What future for digital scholarly editions? From Haute Couture to Prêt-à-Porter

  • Elena PierazzoEmail author
Research Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Special Issue on Digital Scholarly Editing


Digital scholarly editions are expensive to make and to maintain. As such, they prove unattainable for less established scholars like early careers and PhD students, or indeed anyone without access to significant funding. One solution could be to create tools and platforms able to provide a publishing framework for digital scholarly editions that requires neither a high-tech skillset nor big investment. I call this type of edition “Prêt-à-Porter”, to be distinguished from “haute couture” editions which are tailored to the specific needs of specific scholars. I argued that both types of editions are necessary for a healthy scholarly environment.


Digital scholarly editions Sustainability XML TEI 

1 Digital scholarly editions: a broken academic model?

Digital scholarly editions are considered to be one of the crown jewels of Digital Humanities, as the proliferation of projects, publications, and initiatives demonstrates (Pierazzo 2015a; Driscoll and Pierazzo 2016; Boot et al. 2017).1 This is because they offer innovative ways of representing texts and the histories of their transmission, and they also renew old debates and offer new models and solutions. These are some of their strengths, but, ironically, they are also their weaknesses. The creation of highly sophisticated and tailored digital scholarly editions has characterised the ‘pioneer’ phase of digital scholarly editing; however, in spite of the excellence of the scholarly achievements represented by many of these editions, which have demonstrated the digital medium’s amazing potential for exploring and representing textuality in innovative and unexplored ways,2 there are several reasons to consider the results produced so far less than satisfactory. The main problem lies in the fact that each digital edition presents the edited text in different ways, sometimes traceable back to traditional types of editions, such as diplomatic or critical editions, and sometimes following innovative and unprecedented models which offer different types of textuality and interactions to their often disoriented users; this is in spite of the fact that most editions use the format developed by the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI Consortium 2018) as their data model. In addition, from a technical point of view, given the almost total absence of readily-available tools and publishing environments,3 editions are offered from a bewildering range of different platforms, most of which are produced ad hoc for one specific project, mostly produced for one specific project by a team of skilled and specialised developers. This means that these editions become expensive endeavours, achievable only because significant and ad hoc funding has been provided. Furthermore, digital editions must be innovative, otherwise they run the risk of not getting this necessary funding (Causer et al. 2012), a requirement that further prevents the development of stable models and tools.

These facts have several consequences: first, because of their variety and the consequent difficulty of assessing them, scholarly editions have not won recognition as an authoritative expression of scholarship; secondly, only scholars who can secure large amounts of funding are able to create digital scholarly editions, and this cuts out early career researchers and people beyond easy reach of an IT department with the resources to support such endeavours; thirdly, the high level of variation of these resources on the one hand is caused by the lack of readily available tools, but on the other had it prevents the development of such tools, and this perpetuates the problem; fourthly, the specialisation of such editions makes their long-term preservation particularly complex and expensive, and in part as a consequence of this, digital editions are perceived as unstable and not worthy of investment. These drawbacks may help explain why so many scholarly editions are still published on paper only, with the consequence that philologists, who were amongst the first and most keen adopters of digital methods,4 are still torn between the wish to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the digital medium and the safety offered by a print publication. The latter, however, is not exempt from problems, such as, for instance, the proven limitation of the rectangular page and what can be stored within the covers to represent adequately the intricacies of writers’ draft manuscripts, modernist texts or large textual traditions (Pierazzo 2014); the limited circulation of scholarly editions beyond the restricted circle which produces them, which is in part a consequence of the very high cost of such volumes, which are often only affordable to libraries; the power position of publishers, which often determine what is to be edited and how; the lack of engagement of the scholarly community with textual criticism; and so on. Digital editing has been seen as a way over overcoming these problems (Robinson 2003, 2005), but while some of these issues have indeed been adequately addressed, others remain to be solved.

