03: Uszkalo

"The which is also new": Accessibility, Economics, and Electronic Early Modern Women’s Writing

Kirsten C. Uszkalo

Cite this article (APA): Uszkalo, K. (2011). "The which is also new": Accessibility, Economics, and Electronic Early Modern Women’s Writing. Media : Culture : Pedagogy, 15(1). Retrieved from http://mcp.educ.ubc.ca/v15n01BornDigital_Article03_Uszkalo



This article argues that, in terms of early English scholarship that has been re-born digital, accessibility and economics not only influence which texts from the Early Modern period are studied, but also have an impact on which writers from the period are selected for study, as well as by whom. The article emphasizes the historical significance and contemporary relevance of Early Modern women's writing, and then gives an overview of three different subscription-based digital resources located within research university libraries that provide access to publications by early English authors: the Text Creation Project and Early English Books Online (TCP-EEBO), the Women Writers Project's (WWP) Renaissance Women Online (RWO), and Orlando: Women's Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present (Orlando).


What lack you Maister mine?
some trifle that is trew?
Why? then this same wil serve your turne
the which is also new.
Or yf you minde to reade,
some Fables that be fained:
Buy this same Booke, and ye shall finde,
such in the same contained.

— “The Printer to the Reader” The Copy of a letter, lately written in meeter, by a yonge Gentilwoman: to her unconstant Lover, London, 1567, by Is. W.

Isabella Whitney is one of the earliest women to appear in the English populous print record. There had, of course, been writing by women before Whitney wrote.[1] Manuscript texts dictated by women and written down by men, like Julian of Norwich’s revelations (c. 1437), or The Book of Margery Kempe (c. 1430), appeared in the fifteenth century. Katherine Parr may have produced The Lamentacion of a Sinner, made by the Most Vertuous Ladie, Quene Catern (1547) as part of writing by a circle of devoted women, which included Anne Askew.[2] Anne Askew’s trials were published by John Bale in Lattre Examinacyon (1547) and again by John Fox in Actes and Monuments (1563). Elite women like Mary Shelton, Mary Fitzroy and Margaret Douglas collaborated on and circulated compilation texts like the Devonshire Manuscript (c. 1530s-1540s) and educated women like Lady Jane Lumley produced translations of Euripides’s Iphigenia at Aulis (c. 1554) and Anne Locke produced translations of John Calvin’s sermons (1560) in the sixteenth century. Publications by early English common women speak to the literary debates of the time, their participation in them, and their own biographies. The seventeenth century, which saw the birth of the English Querelle des Femmes, fueled by the interaction between Joseph Swetnam and Rachel Speght, likewise marked the advent of women into print in England.[3] They wrote in defense of themselves, their gender, and outside of devotional literatures, which were perceived as appropriate venues for women’s creative attention.

There is only one known copy of each of Whitney’s texts, but students find in Whitney something that transcends the almost four and a half centuries between the publication of her first poems and their own interaction with her reprinted text. Whitney’s poems suggest a woman who is betrayed by a lover, inspired by philosophy, and out of money. If Whitney is an every-woman, then non-elite English women published because they couldn’t see a reason to stay quiet anymore. Moreover, they had something to say and suspected it was worth being paid for. In understanding Isabella Whitney, it helps to understand how her writing fit into what was being published at the time, what she wrote, and who she was. How she fits into the canon matters. She is a maverick; Whitney functions as an early pioneer for non-elite women’s writing. She holds her own alongside male authors inside The Copy of a Letter, and alongside many of the men who published in this period. The content of her writing matters. A Copy of a Letter and "The Manner of her Will, and what she left to London" appended to her collection A Sweet Nosegay (1573) are savvy and smart; she published a verbal map of London before John Stow’s Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster (1598). Whitney is read as constructing a radical utopia, an urban autobiography, a single girl’s guide to writing in London, and a (mother’s) legacy.[4]  Her biography matters. She may have been (by today’s standards) middle class. Writing may have run in the family; her brother is assumed to be Geoffrey Whitney, who wrote A Choice of Emblemes (1586).[5] Whitney is not erudite but is evidently educated; she is poetic and pensive, but most importantly, she is articulate and angry.

Early modern feminist scholarship is dependent on the accessibility of reprints. The voices of early modern women authors have begun to appear in earnest in the last twenty years.[6] Graduate level classes on early modern women writers are taught at a number of universities, facilitating an “interest in, retrieval of and study of women writers [that] continues unabated and remains the dominant mode for the study of gender in the national literatures.”[7] Anthologies of women’s writing and companion volumes provide comprehensive overviews of the period and the women who have written in it.[8] The anthology is a critical resource to use in the classroom. It keeps students and instructors on the same page, makes sure there is a shared language, and provides context and scope. When writing by women was at its peak in the middle of the seventeenth century, it still accounted for only about one percent of the literary output, between 1640-1700.[9] As such, despite a movement towards representation of more women’s writing in The Norton Anthology of English Literature (Volume A & B) and in the Oxford Anthology of English Literature (Volume I & II), inclusion in these works is still akin to marginalization.[10] Critical editions look to provide primary texts with the critical apparatus necessary to understand them in context. In order to understand these women, we need to access their texts and their biographies. The digital resource can provide both.

