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The DIMEV: An Open-Access, Digital Edition of the Index of Middle English Verse

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
HISTORY

In 1995-97 the National Endowment for the Humanities in the USA, the SSHRC in Canada, and the British Academy in the UK each funded one researcher to produce in collaboration a revised version of the Index, the NEH specifying that at least one outcome was to be in electronic format. The project team split over producing a print or electronic version, but the NEH-funded researchers (Mooney and Dr. Elizabeth Solopova as RA) continued work toward the electronic version, extending beyond the 2-year grant on their own time. They gathered about two-thirds of the data required, and had this converted to SGML with encoding for various types of searches. The other members of original team produced a print version in 2005.

Although Mooney and Solopova extended their work on the project well beyond the NEH funded time-frame, they eventually had to bow to the demands of other funded work and put the DIMEV on the shelf. When Mosser and Mooney revived the project in 2008, during Mosser’s second stint as Leverhulme Visiting Professor in York, it quickly became apparent that a confluence of events in fact made the hiatus a blessing in disguise. Instead of having to wrestle with memory-stingy technologies, proprietary database software and/or primitive SGML editors, by 2008 memory and server space had become cheap, and programs like BBEdit and oXygen had been developed and have proven to be a boon to projects such as this.

The original data has been converted manually into XML-encoded format. XML was chosen because it is a standard, cross-platform, non-proprietary coding language. XML-encoded data is easy to export and translate into other formats; for example, at present it is rendered into HTML using XSL style sheets for reading on the screen; different XSL style-sheets can be used for reading in other formats as digital media evolve without having to reformat the XML-encoded data. Even more important for long term sustainability, style sheets can be used to transform XML documents into other formats of XML, such as RDF-XML (RDF=“Resource Description Framework”). As semantic web technology evolves over the next decade we expect to add new capabilities to the DIMEV by ingesting data from libraries and other resources, and by exposing our data on the Web as an RDF repository to make it available for scholarly uses we can only begin to imagine. The semantic-web principle is to make data independent of interfaces used to manipulate and present it (such as the DIMEV’s HTML rendering and related searching and indexing capabilities). By publishing its data in machine-readable RDF format users will be able to cross-search it with information reposing in other RDF repositories around the world that make reference to its uniquely-identified persons, works, and documents.

For example, a Chaucer bibliographic site could extract lists of Chaucer manuscripts from the DIMEV, formatting the data in accord with its particular purposes and integrating it with information about the manuscripts from other sources. A site devoted to scribes could extract lists of manuscripts copied by particular scribes. Thematic bibliographies could add to their lists of works on particular topics titles that are indexed in the DIMEV. With its untold thousands of relationships among persons, places, things, and documents expressed as RDF-XML triplets, the DIMEV will become an invaluable information-hub for medieval scholarship: at once a Web portal for research into manuscripts and a Web resource for other kinds of literary, historical, and biographical investigation.

The DIMEV contains all of the records from the original Index, its Supplement, the data collected by Mooney and Solopova, as well as records added by Mosser (the latter includes all the tales, prologues, and links of the Canterbury Tales [6414], now assigned their own records).

For those manuscripts with associated Linguistic Profiles compiled in the Linguistic Atlases of Late and Early Middle English (eLALME and LAEME), information is supplied with the file compiled when a user clicks on a highlighted manuscript shelfmark (e.g. Oxford, Bodleian Library Eng. poet. a.1 (SC 3938) [Vernon MS]. We have also begun to provide links to online editions and facsimiles.

In 2012-13, Deborah Thorpe, funded half-time by the MHRA, collected transcriptions from about one-third of the witnesses in the British Library. Daniel Mosser, with funding from the NEH, spent several weeks in London in June-July 2013 collecting transcriptions from Lambeth Palace Library, the College of Arms, Gray’s Inn, Lincoln’s Inn, Dulwich College, the Wellcome Library, the Inner Temple Library, the Society of Antiquaries, Dr. William’s Library, the University of London (Sterling Library), the Victory and Albert Museum (National Art Library), St. Paul’s Cathedral Library, Westminster Abbey Library, Westminster School Library, Canterbury Cathedral Library, and the British Library. Linne Mooney continues to work on the British Library collections.