Folger Shakespeare Library announces new 'Digital Texts'

Now online: a dozen Shakespeare plays and much more.

WASHINGTON, December 7, 2012 – Washington’s world-renowned Folger Shakespeare Library announced today its new “Folger Digital Texts.” The aim, according to a release from the library, describes their new online effort as a site that “offers meticulously edited, accurate texts—drawn from the Folger Editions, the leading Shakespeare texts used in American classrooms—in a beautifully readable format with the added power of in-depth, behind-the-scenes coding.”

The development team for this project “includes Rebecca Niles, editor and interface architect, and Michael Poston, editor and encoding architect.”

The new site includes full source code and is offered as “a free, online resource for students and teachers, theater artists and theatergoers, scholars, and others.”

According to Folger Director Michael Witmore, “The most widely-used electronic version of the plays–the Globe Edition (1864)–is over a century old. I believe the Folger Digital Texts will replace it as the electronic edition of record for Shakespeare’s plays.”

Play texts currently available through the site include Hamlet, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Tempest. The Library’s aim is to have all Shakespeare’s plays available at the site roughly a year from its current launch.

According to the release, users who access the new site “can read the plays online, download PDFs for offline reading, search for keywords within a single play or the whole corpus, and navigate by act, scene, line, or the new Folger throughline numbers… Plays are also displayed with the same page numbers as in the Folger Shakespeare Library print editions to allow the two to be easily used together in classrooms.” (A representative screen shot of the site, taken this afternoon, appears below.)

Screen shot of a page of ‘Hamlet’ on the Folger’s new online research facility. Note descriptive text to the left and search facilities available on the right.

Users can also download the Folger’s source code for the available texts, which should be a significant boost for those conducting scholarly research in a timelier and more efficient manner. In terms of future humanities scholarship, it’s also the library’s hope that this current effort to share its coded texts will significantly advance digital humanities research into the works of Shakespeare and other writers of his time.”

The new Folger Digital Texts “are a companion to the Folger Shakespeare Library print editions and e-books, published by Simon and Schuster and edited by Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine, which include essays, glosses, notes, and illustrations from the Folger collection in addition to the play text.”

Hopefully, the Folger’s new online facility will attract significant interest from literary scholars. As a former bibliographer himself, this writer would certainly have appreciated such a marvelous, time-efficient tool back in the day when a pen and a 3x5 card were your closest friends. Such online projects are increasingly valuable in this difficult economic era, where budgets for humanities research are not infrequently among the first to get trimmed.

Click this link to check out the Folger’s new site.


Read more of Terry’s news and reviews at Curtain Up! in the Entertain Us neighborhood of the Washington Times Communities. For Terry’s investing and political insights, visit his Communities columns, The Prudent Man and Morning Market Maven, in Business.

Follow Terry on Twitter @terryp17


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Terry Ponick

Now writing on investing, politics, music, and theater for the Washington Times Communities, Terry was the longtime music and culture critic for the Washington Times (1994-2009). 

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