Stephen G. Nichols argues that digitization “reconciles the conflicting obligations of manuscript preservation with the need for access to vulnerable artifacts. For the first time in history, we have a means for preserving objects that simultaneously diffuses them to new and larger audiences.”[11] The digitization of early modern women’s writing has made it accessible in ways that may have pleased some writers: works such as Lady Mary Wroth’s prose romance Urania (1621), Margaret Fell’s many political/devotional tracts, including Womens Speaking Justified (1666), and Aphra Behn’s plays, like The Rover (1677), and her poems, like “The Disappointment” (1680). All these works were written for a print publication. It may have likewise scandalized writers such as Katherine Phillips, whose poems were collected and published in Poems by “the Incomparable, Mrs K. P.” (1664) without consent. But digitization has done more than make the texts of women writers available, although this has been a critical recuperative act. Digitization of these texts has normalized the writing of early modern women; they are in many ways as accessible, if still not as visible, as the their early English brothers.

Literary dominance has been wedded to reproduction as much as it has been to production. It is easier to research women writers whose texts are easily available with a few key-strokes. Digitization has also opened up a number of multi-model approaches into these texts. Digitally aided research assumes, in part, that students begin research at a search engine, and therefore with user-driven research queries. Delineated by the production and accessibility of positive hits, and influenced by the concerns that went into producing them, user-driven research means that at its optimal, the user can simply find what she is looking for, as opposed to researching what has been traditionally available. Computer-assisted textual research is more than search engine scholarship—type and click / cut and paste—although the ease of accessing, interacting with, and copying texts is an integral part of the contemporary research process. Reading online demands and offers non-linear thinking and non-hierarchical research strategies.[12] Finding and exploring the numerous linguistic layers in an early modern literary text and tracing its connection to other texts that influenced it likewise requires flexible research and thinking strategies.[13] These are skills born digital students have acquired through their interactions in a complicated and demanding digital world.[14] In terms of researching early modern women’s writing, algorithmically-aided research[15] has the potential to unbind the canon by allowing readers to make connections between networks of meaning into which early modern women naturally and necessarily fit.[16] Moreover, interaction with digital texts allows women writers to come out of their closets more easily; users can look through collections to find authors and texts to find specific references. The search-string gives the researcher agency;[17] the digital resource provides accessibility.[18] Studies of early modern women are dependent on both.

There are a myriad of resources freely available online, like Google Books,[19] and a number of subscription-based resources, like Perdita Manuscripts: Women Writers, 1500-1700, and Iter’s Bibliography of English Women Writers, 1500-1640.[20] This essay looks at three different subscription-based electronic resources found within research university libraries that facilitate the study of published early English authors and their writing: the Text Creation Project and Early English Books Online (TCP-EEBO),[21] the Brown Women Writers Project (WWP)’s Renaissance Women Online (RWO),[22] and Cambridge’s Orlando: Women's Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present (Orlando).[23] Together, these resources create a three-dimensional model of the literary sphere in which women wrote, the texts that they created, and the women who created these texts. Although each of these resources provides in and of itself an excellent picture, the three of them should be used in tandem to illustrate the ways in which early modern women lived and worked in literary worlds.[24] Even when used together, EEBO, WWO, and Orlando do not offer enough of a critical apparatus to help guide new researchers unfamiliar with these works to easily contextualize them. Scholarship with these resources can and should be combined with excellent print offerings to enhance both.[25] However, providing a guided experience is not the agenda of any of these tools; exploration and discovery is.[26]

Digitized texts are not faithful copies, nor are they translations or alterations. The paper body of the text, traded in for the electronic file, is neither a clone nor an entirely new creation, but rather a manufactured product. The transcribed text is as influenced by the hands that encode it now as it had been by those who had originally typeset it. This is essential, but it is not utopian. The material conditions that helped create these texts, influence them. In terms of the presentations of early English women’s writing, some of the same material conditions that kept women’s writing marginal continue to do so. A number of decisions are made with respect to how to choose texts to create a corpus, how to tag and encode those texts, and how to handle the cost of maintaining and improving such a resource. Encoding is structuring a text, but it is also, like tagging, a form of editorial work. Although invisible to the user, the decisions made at this stage influence the presentation and interaction with the text. The means of production likewise influence the text; although these resources are easy to access, they are not easy to make. Beyond hosting and maintenance, the cost of production of the interface and text means that the early English woman’s text needs to be paid for, as it always has had to be.

Those who have crafted these electronic resources have changed the way we can do feminist scholarship. In the last twenty years we have begun to fill the empty spaces on the bookshelves (made of wood and memory), which Virginia Woolf suggested should have held the lives of women who lived before the eighteenth century, but which did not. These resources have done much to liberate women’s writings—normalize it—and by virtue, normalize the women who wrote. Accessibility to literacy and literary means of production matters in terms of scholarship on early modern women writers. Early modern English women embraced the latest technology, the press, and the advent of cheap print that accompanied it, in order to publish. When censorship was at its weakest during the middle of the seventeenth century, writing by women boomed: access led to agency. Similarly, a rebirth of interest in writing by early modern women happened around the time of the birth of the internet.[27] The digitization of women’s writing appeared quickly thereafter.[28] The English woman writer was re-born and re-born digital.