The problem of cost seems the most pressing, and it seems to have been the most important among the factors which have kept many scholars away from digital editions, given the endemic lack of funding for humanities disciplines (Robinson 2016). The contrast between the financial model of a print-based edition and the financial model of a digital one is striking: in fact the cost of producing printed editions is relatively low, or, more to the point, their financial and workflow models are integrated into the funding infrastructure of most academic institutions. Printed editions are often produced during the ‘normal’ research time of scholars, and thus they normally are produced over a very long period of time: it is not unheard of that an edition takes ten or more years to be produced; funding is normally required to travel to libraries, but again, since the timeframe of the edition is quite spread out, in many cases these costs can be met by regular research allowances. Indeed, for scholars it is normally much easier to access small amounts of money every year than a large amount all at once.5 Finally, support to meet publication costs can often be gained thanks to specific university funds or by appealing to foundations and/or private funders. In contrast, digital editions normally have a project-like financial and working model (Burdick et al. 2012, 130): since technical development typically requires the hiring of a skilled workforce, the work cannot be spread out as it can for printed editions: work must be performed and completed in a relatively small amount of time (the time of the availability of the funds). This compels scholars to devote to the work a considerable amount of time in a focussed manner, and this in turn often requires specific further funding in order to buy out such time. While this revised timeframe could be seen in many ways as an improvement (as editions become available in a timely manner), editorial work cannot easily be squeezed like this: given the attention to detail required for tasks like transcription, collation, and editing, these tasks are more effectively and conscientiously achieved when completed in small instalments. Furthermore, the very short timeframe allowed by most funding schemes (commonly two to three years) does not allow for the discovery of new materials and/or the kinds of complications which are often encountered in work involving manuscripts and other types of primary sources; the result is that at the end of the funding period, many editions are not quite ready for the public eye or do not meet the exacting standards of textual scholars; nevertheless, published they must be, as funding runs out and the funder must be shown that something has been done with the resources they provided. The result is that many editions are put on the web with a “Beta” or a “Work in Progress” disclaimer.6

But why are digital editions expensive? What is the funding needed for, exactly? First, digital editions need funds to cover the costs of hiring people capable of carrying out the technical developments (data structuring, web interfaces, analytical tools…) and everything that is connected to them: long term hosting, maintenance, server setup, and so on. Money is also required to obtain digital images of primary sources and to pay for the right to publish them on the web; furthermore money is often required to buy out teaching time of researchers, to cover the costs of travel to libraries and conferences, and to provide researchers with the technical training required to accomplish the project goal; of these costs, certainly the one required for the technical infrastructure is the most substantial. It could be argued that if editors learned how to produce digital editions by themselves, most of the problems connected to the production of these editions would be solved; however the skillset required to produce a good quality edition is quite remarkable, combining philological (textual criticism, codicology, palaeography, historical linguistics, etc.) and technical (XML, TEI, XSLT, HTML, CSS, web design, for a starter) competences which are not easy to acquire at an optimal level of proficiency. In particular, technical skills are not (yet?) part of the standard curriculum for a textual scholar, and even if in recent years we have born witness to a proliferation of specific training and summer schools,7 it is clear that one needs a considerable amount of time to achieve true proficiency. Participation in a weeklong course is no substitute for a university degree in computer engineering or computer science. But in addition to these kinds of considerations concerning professionalism, one can also reasonably ask whether the advent of the autocracy in digital scholarly editing is an aim at all: is the development of interactive high-quality websites the best use of a textual scholar’s time? To some extent the internet has allowed people to do things that previously required specialised operators, such as, for instance, banking or organising holidays abroad, and we may now have the impression that digital DIY in all fields is a worthwhile goal. However, when it comes to academic outcomes, things are more complicated, and the affordances of the few tools available to scholars are not enough to enable them to create an edition without engaging in the acquisition of sophisticated technical skills. More to the point, it is also doubtful that a self-produced edition will ever gain a complete academic acceptability: one of the advantages offered by printed editions is the fact that the publishing industry has worked for quite some time as a quality filter, mostly thanks to the peer review mechanism; digital editions, instead, are more often than not produced without the engagement of a publisher, and while the process of obtaining grants could perhaps be seen as a kind of functional substitute peer reviewing, when the edition is produced solo, then how are we to distinguish an academic quality edition form any other text on the web? As Peter Shillingsburg warned us a few years ago, “texts on screen look remarkably alike, despite profound differences in quality” (Shillingsburg 2006, 87). To address this question, RIDE, a journal completely devoted to the reviewing of scholarly editions was launched in 2014; however, in spite the fact that, at the time of writing, they have produced forty-five reviews of very high quality, examining in detail both the scholarly and the digital component of the editions, it is not yet clear whether or not these reviews have been able to provide any further academic credibility to the editions they discuss. Furthermore, a self-produced edition will necessarily look unprofessional, and in all likelihood it will have poor usability, which will increase the sense of the untrustworthiness of digital outcomes.

