: Introduction   Digital facsimile   E-text   Enhanced e-text   E-books and audiobooks