Re-placing Women within the Literary Spheres: EEBO-TCP

EEBO-TCP re-situates women’s writing within the larger literary landscape in which it first appeared. Early English Books Online (EEBO) is the largest digitized collection available of early English texts printed in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and British North America and elsewhere between 1473-1700: the total number of records in EEBO is now around 127,729. In cooperation with EEBO, the Text Creation Project (TCP) has transcribed and encoded (using TEI lite) 25,285 of these early English texts.[29] This makes EEBO-TCP worth discussing. For a digital resource, it has received a fair amount of scholarship. However, the successes of EEBO-TCP as a resource can perhaps best be seen in the numerous scholarly footnotes that reference the resource.[30] Digitization opens up the possibility of real-time access and interaction with texts that previously could only be accessed in the archives, on microfilm, or as reprints, which are labour and cost intensive.[31] Transcription and encoding are even more so.

Neither the digital scan, nor the encoded and transcribed text, are flawless products. The visual presentation of scanned copies is dependent on the quality of the original. In some cases, that quality is quite low, making parts of the text near illegible.[32] Despite an attempt to maintain a 99.995% character accuracy, some transcribed and encoded texts have similar problems. Martin Mueller argues that some of the texts transcribed by the TCP with an error rate of 2% or more “are simply too disfigured to be accepted by scholars as texts with any claim to reference quality.”[33] Where the keyboarder has been unable to read the character, “[...]” appears, sometimes quite often, which, though of little help, does not claim to be an accurate reproduction either; the author must turn to the scanned text herself.[34]

Despite their commitment to digitizing “seminal authors,”—TCP texts are predominately by male authors—those looking for early modern women’s writing may find their best chance of locating published texts outside of the archive through this resource.[35] The new Introduction series looks to explore lesser known works. The major benefits of EEBO-TCP for feminist scholarship are the availability and searchability of women’s text within an ever expanding digital library. For researchers, free from the microfilm viewer and outside of the archive, the key word can delineate research. That any text that fits into the search parameters will be returned, seems a pretty obvious statement; however, this has radical repercussions within a field that has been defined by the creation, proliferation, challenge to and expansion of a literary canon. The keyword search is genderless. The digital text is genderless. The search engine makes in many ways invisible the distinctions that separate male from female authors. The results provided, however, are always already in some way gendered.

The results EEBO-TCP returns will be gendered, simply based on the volume of available data by male authors. In many ways, it will also always reproduce dominant discourses. EEBO-TCP is based on the Wing and Thompson Tracts microfilms, collections that grew with no particular desire for representation of women writers. Hilda L. Smith and Susan Cardinale identified just over 1,600 works by women referenced in the Short Title Catalogue (STC) and available on microfilm.[36] As such, important female authors who are not part of these collections are conspicuous in their absence. Whereas texts like Isabella Whitney’s The Copy of a Letter (1567), Elizabeth Cary’s Tragedy of Miriam (1613), and Lady Mary Wroth’s Urania (1621) appear, Amelia Lanyer’s Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum (1611) has yet to be transcribed. Three of Ester Biddle’s tracts, eight of Margaret Fell Fox’s tracts, and Barbara Blaugdone’s An Account of the Travels, Sufferings and Persecutions of Barbara Blaugdone (1691) have been transcribed, yet Anna Trapnel’s tracts have yet to be transcribed. This problem of finding female authors is made worse by the fact that one cannot organize the display of results in EEBO-TCP based on keyword frequency, although the system does keep track of the hits in each text. There is no way around simply wading through the volume of texts looking for women writers. The downside of inclusivity in an ever-expanding corpus is that, if one does not know who they are looking for, it gets very difficult to find her. What is scanned can be transcribed, however. Happily, the Text Creation Project welcomes scholars to request texts for transcription. Feminist critics and scholars looking for marginalized authors should contact TCP with the relevant information and ask that their request be put in the next batch of texts for transcribing and encoding.

Re-presenting Women’s Texts: Renaissance Women Writers Online

The electronic early modern English woman materialized because of the efforts of Brown University’s Women Writers Online. Projects like Renaissance Women Online (RWO) have insisted on the relevance of electronic and accessible versions of early modern women’s writing. With RWO we have one of the most comprehensive collections of published women’s writing from the Renaissance electronically available. The Women Writers Project (WWP) was born out of a frustration with the continuing absence of women’s writing within anthologies and thus the practical omission of women’s writing from the classroom. In deciding to create an electronic reading space instead of a competing print anthology of women’s writing, the WWP opted to produce what had been absent from early anthologized women’s writing: the full text. RWO aspires to present faithfully transcribed versions of texts, errors and all: WWP presents, “instead of a tiny, compressed sample of women’s literate culture, the student might find a closer approximation to the thing itself: huge, unmanageable texts; difficult texts; long, beautiful texts; absurd texts; poignantly misguided texts; fascinatingly dull texts; texts whose footnotes are the most interesting thing of all.”[37]