But it gets worse: however difficult it may be to obtain a sizable grant, even having money may not be enough. Many digital editions are produced within Digital Humanities research centres, such as, for instance, the Cologne Center for eHumanities at the University of Cologne, King’s Digital Lab at King’s College London, and the Centre for Manuscripts and Genetics in Antwerp.8 The fact that these dedicated centres are often required shows how difficult it to conceive and produce a digital edition without experience and qualified knowledge; these centres are scarce, and normally their services are reserved to local scholars and subject to the obtainment of substantial grants.

The situation described so far is not encouraging, but the picture gets even bleaker. In fact, one of the greatest limits of the framework within which digital editions are currently being developed is that they are basically out of reach of PhD students and early career scholars, even if these are the very people who are most keen to engage with these approaches, judging from the great success of training programmes that have been offered to this academic demographic.9 Even if they might be able to model and encode their editions after one of these trainings, there are basically no spaces where such editions can be published without having to pay. Self-publication could be a possibility, but, as mentioned above, this would be completely inappropriate for career-building purposes. The problem is that if we cannot properly offer the required support to eager early-career researchers then, there is little hope that this situation will ever change; by ‘support’ I also mean getting scholars to publish their produced digital editions in a way that can lead them to an academic career.

2 Editing, fashionably: Haute Couture and Prêt-à-Porter

As we can see, the problem is manifold, and certainly there are no any easy solutions. However, digital scholarly editing is mature enough and widespread enough that we may be able to find ways which lead toward what might look like a solution. The title of this article was inspired by a young colleague, Elise Leclerc, who suggested we could look at the fashion industry as a metaphor for a possible new approach to digital scholarly editing (Pierazzo and Leclerc 2015). The fashion industry clearly distinguishes between two lines of products: the Haute Couture, and the Prêt-à-Porter. The former is characterised by the fact that each piece is unique and is often created for one person only to wear for a special red-carpet occasion. Haute Couture can and indeed usually must be innovative and creative and has more to do with art and innovation than with the production of wearable items; furthermore, Haute Couture produces luxury objects which are extremely expensive and beyond the reach of most of us. While Haute Couture is featured in television and glossy magazines, as its name suggests, Prêt-à-Porter (‘ready to wear’) is the term used to refer to the class of items people can actually buy in shops and wear in their normal day-to-day lives. Prêt-à-Porter clothing comes in different sizes and colours, and it is normally worn by its owners more than once. These items may be inspired by Haute Couture, but they simplify it, making it accessible and wearable.

2.1 Modelling Prêt-à-Porter editions

If we adapt this metaphor to digital scholarly editions, we notice that at the moment the editions we produce bear more affinities with Haute Couture than they do with Prêt-à-Porter: digital editions are typically unique. Each is provided with a set of dedicated tools, and each is innovative, creative, expensive, and specific to the text for which it was created, and it is not normally available to others to use. The challenge here is to imagine what a Prêt-à-Porter edition might look like, that is, to model the digital editions of the future and their editors, or, better, the skills they need to acquire.

First, the same infrastructure should be reusable for many editions, and these kinds of infrastructures should be portable; by ‘infrastructure’ I mean a digital environment or a tool which allows scholars to insert their annotated files (XML or other suitable formats) and ‘see’ the file(s) in some sort of presentable way that makes sense to a given scholarly community; by ‘portable’ I mean that it should not be available exclusively to people within a given institution or usable exclusively with a specific type of computer. Second, the interface and layout of the published texts should be familiar and recognisable to the users to avoid disorientation and help further assessments of the scholarly value of the edition. Third, it should be possible to ‘plug in’ essential tools (such as, for instance, full-text search, zooming, and annotating digital images), which in turn should be reusable and easy to set up. Fourth, the edition should be easy to create for the scholar, in the sense that it should not require her to set up a web server or to know programming languages; it could well be that this infrastructure is actually hosted by an institution (as we will see below), and it therefore only requires the scholar to be able to annotate her texts in a suitable format and to choose among several displaying options. Finally, it should be possible to customize it to a certain extent, with some basic models to choose from (for instance: documentary editions displaying images to the side of the edited text; critical editions with apparatus and/or witnesses to be displayed to the side of the edited text), and some changeable features (for instance images as thumbnails or to the side, notes as pop-ups or in a column to the side of the text).

