Assembling an Electronic Edition of Such is Life

Roger Osborne recently posted to his “Tom Collins And Company” blog a description of using AustESE to create an Electronic Scholarly Edition of Joseph Furphy’s Such is Life.

Read about it here or use the link below:-


Workflow Ready for AustESE Workshop II

The second AustESE Workshop will be held on 3 October 2013, welcoming many of the participants from the first workshop in Sydney, and a number of new faces. We’ll be testing out the AustESE Workbench with examples from the works of Henry Lawson, Katharine Susannah Prichard, Joseph Conrad, Walt Whitman, and others. The workshop will test all of the components of the Workbench, preparing for the final refinements scheduled for the last months of 2013.

Components of the AustESE Workbench have been delivered to the SandBox for testing and ongoing refinement. They have now been integrated into a workflow that satisfies the needs of a scholarly editor as they step through the tasks required to produce a scholarly edition. We chose Drupal to support registration, access and roles within established workflow patterns that can be adapted to suit the specialised workflows of scholarly editing.


At some time, somebody will decide that the editions of a particular work available for study are inadequate or corrupt, thereby necessitating a new edition. Planning and funding applications might ensue in some cases, but others might proceed more directly and declare that a Project has begun without seeking further support. In the AustESE Workbench, this will mean registering for a user account and then creating a New Project, initiating project management modules that enable the Project Owner to invite collaborators, assign tasks, and monitor  progress.

Managing Permissions in the AustESE WorkBench

Managing Permissions in the AustESE WorkBench


One of the first tasks of a scholarly editing project will be the search for legitimate versions of a work in manuscripts, periodicals, books and other media. In the AustESE data model, these can be described as Artefacts, Versions, and Works. In addition, the Artefacts can be described as products of particular Events (eg composition, serialisation, edition/impression) and the Agents of change (eg authors, editors, printers) can be asserted through their role in these Events.

In information fields drawn from established principles of bibliographical description, single Artefacts (eg manuscripts, magazines, books) can be further described. This phase of description can be deferred until a later time if the bibliographical detail is not available.

Artefact Metadata

Artefact Metadata


Production of digital surrogates for original materials is necessary to populate the digital archive that forms the foundation of an electronic scholarly edition. The AustESE Workbench includes a transcription editor to enable corrections to be made, but for this version of the AustESE Workbench it is expected that most transcriptions will be conducted externally. It is also expected that image processing of photographs of original material will be conducted externally. The current version of the AustESE Workbench does not include an OCR module, but such a feature could be integrated in the future.

Accurate transcriptions of original materials satisfy the archival impulse, but if a scholarly editor decides, through comprehensive examination of the original materials and editorial judgement, that all versions are inadequate or corrupt, a new ‘corrected’ version of the work can be produced with the transcription editor of the AustESE Workbench. Added to the archive of transcriptions and, subsequently, to the versions compared within a Multi-Version Document, the editor’s version can be compared with previous versions and its validity assessed by other readers and editors.

Editing and Creating Transcriptions.

Editing and Creating Transcriptions.


Any description previously deferred can be conducted during the upload of digital surrogates to the repository. The description of images can be conducted in batches in order to efficiently describe the sheets and pages as parts of an Artefact, or, alternatively, sheets or pages can be described in isolation to capture unique elements. Collections of digital surrogates are linked to the appropriate Artefact, incorporating each item of a collection as Part of the Artefact. Text and image alignment can also be conducted, preparing the archive of digital surrogates for viewing in a variety of ways, including a customisable Reading View designed for both editors and readers.


To visualise the textual variation between different versions, the AustESE Workbench employs the Multi-Version Documents tool. Versions can be read side-by-side or in a table view. Images can be compared by sending files to a Lightbox.

MVD: Side-by-side view.

MVD: Side-by-side view.


Once digital surrogates have been uploaded, described and made available for comparison,  the archive is now ready for analysis and editing to proceed. One of the fundamental tools of scholarship is annotation. AustESE facilitates this by providing an annotation tool that extends Annotator, first developed by the Open Knowledge Foundation. Annotations can be attached by registered users to transcriptions and images anywhere in the archive, and these annotations can be subsequently viewed wherever the target can be viewed in the AustESE Workbench. Annotations can be searched and filtered by category, creator and tag. In the Reading View, Annotations are accessible in a handy, collapsible tab-view that can also be filtered by category, creator and tag.

Annotating Transcriptions

Annotating Transcriptions

The Annotation tool supports collaborative interpretation and protects intellectual property by attributing authorship with time and date stamp.


Project owners control access to their project and so their work is published when access to the archive is enabled. But some Project owners might have different outcomes in mind (eg print publication, external web-site), and so the need to publish becomes the need to EXPORT. The AustESE Project aims to support export in a variety of formats in order to support a variety of outcomes for the work done within the AustESE Workbench. Export formats for transcriptions and annotations will include, but are not exclusively, RDF/XML, ePub, PDF TriG, JSON-LD, and TriX.