RWO provides teachers an excellent approach to teaching an electronic volume of women writers, and gives students access to the texts themselves in a form that is neither foreign, since it is transcribed, nor standardized, since the original spelling and pagination can be referenced. A number of important editorial decisions were made along the way that allowed for the wedding of scholarly presentation and digital text. Most crucially, RWO provides scholars full-text searching of the early women’s writing within their corpus. The length of some of the volumes, as well as the often emphatic and ecstatic style of authors like Anna Trapnel, means that students are able to see how terms are used in individual texts and across women’s writing. The term “prophet” shows up 285 times, and it is used in a relatively constant way as a biblical reference or within religious rhetoric. A notable exception is Mary Robinson (Darby)’s reference “that an English woman, like a prophet, is never valued in her own country. In Britain they were neglected, and scarcely known; on the continent, they have been nearly idolized!” (65 fn 25). Conversely, the word “witch” appears 95 times in the corpus, but it is used much more flexibly: Anne Newport (Royall)’s later work, Letters from Alabama (1830), describes a bewitchment case, complete with the vomiting of “pins, knots of hair, and other unaccountable substances,” a trial, and an acquittal, which was finally solved when a gentleman “detected the lady drawing the brandy” from a barrel in her home, “the real witch” was discovered (131). These references speak to the evolution of terms that had distinct social meaning and were public titles before and during the English Civil War.

The supplemental materials for the RWO texts provide reference without framing the texts. Although not a complete complement to each of the texts, the Introductions to Works in Renaissance Women Online are encyclopedic entries, broken into Overview, Introduction, Connections (with other works and topics), Notes on the Text, and Biographical Sketches. These introductions were written a decade ago by some well published authors in the field of early modern women studies, and include Suzanne Trill’s introduction to Anna Trapnel’s Strange and Wonderful News (1654) and Margaret J. M. Ezell’s introduction to Katharine Evans and Sarah Chevers’ This is a short Relation (1662). RWO’s Essays likewise include papers such as Teresa Feroli on “Prophecy,” Hilary Hinds on “Radical Sects,” and Nigel Smith on “Writing During the Civil War.” As such, although representation of important and verbose writers like Elizabeth I and Margaret Cavendish stand out, and the inclusion of the major writers of the English Querelle des Femmes are all represented, RWO’s civil war collection is one of its core strengths. Featuring the writing of Hester Biddle, Mary Cary, Katherine Chidely, Eleanor Davies, Margaret Fell, and Anna Trapnel, the resource gives scholars an important, if abridged, snap shot of how non-elite women participated in the religious debates and publishing sphere in the middle of the seventeenth century. The lives of the writers matter to students and scholars alike.

Re-bearing Women’s Lives: The Orlando Project

The practicalities of living and writing have always been enmeshed for women. The lives of these women should not be extracted from their writing; it is the basis for much of the many topics we see in women’s texts. Biography then is more than background in the study of early modern women’s writing — the corpus and the corporeal were interlinked. This is not to essentialize the lives of women, making them bodies that wrote as opposed to minds that thought—rather, they embodied cognition, and the societies they lived in helped to form their thinking and writing. We need to look back at their biographies to better see the thinking that produced the texts, and the texts that produced the women and the writing.

The Orlando Project was born out of a desire to recuperate literary history and assert the importance of “undervalued writing by women. ” This is a goal they hoped to accomplish by focusing on women’s writing as a center of literary history, “weaving together a host of distinct narratives linked by synchronicity,” and exploiting “the power of the new electronic medium.”[38] Thus, at its basis, Orlando re-situates women’s writing within women’s lives and worlds. This is accomplished in two ways. At its most apparent, Orlando provides detailed biographical information on women writers—recorded moments from their lives can be seen alongside references to their texts. These biographies vary in length and detail, based on the amount of available information from critical biographies and sources like the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Organizable in terms of overviews and timelines, scholars can get a quick sense of who these women were and what they wrote.

The dimensionality of women’s history comes through a series of hyperlinks, which illustrate the ways in which women’s lives intersected; tagging her amounts to an editorial act. These intersections are identified by the <intertextuality> tag, “which uses an introductory Author Summary tag and just three major semantic tags—for Production, Textual Features, and Reception—to organize all of the material contained in a document about a writer’s literary career.”[39] In the case of Isabella Whitney, she is linked to Jane Anger’s Jane Anger: Her Protection for Women To defend them against the Scandalous Reportes of a late Surfeiting Lover, and all other like Venerians that complaine so to be overcloyed with womens kindnesse (1589); both women were published by Richard Jones. Although bibliographical evidence on Jane Anger has never been found, and thus her position as an early English woman writer has never been confirmed, Jones’ publication of Anger and Whitney suggests his awareness of the marketability of women’s writing. Orlando makes apparent the connections that facilitated women’s publications.

Orlando also allows for unique searching of women’s lives by the <life> tags, which normalize the entries, but also suggest the importance of family, education, friends and associates, and politics in framing authoring by women. One particularly innovative approach is the <occupation> tag; few women writers lived by their pen, and in turn the occupation of the author not only argues for her professional credibility, but also allows readers to research the literary output of women who shared the same daily occupations. Women known for their connection to midwifery through publications like Jane Sharpe, The Midwives Book; or, The Whole Art of Midwifery Discovered (1671) and Elizabeth Cellier’s To Dr. ___ an answer to his queries concerning the Colledg of Midwives (1688) can be found alongside Hester Essex (Shaw).[40] Essex was practicing as a midwife in London around 1610 and was officially licensed as a midwife before 1634. She helped to lead a petition, with some sixty midwives, against Peter Chamberlen, who attempted to incorporate midwives under his leadership. Her text, A Plaine Relation of My Sufferings (1653), appears as a digitized scan in EEBO. Essex does not publish midwifery texts, but claims to have lost over £3,000 earned from midwifery in a fire.[41] The economics of Midwifery are very much a part of the practice. The cost of working and the necessity of getting paid were part of the issues around the publication of women’s writing; they still continue to be.