These characteristics may seem almost obvious, and similar proposals have been advanced by other scholars as well,10 but they are not easy to put into practice, nor is the creation of this kind of infrastructure (or many such infrastructures, as would be more desirable) free of problems and limitations. The main problem is that creating such an infrastructure requires a degree of standardisation and implies a loss of originality in the edition itself: it basically transforms the digital edition into an edition produced and published digitally. What I mean here is that the emphasis moves from the digital product to the (digital) text, and that the publishing infrastructure becomes simply the place from within which the edition can be appreciated. Although this approach re-establishes digital editing within textual scholarship, it also waives some of the potentials of the digital environment and misses the opportunity to produce ground-breaking research. In fact, in this case the digital is no longer part of the scholarly output. Rather, it becomes its backbone, and the digital becomes a tool, not a field of research. However, it might well be that not all digital editions are intended to be ground-breaking in terms of the digital solutions they offer: in many cases, textual scholars want to be ground-breaking with the texts they publish, and not with the publishing solutions they offer; sometimes, in fact, it is all about the text, and rightly so.

The advantages of this Prêt-à-Porter approach do not end with a renewed emphasis on the textual content of digital scholarly editions, far from it. The existence of infrastructures of the type described above can help the spread of digital editions and can provide a more sustainable and durable environment for digital editions; furthermore, these infrastructures can provide a good opportunity to consolidate the achievements of digital editing, making them further available. In fact, in order to be able to build an infrastructure like the one mentioned above, there is a need for a preliminary and substantial modelling effort, an activity which will then necessarily lead to a consolidation of the results achieved so far by digital editing as a whole. If one examines digital editing and digital editions, it is certainly already possible to find some models and trends that are widely shared: for instance the presence of digital facsimiles; the use of XML-TEI as un underlying technology; the tendency to provide documentary editions as part of the final delivery, whether or not a critical edition is also produced. These trends and models can be seen as foundations on which a generalised infrastructure could be built; however, they are soft models, so to speak, meaning that they are not constrained enough from a technical and from a scholarly point of view to allow for a single generic framework.

Let us take the example of the TEI. The standard produced by the TEI can be used in as many different ways as there are editions, and for each textual feature one can find at least two different ways to encode it; this flexibility is one of the reasons behind its widespread adoption, but it is also one of the reasons why there is a limited number of tools to exploit TEI-encoded files. If we compare this to printed editions, we could note that print culture has produced a limited number of very identifiable and long-lasting models, such as, for instance, diplomatic editions and critical editions (regardless of the underlying theoretical approach on which they are based). Digital textual scholarship has in turn created other models, such as, for instance, the hypertextual edition, the paradigmatic edition, and the social edition (Pierazzo 2015a, pp. 17–36), but none of these editions inform its user of what to expect from a textual point of view, since their typology focuses mostly on the way in which they have been produced or the way in which they are offered to their users, not on the editorial approach. For example, neither of the two existing catalogues of digital scholarly editions, the one maintained by Sahle (2008) and the one maintained by Greta Franzini (Franzini 2012; Franzini et al. 2016), allows its user to search or filter by editorial model, and this reveals that their centre of interest is located elsewhere and it is very hard to gather such information by looking at a digital edition.

In some cases, digital editions make explicit references to pre-digital models, such as diplomatic or critical editions. However, the way they are produced in practice means that these traditional models are too narrow and do not account for the edition in its entirety.11 Let us consider the case of a documentary edition (like the edition of the Vercelli Book or the Electronic Beowulf)12 that offers to the user the possibility to switch back and forth from a diplomatic to an interpretative/critical edition, offering both original spellings and modernised ones. In this case, the digital edition contains a diplomatic edition and a critical edition, but it is at the same time something more than a simple juxtaposition of them. For this type of edition, I have suggested the label ‘digital documentary edition’ (Pierazzo 2011) but a larger and more exhaustive effort is needed to classify other digital editorial models.