Project owners control access and so can invite review at anytime. A project owner might decide to work in a completely open environment and so invite review at anytime. Alternatively, peer review might be left until a project is more mature, and, perhaps, timed to coincide with publication.

We’ll be testing all of these feature at the AustESE Workshop, and will report on the results in the next blog post. In subsequent blog posts, we’ll discuss the more mature projects being managed by Paul Eggert (The Charles Harpur Critical Archive) and Roger Osborne (A Digital Archive and Critical Edition of Joseph Furphy’s Such is Life).

AustESE at the Association for the Study of Australian Literature Conference

ASAL LOGOSteering Committee members Paul Eggert and Roger Osborne attended the annual conference of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature (ASAL) at Wagga Wagga (2-5 July):

Paul and Roger presented papers on their research in a panel with Professor Leigh Dale. Paul’s discussion of the interpretative challenges caused by the material record of Henry Lawson’s short story collection While the Billy Boils was complemented by Roger’s discussion of the interpretative challenges caused by the fragmentation and uncertainty of Joseph Furphy’s Such is Life. Roger argued that an electronic edition of Such is Life was the best way for researchers to deal with this fragmentation and uncertainty, and he provided an introduction to the way the AustESE Workbench makes this possible.

The panel drew attention to the AustESE Project, and this was supplemented by discussions with interested researchers throughout the conference. Roger organised a live demonstration of the AustESE Workbench in action. In addition to  editorial projects already testing the AustESE Workbench with the works of Charles Harpur, Joseph Furphy, and Katharine Susannah Prichard, the AustESE presence at ASAL attracted the interest of several other researchers, including one researcher who is exploring the ‘archaeology’ of convict ballads as they were passed down to us via oral delivery and print. This transmission has left a number of competing versions with questionable authority to represent the ‘genuine’ version.

The AustESE Project will build on the interest of ASAL members with continuing advice and assistance as the AustESE Workbench is refined over the next few months. A numer of those people attending the ASAL conference will also be attending the AustESE Workshop on 3 October. This will provide a great opportunity to showcase the contribution that the AustESE Project has made to thought and practice in a wide variety of textual studies.



AustESE Workshop at University of Sydney

AustESE ProgramThe AustESE Project was at the University of Sydney on 4 and 5 April for a workshop to facilitate discussion about electronic scholarly editing and to introduce the AustESE Workbench to participants. Participants travelled from Brisbane, Newcastle, Wollongong, Sydney, and Perth, bringing with them the needs of scholarship for Early Modern Women’s Writing, nineteenth century publishing, nineteenth and twentieth century fiction and poetry in manuscript and print, annotated editions, the serialisation of Australian novels, and twentieth century writer’s notebooks.

A symposium on the practice and theory of scholarly editing introduced participants to the problems faced by members of the AustESE Steering Committee (Paul Eggert, Tim Dolin, Mark Byron, and Roger Osborne). Roger spoke about his experience editing Joseph Conrad’s Under Western Eyes for print publication, and compared that with the prospect of an electronic edition of Joseph Furphy’s Such is Life. Mark Byron spoke about the challenges of editing Samuel Beckett’s manuscripts. Tim Dolin spoke about his entry into scholarly editing from the perspective of a literary critic. And Paul Eggert summarised the discussion with an account of his long experience with scholarly editing, including his participation in foundational work in electronic scholarly editing in the 1990s.

Following afternoon tea, Paul Eggert continued the discussion with reference to his own work in Securing the Past, and recent writing on editorial theory from Peter Robinson, Hans Walter Gabler, Peter Shillingsburg.

These discussions primed participants for the hands-on component of the workshop on the following day.

Led by Roger Osborne and Anna Gerber, the workshop introduced participants to the AustESE Workbench, specifically the Repository and its ontology, MVD, and Annotations. Using the workbench, the participants entered bibliographical descriptions related to their own work and uploaded material where possible. They then looked at various examples of textual comparison generated by MVD, and considered how these activities satisfied the archival needs of their projects.

USyd Workshop

AustESE Workshop Participants

After lunch, participants were introduced to the newly integrated annotation tool, and participated in a session of collaborative annotation and discussion on the role of annotation in their own projects. This session concluded with a summary of the workshop and symposium and an agreement to meet for a further workshop in conjunction with the book:logic symposium to be held in Brisbane on 4 October. By that time, the AustESE Workbench will include a workflow engine and export facilities, enabling users to step through the tasks required to complete an edition. The second workshop will aim to complete the introduction for new users and showcase some of the projects that are are using the workbench.

AustESE in UQ News

The University of Queensland has published an article on AustESE in “UQ News” on-line.  You can read it by following this link:

Project manager – Wilfred Brimblecombe

AustESE at Six Months

The AustESE Project has recently passed the sixth month of development and the tools and workbench are starting to come together.

