The digital edition of the NVS aims to produce forward-looking scholarly tools for creating, reading, and displaying the complexity and connections of a variorum in a web-based environment. Our interfaces and applications make the most of the affordances of the medium while maximizing the research potential of networked and accessible archival resources. With our July 2021 launch, we introduce to the user the beta version of the Variorum Reader (and its affiliate, the Paratext Reader). On the backend, NVS editors are learning to use CoDHR’s web application, Corpora. In the coming years, we will continue to refine these tools and introduce ones, as outlined below. The design and research team, together with the board and editors, consider these efforts to be integral to the larger research mission of the NVS.
The Variorum Reader
The digital edition of the NVS features a visual and interactive reimagining of the apparatus of the variorum (play text, textual notes, and commentary). It associates a given play line to pertinent textual notes (referred to as “variants”) by visualizing their presence in the form of a histogram which compactly conveys variation over time throughout the editions fully collated by the editors. For any line with variants, a “disclosure triangle” appears to the left of the text, allowing the user to expand that aggregated view and see exactly how a given collated edition differs from the copy-text.
Within the text for a given line are also highlights which denote the presence of commentary relevant to the highlighted word(s). Clicking on those highlights scrolls the commentary pane to the right such that the user can see commentary pertinent to the highlighted text. Throughout the commentary, various play lines, collated editions, bibliographic entries, and sections of the appendices are referenced. Those references appear as links, and the user is able to click on those links in order to summon further information appearing in the form of pop-up modals which can be left open and moved around on the screen.
The reader is also afforded the opportunity to search the play text, variants, and commentary using three modes of searching. The default “fuzzy” search makes use of Early Modern English synonyms, so that the user can use modern spellings for words and still find their equivalents as spelled using earlier conventions—i.e. a search for “sleepy drinks” in The Winter’s Tale will show results for “sleepie drinkes,” etc. The “exact” search only matches on exact spellings of search terms. The “wildcard” search allows you to make use of the asterisk (*) to look for results based on partial matches—i.e. a search for “kin*” will show results for “kin,” “king,” “kingdom,” etc.
The Variorum Reader is currently in beta. More work is to be done before the reader will be fully accessible to screen readers, will work seamlessly across all browsers (including mobile devices in portrait mode), and will be fully vetted in terms of the accuracy of the synthetically produced variants. At present, accessing the Variorum Reader on Google Chrome from a laptop or desktop computer provides the best experience.
The Paratext Reader
The digital NVS also features a reader for the paratexts of a given edition, including the Front Matter, Bibliography, and Appendix. The user is offered a table of contents for navigating the various sections of a given paratext, and throughout the text (particularly of the Appendix), references to other material appear as links which, when clicked on, summon pop-up modals containing additional information which can be left open and repositioned.
The Paratext Reader is also in beta. The Appendix in particular features a wealth of information, whether it be a list of conjectural notes, the reproduction of primary sources, and explications of the provenance and history of a particular play. The act of appropriately displaying these disparate forms of content is an ongoing effort.
Envisioned by the design team for the digital edition of the NVS is a suite of research tools including an advanced search across multiple editions; visualizations of search results (such as a character-based frequency plot which will convey what characters most frequently use search terms in their speeches); the ability to sort and filter play lines, textual notes, and commentary in tabular format; and the ability to download raw versions of the data as JSON or TEI. We also hope to integrate external sources of information about a given play line or bibliographic entry.
Also forthcoming are tools for building future digital editions of the NVS. Aside from providing web-based tools for creating appropriately marked-up commentary notes and paratexts, plans include affordances for collated editions to be OCR’d, hand corrected, and lineated. This will allow for collations to occur automatically, saving decades of time compared to the conventional methods of collating a variorum.