In order to be able to offer a stable infrastructure for digital editions it is therefore necessary to reflect on the features that the scholarly community will consider essential to a particular type of text or scholarly problem and to agree on some essential models which take into account the new affordances offered by the digital. Failing to reach an agreement on these issues might lead to two main problems: tools will be built which people will find inadequate and which will therefore remaining unused; or, even worse, the tools will be used only because they are convenient, even if they do not fit the research questions of textual scholarship, and therefore constraining the potentials of the research itself. The requirement of building editing infrastructure on agreed scholarly models is not an easy one, as remarked by Tara Andrews (2013), but it is not impossible. In fact, any philologist is capable of ‘reading’ a stemma codicum, even without being able to read the language of the edited text this stemma is about. This is due to the powerful simplicity of the model, the authoritativeness of the editor who first developed it (Karl Lachmann), and the exemplary role of the texts for which it was used at the time (De Rerum Natura by Lucretius and the New Testament) (Timpanaro 1963). A significant further contribution to the prevalence of this method is due to the uniformity and constraints offered by the publishing method, i.e. the printed codex. In fact, the limits of the book (both in terms of space and layout) have forced editors and publishers to make choices and to elaborate publication models that are at once effective, efficient, and standardised; without available alternatives, we have forgotten the fact that these models were forged by limitations and compromise, and we have received them as if they were the optimal format for the dissemination of textual criticism, overlooking also that their apparent final homogeneity hides very different transmission and textual circumstances which can only partially emerge from and be accounted for by the compact symbolism of the critical apparatus (Bryant 2002, p. 27).

2.2 Existing Prêt-à-Porter tools and infrastructures in 2018

At the time of writing, there are already a few tools which could be seen as embryonic Prêt-à-Porter editorial models, a fact that shows how digital editors are coming to the same conclusions around the world. Amongst the best and most popular is the TEI Publisher, which offers the chance to upload one’s TEI files, tweaking the interface, and then downloading a functioning edition and web application.13 Another tool which offers a good solution is the Versioning Machine, which displays TEI-encoded editions with a critical apparatus but also allows one to rebuild the texts of the witnesses of an edition from the variants included in the apparatus.14 Another example is the EVT framework, which exists in two versions: version 1 allows visualisations of TEI-encoded transcriptions side by side with their facsimiles, while version 2 provides support for critical editions and critical apparatus.15 There are other tools, of course, even if not as many as one might wish, but a full overview of tools and frameworks to support digital editions goes beyond the scope of the present article.

What most tools have in common is the fact the their development seems to have been generated from data models (how a file is encoded), from specific projects, and from specific requests made by early users, more than from an effort to assess the editorial models needed by the scholarly community. Some of these tools are very specialised and only cater for a very specialised data model (like the Versioning Machine), while others are more adaptive (like the TEI Publisher), but what is missing is the proposal of a scholarly model which is theoretically and editorially based. The risk is that the availability of these (and of course any other) tools, because of the paucity of such tools overall, will transform them into de facto editorial models even when they lack solid scholarly backing; we should never forget that the creation of tools is a powerful modelling activity, as a quote (possibly wrongly) attributed to Marshall McLuhan suggests: “we shape our tools, and thereafter our tool shape us”.

2.3 Modelling the editor and the editorial spaces of Prêt-à-Porter editions

Another fact that needs to be considered when developing a publishing framework is the required level of familiarity with the informatics of a potential user: are textual scholars supposed to be able to use the tools themselves? Will they need help setting up the edition? And if so, who will provide this help? The question is far from trivial, and the answer depends on the skill level that a textual scholar is supposed to obtain before being able to use a publishing infrastructure. There are in fact at least two schools of thought on this issue (and many intermediate takes in between): there are those who believe that scholars should be able to become programmers (Andrews 2013),16 and there are those who think that all technical complexities (including encoding in XML) should be hidden from the philologist (Del Vento et al. 2016). The two approaches can lead to the development of completely different tools and environments. At the time of writing, it is not completely clear toward which one of these two extremes the discipline is leading, but, judging by the number of training programmes, summer schools, and courses that are offered more and more frequently around the globe, it seems that some level of computational literacy is expected to become part of the training of textual scholars. Yet, if tools shape their users, the production of a successful framework for the publication of digital editions could influence the education of the next generation of textual scholars in the same way that the ubiquity of word processors has influenced the ways in which we now conceive of textuality (Kirschenbaum 2015).