Re-paying Women’s Writing: The Economics of Access

To all the Bookebinders by Paulles
because I lyke their Arte:
They evry weeke shal mony have,
when they from Bookes depart.
Amongst them all, my Printer must,
have somwhat to his share:
I wyll my Friends these Bookes to bye of him, with other ware.
—"The Manner of her Will, and what she left to London" from A Sweet Nosgay, Or Pleasant Posye. London,1573. by IS. W

Whitney’s reference to bookbinders and printers is more than clever cross promotion, although it is certainly that: she does refer specifically to her printer. It speaks to the economics of print culture and the necessity of supporting women’s writing in practice as well as in principle. Whitney recognizes that printers need customers as authors need printers. “Mony” needs to come in for “Bookes” to depart. Likewise, digital resources don't just appear; they have intellectual, pedagogical, and financial histories and futures. The means of production matter, as they always have mattered, for the production of women's writing, and also for facilitating research on writing by early English women. The means of production also matter in terms of making visible the very substantial effort and expense that goes into producing subscription digital projects. Like all projects, these electronic resources fulfill only two sides of the work triangle for scholars; they are fast and easy, but they are not cheap. They are expensive to produce and expensive to access. This has created a great deal of anxiety in terms of the creation of new tiers of research; those who can afford to access these resources can afford to challenge the canon. Those who cannot are at a significant disadvantage: access has its privileges. The most productive way to ensure access to these resources is simply to advocate for their purchase and maintenance. In many cases, institutional libraries, which are suffering from the same budget cuts experienced across campuses, need to hear that researchers are invested in and actively using the digital early English textual resources they are budgeting for. This can be accomplished by the use of digital resources for early English texts on class syllabi. Syllabi that use these resources speak to the necessity of accessible early modern women’s writing and its role in women’s history and the literary canon. Using these resources to supplement print publications also provides the substantial benefit of keeping students from paying for textual resources that are otherwise already covered through their institutional library’s subscription, by their tuition and fees.

There is likewise a hesitation to discuss the economics of publishing and using scholarly resources. The value associated with digital projects, like that associated with scholarly research and publications, is difficult to quantify, and the costs of the resources widely differ based on institutional sizes. As such, the following broad-brush economics suggest only some costs associated with production and access.[42] Institutions (or library consortiums) can purchase the EEBO files, the MARC (Machine Readable Cataloguing), and pay a maintenance fee to keep access through ProQuest’s interface. Buying the EEBO files means that a university would have ownership of the files and metadata and can host the files on a local server. This cost varies immensely. In 2000 the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (UIUC), in Illinois, USA, had 35,612 full time equivalent students (FTE). At this time, UIUC paid $65,625 for EEBO (amortized over three installments). In 2008, they added the MARC records, at a cost of  $52,715. UIUC is also a TCP partner; they paid $50,000 for TCP I, and $50,000 for TCP II. The online access fee for UIUC is $3,415 as of Fiscal Year 09 for an FTE of 41,127 FTE.[43] In 2004, Simon Fraser University (SFU) in British Columbia, Canada, had 16,790 FTE. At that time SFU negotiated through the Council of Prairie and Pacific University Libraries Consortium to purchase EEBO for $60,075, and paid $32,640 to cover data being added to the database over the next 5 years, and $32,950 for the MARC records. They paid a TCP membership fee of $37,500. The online access for SFU for an FTE of 19,781 2008/2009 was $1850 a year.[44] Institutions can also subscribe to the services. Subscription means that institutions pay an ongoing annual fee to have their users access those files and interface. For a 4-year academic institution with 10,000 FTE, the subscription price for EEBO in 2008/2009 would be approximately $6,950.

TCP has been able to produce digitizations and transcriptions through using a partnership model. In order to access TCP texts, TCP text creation is based on a partnership model; the partners share joint ownership of the transcribed texts. Payable over five years, becoming a TCP partner for Phase II costs between $50,000 for an Association of Research Libraries institution and $12,500 for a smaller undergraduate institution; the cost for an Undergraduate institution only with fewer than 2,500 FTE is $12,500. These fees can be paid outright, or are payable over five years, with a planned price increase in July 2010. For example, for institutions with fewer than 15,000 FTE, the joint cost of EBBO-TCP for subscription/owner membership year would be $9,450.

