The Digital Editing of Colonial Texts: report from LASA

The Latin American Studies Association International Congress, held in May 2016 in New York City, brought together scholars from across the Americas to share their research in the humanities and social sciences. Digital Scholarship was well represented among the thousands of participants (and dozens of panels) held over four days, including research about digital communities, digital projects, and digital tools for academic publishing and analysis. RedHD, the Mexican network for digital humanities, was particularly well-represented.

The Reading the First Books project was invited to present as part of a workshop on “The Electronic Edition of Colonial and Nineteenth-Century Latin American Texts.” Scholarly editing is the practice of producing new editions of historical texts for students, scholars, or a general public. Digital scholarly editing explores new ways of imagining these publications using digital platforms. [See our slides]

The LASA panel brought together four projects representing four stages in the production of a digital edition. In addition to our project, Elizabeth Grumbach from the IDHMC at Texas A&M University (and a collaborator on this project) spoke about developing communities for the peer review of digital projects. She described how the Advanced Research Consortium has developed a set of standards and practices for the evaluation of scholarly digital work, providing support for a number of thematic “nodes” oriented around nineteenth century literature, medieval studies, and other categories of engagement. She left the audience to consider whether an ARC node dedicated to colonial Latin American scholarship would be beneficial to this community.

Nick Laiacona, the president of Performant Software Solutions, spoke about Juxta Editions, a tool for the collation, transcription, and markup of historical books and manuscripts. A partner software to Juxta Commons, a digital space for collating and sharing historical documents, Juxta Editions enables the uploading and collation of multiple witnesses, and offers a user-friendly approach to TEI encoding. It can also host published editions on its webspace.

Finally, Ralph Bauer spoke about the Early Americas Digital Archive, a website hosted by WordPress that brings together scholarly editions of historical American texts. The project represents one approach to the digital scholarly edition of a colonial American collection of texts.

The stated purpose of the workshop was to start a conversation and develop a community of scholars interested in supporting the production of digital scholarly editions of historical Latin American texts. Interested scholars are invited to contact the workshop’s organizer, Clayton McCarl, to join the ongoing conversation. We hope that the Reading the First Books project can support this initiative by helping scholars to produce the first stage of transcription for historical printed texts.

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