One other aspect of the Prêt-à-Porter editorial model needs to be carefully pondered, namely who should produce and, even more importantly, maintain these infrastructures. The most obvious candidate and the one that is the most likely to give sustainability to the entire endeavour is the library (Van Zundert and Boot 2012; Pierazzo et al. 2016). Libraries are institutions which vocationally care about standardisation and preservation and are therefore best positioned to offer such services. Examples like Cambridge University Library and the Library of Indiana at Bloomington17 demonstrate this principle, as these libraries serve as editorial hubs and repositories of digital editions to which they have contributed as modellers and producers. Another interesting approach is the one offered by TextGrid, an infrastructure funded for ten years by the German Federal government and now maintained by the European Network DARIAH.18 TextGrid offers tools for both editing and publishing, but the infrastructure has been used more to produce a digital library than to produce individual scholarly editions; its persistency and the remarkable toolset it have developed nevertheless makes TextGrid a good starting point for what we have called a Prêt-à-Porter editions infrastructure. It is worth mentioning the case of an academic fully peer-reviewed online journal, namely Scholarly Editing,19 which provides the publishing infrastructure for several editions a year as part of its regular issues; the journal is based at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and is hosted by one of the specialised Digital Humanities centres mentioned above, the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities.20 These approaches all share a very important characteristic: they stem from academic institutions, and, as such, they are able to provide a stamp of respectability to their editions, a not negligible factor when it comes to academic acceptability and career expectations. In addition to these institutional approaches (libraries, journals, and TextGrid), one should mention, finally, the effort of scholars like Peter Robinson, who is one of the first to have produced reusable software for digital editions: Anastasia (Robinson 2002); later, this experience was wrapped up into a publishing house called SDE Publisher. Another publishing house which is strongly engaged in supporting digital scholarly editions is the Presses Universitaires de Caen, which have developed a workflow able to go from a Microsoft Word file to a fully fledged TEI-based online and printed scholarly edition (Buard 2015). Unfortunately, these two examples of publishing houses are exceptions: generally speaking, publishing houses have shown little interest in digital editions, unless these editions are simply digitised versions of printed ones. This is particularly lamentable, since publishing houses have traditionally been responsible for guaranteeing the quality and the dissemination of the output of textual scholarship. It is also true that the publishing model offered by the digital and the expectations of the public for free access to all resources do not easily give rise to a practice that would be commercially viable. It is possible that the creation of models and frameworks for the so-called Prêt-à-Porter editions and the economy of costs that this brings might entice publishing houses to engage more fully with digital scholarship of this sort.

The lessons we can learn from the establishment of the method developed by Lachmann is that in order to create a new editorial framework and, more importantly, to build the scholarly consensus behind it, we need important and authoritative examples of editions and scholarly discussions around concerning these examples in the form of publications, symposia, and international collaboration. For the latter, I believe that a big role could be played by the TEI. The TEI has built a large, international community of passionate users and contributors who over the course of the past thirty years have collaboratively created a series of models which have had a profound impact in many sectors of the humanities and in particular on textual scholarship. This community could therefore be pivotal for the establishment and diffusion of scholarly models based on the TEI encoding models.

To conclude, I would venture a few words about Haute Couture editions. Like the fashion industry, we also need both Haute Couture and Prêt-à-Porter, where the former takes the role of experimenting, of being ground-breaking, and of taking the risk of failing, while the latter takes the role of consolidating, of proposing advanced scholarly solutions to a larger audience of scholars, and of enabling early-career scholars in particular to engage with digital scholarship in a safe manner (safe from the perspectives of their future careers, that is). It is clear that the existence of the two approaches to digital editions can only be reciprocally beneficial and can provide a sustainable means of development for the discipline. The challenges ahead are more scholarly than they are technical, since technical solutions and infrastructures already exist in practice; what is missing is a cultural shift capable of making these initiatives scholarly sound.


  1. 1.