Up to this point the cost of transcribing, digitizing, and encoding the first 25,000 texts has been $6.8 million. These costs have been a relatively even split between the costs accrued by out-sourcing the bulk keyboarding overseas, and the costs of having editing and encoding done in Oxford and Michigan by university graduates, many of whom have advanced degrees. As such, the per-book cost for producing a transcribed and encoded digital text comes out to $272. With a collaboration of more than 150 libraries sharing costs, and with ProQuest matching those subscriptions with another 20%, each text costs each partner institution less than two dollars, a price that includes ownership of the text.[45]

Individuals cannot subscribe to EEBO or become TCP partners. EEBO and TCP do have an agreement to make their transcribed texts freely available after five years from the beginning of the encoding process, and a five-year embargo on the transcriptions. The first five years have passed on the original 25,000 texts, and the embargo period has just begun; the texts transcribed by the Text Creation Partnership will be in the public domain on January 15, 2015.[46] The clock for the transcription and encoding of the Phase II 44,000 texts has begun.  The ten-year clock countdown to their becoming open source will begin after their completion as well. Within approximately fifteen years, the entire TCP corpus will be open source.

WWO and Orlando work on a subscription model, but have been funded predominately by grants. They produce text, but also academic research; encoding is only a part of their output. Both resources use graduate and undergraduate labour for data production, and have produced academic papers, presentations, seminars and volumes beyond the transcription and biography that appears online.[47] The Women Writers Project runs on a subscription model with the top tier pricing at $1,650 a year for an institution with 25,000 or more students, and $110 for an institution with fewer than 500 students. The yearly cost for an institution with 10,000 or more students is $1100. WWO can be accessed by individual subscribers for $50 a year, with a rate of half of that, or $25 for students. The project features 308 texts; an individual subscriber accesses texts at a cost that equals $0.16 per text per year. Including the 106 introductions and the 15 essays, an individual subscriber can access the resource at a cost of $0.12 per text per year. WWP received over $2,124,122 in grants and matching funds from funders including Brown University, The National Endowment for the Humanities, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, and Apple Computer Inc.[48]

The Orlando Project has a subscription ranked from $2,950 at the high end to $1,050 at the low end. The yearly subscription rate for a school with 10,000 FTE is $1,050.  The price for an individual subscription is $105 dollars per year. With 1,231 entries, access to individual entries divides out to $0.09 a year for an individual subscriber. Since its inception, the Orlando Project has received over $2,118,000 million dollars in funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Canada Foundation for Innovation, as well as personal donations, software donations, and substantial University support in kind.

The way in which EEBO-TCP, RWO, and Orlando are extending how early English literary studies are researched means that we have reached a point where scholars who do not have access to these and other searchable large scale full-text digital resources, are simply at a disadvantage. Women’s writing, like all writing, is intrinsically wed to feasibility and affordability, in terms of both production and reproduction. It is easier for scholars and students alike to research canonical authors like John Milton because there are simply more online summaries, peer-reviewed essays, and secondhand critical editions of Paradise Lost available; in a market saturated with Shakespearean scholarship, finding resources is likewise easy and cheap. Digital resources that support discovery and exploration of women’s writing have produced a more equal playing field in terms of accessing collections of traditional and non-traditional literary forms.[49] Although we have begun to see results from the open access scholarly movement, almost all high quality primary textual corpuses come with a cost attached. However, these resources offer some of the best routes to challenging a digital canon that looks suspiciously, in scope and content, like the print canon feminist scholars have been successfully challenging for the last few decades. In terms of early English scholarship that has been re-born digital, accessibility and economics have a stake in who gets to do the studying and who gets studied.


[1] Whenever possible I have used textual and bibliographic information found through the Text Creation Project and Early English Books Online (TCP-EEBO), the Brown Women Writers Project (WWP)’s Renaissance Women Online (RWO), and Cambridge’s Orlando: Women's Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present (Orlando).

[2] The manuscript for Lamentation of a Sinner was declared abominable by Askew’s interrogator, Bishop Stephen Gardiner. Martienssen, Anthony K, Queen Katherine Parr. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1973: 220.

[3] Also see Jane Anger: Her Protection for Women. London, 1589; Joseph Swetnam, The Arraignment of Lewd, Idle, Froward, and Unconstant women. London, 1615; Rachel Speght, A Mouzell for Melastomus, London, 1617.

[4] See Crystal Bartolovich, “‘Optimism of the Will’: Isabella Whitney and Utopia’” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (2009) 39:2,407-432; Jean E. Howard, “Textualizing an Urban Life: the Case of Isabella Whitney” in Early modern Autobiography: Theories, Genres, Practices, ed. Ronald Bedford, Lloyd Davis, and Philippa Kelly. Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 2006. 217-233; Laurie Ellinghausen, “Literary Property and the Single Woman in Isabella Whitney’s A Sweet Nosgay” SEL. (2005) 45:1, 1-22; Wendy Wall, “Isabella Whitney and the Female Legacy ELH, (1991) 58:1, 35-62

[5] Betty S. Travitsky, ‘Whitney, Isabella (fl. 1566–1573),’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. Online. Accessed 10 Dec, 2009. http://www.oxforddnb.com.login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/view/article/45498

[6] These include Betty Travisky’s Paradise of Women (1989); Kissing the Rod, ed. Germaine Greer et al (1988); In Her Own Life, ed. Elsepeth Graham et al (1989); Elaine Beiline’s Redeeming Eve (1990); Gail Kern Paster’s The Body Embarrassed (1993); Eve Rachel Sander’s Gender and Literacy on Stage in Early Modern England (1998); Michael Carl Schoenfeldt’s Bodies and Selves in Early Modern England (2001); Lucinda M. Becker’s Death and the Early Modern Englishwoman (2002); Patricia Demers’ Women's Writing in English (2005); and Laurie Ellinghausen’s Labor and Writing in Early Modern England 1550-1660 (2008).

