DALF - Digital Archive of Letters by Flemish Authors and Composers from the 19th & 20th century

Description: The availability of correspondences of authors and composers with their family, friends and colleagues, musicians, critics, illustrators, publishers, etc. is of great importance to literary scholars as well as to (art) historians, linguists, cultural sociologists etc. Letters do give an insight in and provide valuable information about, for instance the writing or composing process of an author or a composer, the dating, meaning and reception of a work, and provide further biographical details. In view of its assignment to study and valorize the Flemish literary heritage, the Centre for Scholarly Editing and Document Studies of the Royal Academy of Dutch Language and Literature (Centrum voor Teksteditie en Bronnenstudie - CTB) has launched the DALF project. DALF is an acronym for "Digital Archive of Letters by Flemish authors and composers from the 19th & 20th century". It is envisioned as a growing textbase of correspondence material which can generate different products for both academia and a wider audience, and thus provide a tool for diverse research disciplines ranging from literary criticism to historical, diachronic, synchronic, and sociolinguistic research. The input of this textbase will consist of the materials produced in separate electronic edition projects. The DALF project can be expected to stimulate new electronic edition projects, as well as the international debate on electronic editions of manuscripts.

Implementation description: In order to ensure maximum flexibility and (re)usability of each of the electronic DALF editions, a formal framework is required that can guarantee uniform integration of new projects in the DALF project. Therefore, the project is from the start aimed at adherence to international standards for electronic text encoding. An important formal standard used in the DALF project is XML, that enables the definition of structural text-grammars as Document Type Definitions (DTD). Also in the construction of such a DTD that is suitable for scientific markup of correspondence material, we tried to align with international efforts to define markup schemes. Without going into detail here, the insights and practices presented in international projects like TEI (Text Encoding Initiative), Master (Manuscript Access through Standards for Electronic Records), and MEP (Model Editions Partnership) were taken into consideration for the implementation of following requirements in a DTD for correspondence material: First, the DTD should be designed for the transcription of primary source material, from which letter editions can be generated. In view of this requirement, the work by the Model Editions Partnership proved of little use, since it is aimed at the digitisation of existing letter editions in print. Second, the DTD should allow to store detailed metadata about the transcribed document. This is the point where Master proved useful. Third, the DTD should be able to cater for letter-specific features, such as the previously mentioned envelope information, the postscript etc. Fourth, the DTD should allow for a general application to letter transcriptions and editions and should not restrict itself to the specific corpus of letters we are currently working on. The TEI encoding scheme provides an excellent starting point for many of the features one would like to encode in letters. Yet, letters have a number of specific elements that require additional encoding means. Since the TEI scheme can be extended when necessary, this is the approach taken for the development of the DALF DTD.

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Edward Vanhoutte
Centrum voor Teksteditie en Bronnenstudie Centre for Scholarly Editing and Document Studies Royal Academy of Dutch Language and Literature Koningstraat 18 b-9000 Gent Belgium
Tel: +32 9 265.93.51
Fax: +32 9 265.93.49
Email: evanhoutte@kantl.be

Last recorded change to this page: 2007-09-20  •  For corrections or updates, contact web@tei-c.org