    For some such initiatives, see for instance, DIXiT ( and DEMM ( See also the journal devoted to the reviewing of Digital Scholarly Editions, RIDE (

  2. 2.

    See, for instance, the Beckett Digital Manuscript Project (, or the Dante Alighieri’s Commedia project (2010) (

  3. 3.

    Some exceptions are discussed below.

  4. 4.

    The very first Digital Humanities project was led by philologist Father Roberto Busa (Busa 1974); see also Robinson 2005.

  5. 5.

    At least, this is my experience of working at Italian, English, and French institutions.

  6. 6.

    This is the case, for instance, of the LangScape project ( (Stokes and Pierazzo 2009); it is also the case of the Vercelli Book, for which see below.

  7. 7.

    For instance, the DHSI (Digital Humanities Summer Institute) at the University of Victoria (CA); MMSDA (Medieval and Modern Manuscripts Studies in the Digital Age), University of London (Institute of English Studies, King’s College London, Warburg Institute) and of Cambridge; EDEEN (École D’Éte Éditions Numériques), University of Grenoble.

  8. 8.
  9. 9.

    Most of the summer schools and training offered in the field, some of which have been mentioned above, are attended by PhD students and early career scholars; for instance, in 2017 the EDEEN Summer School had 85% of their places filled by early career scholars and PhD students.

  10. 10.

    Peter Robinson has been particularly vocal about this issue (2010, 2016), but the subject has been debated at many conferences. The attempt to meet these needs is embodied by some of the tools presented below (TEI Publisher; EVT; Versioning Machine).

  11. 11.

    For instance, see the Piers Plowman electronic edition (, which offers a link to the “Critical Text” from the home page; The Excerpt from the Chronicle of Matthew of Edessa ( also purports to be a critical edition. The editions of the Stufaiuolo, in contrast, only declare to be “scholarly editions” (Pierazzo 2015b).

  12. 12.

    The edition of the Vercelli Book is available as a “beta” version (see above about “beta” publishing) at the address:; more about the project at the website:; the Fourth edition of the Electronic Beowulf, edited by Kevin Kiernan, is available at the address

  13. 13.

    TEI Publisher is based on eXist, an XML database and is developed by eXist Solution (

  14. 14.

    The Versioning Machine is developed and maintained by Susan Schreibman (

  15. 15.

    EVT (Edition Visualization Technology) is developed by Roberto Rosselli Del Turco and his team; EVT 2 is available as a beta release ( (29 march 2018).

  16. 16.

    See also Posner (2012) and the discussion on how this approach is discriminatory, mainly against women.

  17. 17.

    See the websites of the digital facilities of these libraries, respectively the Cambridge Digital Library ( and the Digital Scholarship (

  18. 18.

    See the website

  19. 19.
  20. 20.