[7] Newman, Karen. “Wik-Crit: Gender, Comparative Literature and Early Modern Studies,” Comparative Critical Studies (2009) 6:2, 165–181. Esp. 174.

[8] See Helen Ostovich’s and Elizabeth Sauer’s Reading Early Modern Women: An Anthology of Texts in Manuscript and Print (2004), Paul Salzman’s Reading Early Modern Women’s Writing (2007) and Early Modern Women’s Writing: An Anthology 1560-1700 (2008); as well as Arturo Pacheco’s A Companion to Early Modern Women's Writing (2002); and Laura Lunger’s The Cambridge Companion to Early Modern Women's Writing (2009).

[9] See Women Writers of the Seventeenth Century, ed. Katharina M. Wilson and Frank J. Warnke, Athens: U. of Georgia Press, 1989. Esp. X.

[10] The Broadview Anthology of English Literature should be commended on its earnest and successful work towards representation.

[11] Nichols, Stephen G. “Born Medieval”: MSS. in the Digital Scriptorium, Journal of Electronic Publishing (2008); 11:1. Online. Accessed November 15, 2009. http://dx.doi.org/10.3998/3336451.0011.104

[12] Wendy Sutherland-Smith. “Weaving the literacy Web: Changes in reading from page to screen,” The Reading Teacher. (2002); 55:7. 662-669

[13] Shannon L. Reed and Kirilka Stavreva. “Layering Knowledge: Information Literacy as Critical Thinking in the Literature Classroom” Pedagogy (2006) 6:3, 435-452. Esp. 11.

[14] Steven Johnson. Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter. New York: Riverhead, 2005

[15] Stephen Ramsay. “Algorithmic Criticism,” in A Companion to Digital Literary Studies, ed. Susan Schreibman and Ray Siemens. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008. http://www.digitalhumanities.org/companionDLS/

[16] We see this kind of work well-articulated in social web’s visualizations, in terms of social networking. Dan Edelstein and Paula Findlen’s Mapping the Republic of Letters traces early English philosophical networks and Harvard University’s AfricaMap allows for a view of enriched historic maps. AfricaMap online, accessed November 15, 2009. http://africamap.harvard.edu

[17] Barron’s argument that there are “likely to be multidirectional relationships between learning activities across contexts when they are taken up as a result of interest,” suggests that the research and discoveries afforded by exploration based on interest, as seen in search-string research, could drive more learning opportunities. See “Interest and self-sustained learning as catalysts of development: A learning ecologies perspective,” Human Development. (2006). 49. 193–224. Esp. 201.

[18] Inquiry into the problematic nature of digital production deserves more attention than I can give it in this essay. Numerous digital resources have not come nearly far enough in terms of their own problematic production: on a macro level, the internet has been driven by a desire to deliver higher resolution pornography; on a micro level, computer coding, even within the academy, is still predominately a gendered job.

[19] Google has digitized close to 300 on the English Renaissance, and more than 250 books on witchcraft.

[20] Perdita can be found online at: http://www.amdigital.co.uk/collections/Perdita/default.aspx
Iter can be located online at: http://www.itergateway.org/index.cfm

[21] For the main site for EEBO see: http://eebo.chadwyck.com/home For the main site for EEBO-TCP see: http://www.lib.umich.edu/tcp/

[22] For the main site of the Brown Women Writers Project see: http://www.wwp.brown.edu/texts/wwoentry.html

[23] For the main site of the Orlando Project see: http://orlando.cambridge.org/

[24] Recognizing the necessity of wedding biography with text, the Brown Women Writers Project and the Orlando Project have been in consultation about the feasibility of linking resources. “The WWP and the Orlando Project.” Online. Accessed December 3, 2009. http://www.wwp.brown.edu/about/orlando.html

[25] H. Semertzidou and A. Togia. “Electronic and Digital Resources in the Humanities” Electronic Journal of Academic and Special Librarianship. (2009) 10:2. Online. Accessed December 1, 2009.

[26] For a call for necessity in bringing a keen editorial eye to electronic editions, see J. Stephen Murphy. “The Death of the Editor,” Essays in Criticism. (2008) 58:4, 289-310. Esp. 300.

[27] Although it has a long history, according to the Internet Society, the Internet outgrew its research origins in the early 1980’s when it began to include commercial interests and its user communities kept broadening. Barry M. Leiner, Vinton G. Cerf, David D. Clark, Robert E. Kahn, Leonard Kleinrock, Daniel C. Lynch, Jon Postel, Larry G. Roberts, Stephen Wolff. “Histories of the Internet: A Brief History of the Internet.” Online. Accessed December 6th, 2009. http://www.isoc.org/internet/history/brief.shtml

[28] The Women Writers Project marked the twentieth anniversary of its original funding in 2009.

