A Prince’s Papers: Session 2


Read the introduction page for background on this workshop series.

In this session, and expanding upon the work of the first session, we will have a look at some of the manuscripts for Prince Albert's speeches. In preparation for producing our own editions of a small group of these speeches, we will look at some of the key considerations in preparing an edition, add one or two new TEI tags to our repertoire, and work through turning our plain text edition of the speech from Session 1 into a digital print edition.

Editorial practice

Through the course of these workshops, we will produce a set of editions of historical documents and, as such, should give some thought to what it is to remediate the past in this way, why we are doing it, and how these reasons affect our decision making process.

Why are we editing these documents? What is our intent? Are we aiming to produce a rigorous diplomatic edition, or to make them more accessible through a normalised edition? What is the intended audience for the editions, and how will our interventions affect how the documents are understood? What is the context of our transcriptions and editions? How do we make these things clear in our editions? And how do we make the relationship between our edition and the original document transparent?

There is no definitively correct answer to these questions that matches all circumstances; rather, different answers to them will suggest different approaches. However, it is considerations such as these that mark out considered textual scholarship for publication from the ways in which we take notes for our own reference when using materials in our research. 

In this instance, we are preparing two distinct types of edition. One is a digitally marked-up edition, in which we are encoding the main features of layout as well as semantic details such as people's names. The other is a semi-normalised edition of the text with a light scholarly apparatus - a description of the changes we have made to the text - and some contextual information regarding our edition.

A fully normalised edition of the text would introduce current spellings, ignore matters of layout, and make final, potentially opaque, decisions regarding any elements of the text that require interpretation. By going only part way to this, and taking a semi-diplomatic approach, we will be able to reflect the text well and be transparent about our process.

We will discuss these issues a little further in a future session, but, for now, let us return to our 'blank' transcription, which we made as our first pass transcription of Prince Albert's speech to the Royal Literary Fund.

Preparing the speech for digital print

Let's begin, simply enough, by copying the speech from our blank transcription and pasting it into a word processor. Then, we will give it a title, reflecting its archival origin, and note where it is held. I would suggest we use the title of the volume in which the speech is bound - 'Speeches by the Prince Consort' - followed by a ':' and the title of the speech in the archival description - 'The [Royal] Literary Fund'. 

Beneath the title, we will note its reference, which can be found on the albert.rct.uk site, in the metadata above the image viewer: 'RA VIC/MAIN/Z/271/5'. 'RA', here, stands for Royal Archives, and the reference following is the shelf-mark. Finally, we will acknowledge that it was accessed digitally, using the URI from the browser - this can be taken from the address bar of the browser, or using the share button on the page. Beneath this, we will say who it is edited by, inserting a section break below this.

Next, we will make sure that we reflect the layout of the document. We should already have it laid out as the original in terms of line breaks, so we will add '[Page break]'s to show how the document flows from page to page. 

We should also acknowledge any adjustments we might have made to the text. For example, on the penultimate page, Prince Albert has written 'not whish me to', striking out the 'h'. In this case, the intention is entirely clear, and so it is debatable as to whether it is necessary to point out our decision; however, a footnote at the bottom of the page reading 'Misspelling: 'whish', misplaced 'h' struck through' clarifies things. At the end of our text, we will insert a section break.

Finally, it would be a good thing to provide a little context for readers. This particular speech has no date or location attached to it, and it would be interesting to know when and where the event took place. Given that Prince Albert was a very public figure, and this seems to have been a significant event, it should not be difficult to find these things out from a contemporary newspaper report. Let's use the Bodleian's databases interface to find the British Library Newspapers, and then an advanced search to see if we can locate the information. We will limit the search to 1842, and look for 'Albert' and 'literary fund'. 

From the promisingly titled article 'Literary Fund Society' from the Morning Chronicle 12 May 1842, we discover that the event took place on Wednesday 11th May at the Freemasons' Tavern. We also find that it was attended by 'nearly four hundred gentlemen'. A little further research, via Wikipedia this time, we find that the Literary Fund was established in 1790 to help British writers, and that it did not become the 'Royal Literary Fund' until some years later. Similarly, we can discover the location of the Freemasons' Tavern on Great Queen Street, London.

All of this allows us to add a little bit of information to our edition about the context, and we might write something like

'The Literary Fund was established in 1790 as a benevolent fund for British writers experiencing financial difficulties. It was granted a royal charter in 1819 and added 'Royal' to its title in 1845. The Society held an annual fund-raising dinner, at which Prince Albert gave this speech in 1842. The dinner was held that year on the 11th of May in the Freemasons' Tavern, Great Queen Street, London, and contemporary reports suggest that it was attended by nearly four hundred guests.' 

Setting this in our new section, we will provide a footnote to the newspaper article and the relevant Wikipedia pages.

When we have finished, we can make any final decisions about font and styling, before we export our first, still tentative, semi-diplomatic digital print edition as a PDF.

Here is a draft of mine, based upon everything we have done together so far.




Now, it's your turn

Try your hand at transcribing and editing one of the following speeches, applying what we have worked on so far, and making a note of the problems you encounter. The speeches are all located at https://albert.rct.uk/collections/royal-archives/prince-alberts-official-papers/speeches-by-the-prince

The Laying of the Foundation Stone at Great Grimsby Dock

The Royal Agricultural Society

Merchant Taylors' Corporation

The Soldiers of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers

The Laying of the Foundation Stone of the National Gallery at Edinburgh

The Corporation of the Sons of the Clergy

The Metropolitan Cattle Market

The College of Physicians

Opening of the Clothworkers' Hall

You may encounter some challenges, and it may be useful to have a glance through first and come to the session today with any queries!