    See the website


  1. Alighieri, D. (2010). Commedia. A digital edition. P. Shaw ed. Birmingham: SDE. Firenze: SISMEL: Edizioni del Galluzzo per la Fondazione Ezio Franceschini.Google Scholar
  2. Andrews, T. (2013). The third way. Philology and critical edition in the digital age. Variants, 10, 61–76.MathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  3. Boot, P., Cappellotto, A., Dillen, W., Fischer, F., Kelly, A., Mertgens, A., Sichani, A., Spadini, E., & Van Hulle, D. (Eds.) (2017). Advances in Digital Scholarly Editing. Papers presented at the Dixit Conferences in The Hague. Cologne and Antwerp. Leiden: Sidestone.Google Scholar
  4. Bryant, J. (2002). The fluid text: A theory of revision and editing for book and screen. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Buard, P.-Y. (2015). Modélisation des sources anciennes et Édition Numérique. PhD Dissertation. Université de Caen, Accessed 25 April 2019.
  6. Burdick, A., Drucker ,J., Lunenfeld, P., Presner, T., & Schnapp, J. (2012). Digital_Humanities. Cambridge (MA): The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  7. Busa, R. (1974). Index Thomisticus. Stuttgart: Frommann-Holzboog.Google Scholar
  8. Causer, T., Tonra, J., & Wallace, V. (2012). Transcription maximized; expense minimized? Crowdsourcing and editing the collected works of Jeremy Bentham. Literary and Linguistic Computing, 27, 19–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Del Vento, Christian, Lebarbé, Thomas, Zanardo, Monica (2016). Re-thinking Leopardi: Towards the digital edition of the Canti. In Italia, Paola, Bonsi, Claudia (Eds.) (2016). Edizioni Critiche Digitali – Digital Critical Editions (pp. 63–74). Roma: Sapienza Università Editrice.Google Scholar
  10. Driscoll, M. J., & Pierazzo, E. (Eds.). (2016). Digital scholarly editing: Theories and practices. Cambridge: Open Book Publisher.Google Scholar
  11. Franzini, G. (2012). Catalogue of Digital Editions., Accessed 25 April 2019.
  12. Franzini, G., Terras, M., & Mahony, S. (2016). A catalogue of digital editions. In M. J. Driscoll & E. Pierazzo (Eds.), Digital scholarly editing: Theories and practices (pp. 161–182). Cambridge: Open Book Publisher.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Kirschenbaum, M. (2015). Track changes: A literary history of word processing. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Pierazzo, E. (2011). A rationale of digital documentary editions. Literary and Linguistic Computing, 26(4), 463–477.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Pierazzo E. (2014). Unpacking the draft page: A new framework for digital editions of draft manuscripts. Variants, 11, pp. 29–46.Google Scholar
  16. Pierazzo, E. (2015a). Digital scholarly editing: Theories, models and methods. Aldershot: Ashgate/Routledge.Google Scholar
  17. Pierazzo, E. (2015b). Lo Stufaiuolo’ by Anton Francesco Doni. A scholarly edition (Vol. 36). Scholarly Editing Accessed 25 April 2019.
  18. Pierazzo, E., & Leclerc, E. (2015). L’edizione scientifica al tempo dell’editoria digitale. Ecdotica, 12, 180–194.Google Scholar
  19. Pierazzo, E., Mouraby, C., & Fonio, F. (2016). A new approach to libraries in digital humanities: The case of ‘Fonte Gaia’. In Digital humanities 2016: Conference abstracts (pp. 862–863). Kraków: Jagiellonian University and Pedagogical University.Google Scholar
  20. Posner, M. (2012). Think Talk Make Do: Power and the Digital Humanities. Journal of Digital Humanities, 1/2, Accessed 25 April 2019.
  21. Robinson, P. M. W. (2002), Anastasia: Analytical system tool and SGML/XML integration applications. Software. Accessed 25 April 2019.
  22. Robinson, P. M. W. (2003). Where we are with electronic scholarly editions, and where we want to be. Computerphilologie, 5, Accessed 25 April 2019.
  23. Robinson, P. M. W. (2005). Current issues in making digital editions of medieval texts – Or, do electronic scholarly editions have a future? Digital Medievalist, 1.
  24. Robinson, P. M. W. (2010). Electronic editions for everyone. In W. McCarty (Ed.), Text and genre in reconstruction. Effects of digitalization on ideas, Behaviours, products and institutions (pp. 145–163). Cambridge: Open Book Publisher.Google Scholar
  25. Robinson, P. M. W. (2016). Project-based digital humanities and social, digital, and scholarly editions. Digital Scholarship in the Humanities, 31(4), 875–889.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Sahle, P. (2008). A catalogue of digital scholarly editions. Accessed 25 April 2019.
  27. Shillingsburg, P. L. (2006). From Gutenberg to Google. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Stokes, P. A., & Pierazzo, E. (2009). Encoding the language of landscape: XML and databases at the service of Anglo-Saxon lexicography. In S. Bruti, R. Cella, & M. Foschi Albert (Eds.), Perspectives on lexicography in Italy and Europe (pp. 203–238). Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.Google Scholar
  29. TEI Consortium, Eds. (2018). Guidelines for electronic text encoding and interchange. V. 3.3.0. Accessed 25 April 2019.
  30. Timpanaro, S. (1963). La genesi del metodo del Lachmann. Firenze: Bibliotechina del saggiatore.Google Scholar
  31. Van Zundert, J., & Boot, P. (2012). The digital edition 2.0 and the digital library: Services, not resources. Bibliothek and Wissenschaft, 44, 141–52.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Université Grenoble Alpes – LUHCIEGrenobleFrance

Personalised recommendations