The project aims to support the necessary workflow for scholarly editing with an online workbench that employs a data model that identifies the entities and relationships that are often implicit in our discussions about literary works and scholarly editing. In addition to a simple Artefact/Version/Work/Agent ontology that helps to represent the material evidence, agency, and the conceptual properties that we attribute to that evidence, we are also exploring event modelling that will support the visualisation of timelines and other queries.

To achieve that in a reasonable timeframe, the project has begun to refine the foundational modules of the workbench.

Text and Image Upload and Description

A text and image upload facility supports the attachment of metadata to single files or to batches of files. It is here that the editor can assert the properties of the artefacts that they believe best describe the way those artefacts represent the work. Ultimately, this will support efficient navigation between images, transcriptions and agents and lay the foundation for the annotation service that will overlay the editor’s and/or reader’s commentary.

Text and Image Upload and Description

Text and Image Alignment

Two separate tools have been developed to support text and image alignment. One option builds on models developed for the Open Annotation Collaboration, offering an environment that enables manual linking between regions of an image and the related text of a transcription. Development of this tool has established the foundations for the annotation service and will be further developed to include the capability to draw polygons for more complicated documents when annotation receives more attention in 2013.

Annotation Alignment

Manual linking might not be a reasonable option for projects with large amounts of documents and so automation, or, at least, semi-automation, is an attractive option. Desmond Schmidt has developed a working model for automated text and image alignment and has a description of this development on his blog. Whether the links between text and image are created manually or automatically, they will add to the descriptions of artefacts, versions, and works to support more efficient navigation, discovery and querying. Such an environment will satisfy the archival impulse of a scholarly editing project and offer a dynamic space for editing and commentary to begin.

HRITServer Alignment

Versioning and Comparison

The next step in the project is to integrate these modules with a tool that will support comparison of versions by offering a variety of views and visualisations. The AustESE Project is employing Desmond Schmidt’s nMerge MVD to deliver innovative views that will assist both editors and readers to engage with the sometimes very complex variation between versions of literary works. Current views include side-by-side, top-bottom, and a text and table view. The project aims to add to these options with other views and visualisations that help to identify the temporal and spatial intensity of revision. We also aim to support the filtering of revision according to the contributions of authors, editors, compositors, and other agents of change.

Apparatus Table View

Next Steps

In the coming months, we will be working to refine these foundational modules and to enhance the integration of tools and data so that we can begin working on the case-studies that the AustESE Steering Committee has brought to the table. An electronic edition of Joseph Furphy’s Such is Life is underway, and Paul Eggert’s Harpur Critical Archive will also provide complex examples of textual transmission to test the tools and infrastructure. An AustESE workshop is planned for April 2013 at the University of Sydney, offering Australia’s scholarly editing community an opportunity to test and contribute to the workbench refinement in order to ensure that it is useful to the widest variety of editorial projects.

In 2013, the project will begin to integrate an annotation service. The workbench design will move between support for scholarly editing and support for readers who will benefit from greater access to the archive and the opportunity to contribute commentary, queries and corrections. This will be supported by work already done for the Open Annotation Collaboration, ensuring that the integration of these modules remains re-usable and interoperable well into the future.

If you would like more information, access to the project Sandbox, or directions to the code, please visit the Project Website.

AustESE Project

This blog will soon contain regular posts about the conceptual and technical challenges of the AustESE Project.

The AustESE project is a collaboration between The University of QueenslandUniversity of NSWCurtin UniversityUniversity of SydneyQueensland University of TechnologyLoyola University, Chicago and theUniversity of Saskatchewan. It is funded through the NeCTAR e-Research Tools program for 2 years from 2012-2013.

The aim of the AustESE project is to develop a set of interoperable services to support the production of electronic scholarly editions by distributed collaborators in a Web 2.0 environment.

The more specific objectives are to provide the Australian scholarly editing community with an online integrated Workbench that provides:

  • collation tools for automatically detecting, identifying and highlighting variations between different versions of a work and that allow the relationship between texts to be visualized, authored or edited e.g. building on Multi-Version-Document nmergeCATT, CorTex and CollateX;
  • annotation tools that:
    • enable scholars to create and reply to scholarly commentary attached to texts, variants and images;
    • capture the annotations as stand-off markup that is discoverable, shareable, and re-usable (e.g., using the Open Annotation Collaboration (OAC) data model and Linked Open Data approach);
    • provide search, browse and visualisation interfaces for annotations;
    • enable both manual and automated migration of annotations between transcriptions and facsimiles (drawing on the TILE Text-Image Linking Environment).
  • workflow engine that captures the sequence of tasks and decision-making steps as well as the provenance of generating an electronic scholarly edition;
  • publishing tools that automatically compile electronic scholarly editions into standard publication formats;
  • and a repository that supports the discovery, search, retrieval, exploration and re-use of texts and electronic editions.

To keep up-to-date with project activities, please subscribe to this blog. We welcome comments from anyone interested in the development of electronic scholarly editions.