[29] Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML); Text Encoding Initiative (TEI)

[30] For some recent examples see: Frances James’ “‘A Christal Glasse for Christian Women’: Meditations on Christ’s Passion in the Devotional Literature of Renaissance Women,” Journal of International Women’s Studies (2009) 10:3; Fiona McNeill’s Poor Women in Shakespeare. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007; Cordelia Beattie’s Medieval Single Women: the Politics of Social Classification in Late Medieval England, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007; Jacqueline T. Miller’s “Ladies of the Oddest Passion: Early Modern Women and the Arts of Discretion,” Modern Philology. (2006) 103:4, 453-473; Micheline White, “Women Writers and Literary-Religious Circles in the Elizabethan West Country: Anne Dowriche, Anne Lock Prowse, Anne Lock Moyle, Ursula Fulford, and Elizabeth Rous,” Modern Philology (2005), 3:2, 187-214.

[31] For more information on the economic model that EEBO-TCP uses, see Shawn Martin’s “A Universal Humanities Digital Library: Pipe Dream of Prospective Future,” Digital Scholarship, ed. Marta Mestrovic Deyrup, New York: Routledge, 2009. 1-12.

[32] Diana Kichuk follows the evolution of the resource. See “EEBO Metamorphosis: Remediation in Early English Books Online (EEBO)” Literary and Linguistic Computing (2007) 22:3, 291-303. Also see Anderson, Kristine J. “Doing Translation History in EEBO and ECCO,” Early Modern Literary Studies 14.2/Special Issue 17. (September, 2008) 6.1-28. Online. Accessed December 1, 2009. http://purl.oclc.org/emls/14-2/Andetran.html

[33] Martin Mueller. “Are the Text Creation Partnership texts good enough for research purposes?,” Sat, 10/17/2009 - 11:25. Online. Accessed December 10, 2009. http://literaryinformatics.northwestern.edu/?q=node/54

[34] See Anon. A Declaration in Answer to Several Lying Pamphlets concerning the Witch of Wapping. London, 1652. Also see Anon. An Account of the Tryal and Examination of Joan Buts, for being a Common Witch and Inchantress, London, 1682

[35] Online. Accessed December 2, 2009. http://www.lib.umich.edu/tcp/

[36] Smith and Cardinale’s collection is based on Wings's Short-title Catalogue (1945-51); the microfilms of Early English Books, 1641-1700; and The Thomason Tracts (1640-1661). And as such, should correspond to EEBO-TCP, providing an excellent cross reference. See Women and the Literature of the Seventeenth Century: An Annotated Bibliography based on Wing's Short-title Catalogue. Santa Barbara: Greenwood Press, 1990.

[37] Julia Flanders “Learning, Reading, and the Problem of Scale: Using Women Writers Online,” Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition, and Culture. (2002) 2:1. 49-58. Esp. 50.

[38] Susan Brown, Patricia Clements, Isobel Grundy, Sharon Balazs, and Jeffrey Antoniuk, “The Story of The Orlando Project: Personal Reflections,” Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature. (2007) 26: 1, 135-143. Esp. 135.

[39] Susan Brown, Isobel Grundy, Patricia Clements, Renee Elio, Sharon Balazs, and Rebecca Cameron, “Intertextual Encoding in the Writing of Women’s Literary History,” Computers and the Humanities. (2004) 38. 191–206. Esp. 193.

[40] Two of Cellier’s texts are available in RWO, and EEBO and TCP have 15 combined hits for Cellier. EEBO has a scanned copy of Sharp’s text, and RWO has a transcribed copy.

[41] Ann Giardina Hess, ‘Shaw, Hester (bap. 1586?, d. 1660)’, rev., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. Online. Accessed Dec 1, 2009 http://www.oxforddnb.com.login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/view/article/37951

[42] The following numbers are in US currency.

[43] Many thanks to Wendy Allen Shelburne, Electronic Resources Librarian, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, for providing the above figures.

[44] Many thanks to Gwen Bird, Associate University Librarian, Collections Services, Simon Fraser University, for providing the above figures.

[45] Aaron McCollough, “Bedfellows in Mass Digital Conversion: Ten Years of Text Creation Partnership(s)” INKE 2009: Research Foundations for Understanding Books and Reading in the Digital Age. Victoria, BC October 23, 2009 – October 24, 2009.

[46] “EEBO-TCP Partnership Phase I Closes Jan. 1, 2010.” Online. Accessed December 5, 2009. http://www.lib.umich.edu/tcp/

[47] The Orlando History of Women's Writing in the British Isles has three volumes, which will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2010: Isobel Grundy, Vindicating Their Sex: Pre-Victorian Women's Writing in the British Isles; Susan Brown, Contradictions and Continuities: Women's Writing in the British Isles, 1820-1890; Patricia Clements, Jo-Ann Wallace, Rebecca Cameron, FreeWoman: Modern Women's Writing in the British Isles. Publications associated with Orlando can be found online at
. In collaboration with Oxford University Press, The Women’s Writers Project produced sixteen volumes of women’s writing. Publications associated with WWP can be found at: http://www.wwp.brown.edu/encoding/publications.html

[48] “Women Writers Project Grants.” Online. Accessed December 3, 2009. http://www.wwp.brown.edu/about/grants/index.html

[49] Marta L. Magnuson. “Electronic Women's Grey Literature in Academic Libraries,” Collection Building. (2009) 28:3, 92-97