A second Works in Progress session on current digital research was held on 2 March, with Giles Bergel in the chair. Pip Willcox introduced the Shakespeare Quartos Archive, which was launched on 16 November 2009. The site currently offers digitized images of 32 copies of the first five editions of Hamlet. The accompanying software makes it possible to see at a glance the differences between the texts of different editions, and variants and annotations in different copies. A feature for removing opacity, developed by the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities, makes it possible to superimpose one copy on another, in a form of online collation which raises exciting possibilities for the future.

Colin Burrow discussed Scriptorium: Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts Online, which provides digitized images of a selection of early modern manuscripts, together with scholarly essays on the history and contents of each manuscript and a remarkable online course on palaeography. His presentation brought out the heterogeneity of so many manuscripts of the period, ranging from scholarly library catalogues to medical remedies and warnings against laziness.

Miscellaneity was raised by Paddy Bullard in a discussion of some general questions about the future of digital editing, based on his experience of working for the Journal to Stella website, part of the forthcoming Cambridge edition of Swift’s works. Recent textual theory, reacting against author-centred approaches, has been pushing to make archives as comprehensive as possible, but in the process has weakened any overarching structure to facilitate navigation. In looking at ways of reconciling these approaches, Dr Bullard proposed the genre of the printed miscellany as a useful model for electronic editions. The ensuing discussion touched on the larger issues of structure and purpose as well as the practicalities of funding and technique and ways of measuring ‘impact’ (basic point: please use the feedback buttons provided!).  And in the dash to digitization, are libraries forgetting where they have put their microfilms?


After the 1629 portrait of Arthur Johnston by George Jamesone in King's College Aberdeen, with the motto 'NOSCE TE IPSVM'

On 2 March, Alexander Farquhar gave a presentation on the seventeenth-century Scottish poet Arthur Johnston (c. 1579-1641), widely acknowledged as the greatest Scottish neo-Latin poet after Buchanan and also notable as the editor of Deliciæ Poetarum Scotorum hujus Ævi (Amsterdam, 1637), which brought Scots poets into a series of publications of different nations’ neo-Latin verse. (No comparable volume for England was published.) Farquhar brought out the international character of his career and writing, as a poet who vindicated his compatriot George Buchanan to a European audience and joined the Scots diaspora on the Continent before becoming Rector of King’s College, Aberdeen. Johnston died in Oxford and one of his daughters married George Dalgarno, whose work on a system of shorthand while he taught in Oxford in the 1650s brought him in touch with the  natural philosophers who were to play a leading role in forming the Royal Society.

Today’s Professor of Humanity at Aberdeen, Jane Stevenson, is the author of Women Latin Poets: Language, Gender, and Authority from Antiquity to the Eighteenth Century (2005). She continued the Scottish theme on 2 March with a paper to the Early Modern Literature Graduate Seminar on ‘Latin and Literature in Seventeenth-Century Britain’ in which she highlighted the particular emphasis on Latinity in early modern Scottish culture, as manifested not only in the large body of poetry but also in the number of Scottish translations from European vernaculars into Latin.

On 10 March James Hankins (Harvard University) spoke on the I Tatti Renaissance Library, of which he is a founder and General Editor, and which has done so much to make authoritative texts of neo-Latin writings widely available. The series has been successful in financial as well as scholarly terms, thanks in part to volumes like Boccaccio’s

Famous Women. Professor Hankins made clear the challenge of establishing editorial consistency and rigour across such diverse texts, which have often received little scholarly attention – as in the case of Aurelio Lippo Brandolini’s Republics and Kingdoms Compared, a forceful critique of Florentine civic humanism of which his own edition gives the first translation into any language.

The Hilary Term seminar had a strongly interdisciplinary emphasis. Jennifer Richards (University of Newcastle) introduced her current research on ‘Physic and Rhetoric: Reading the Medical Regimens’. Professor Richards explored a range of manuscript and printed materials which have been quarried by historians of medicine but offer different rewards from a literary perspective.

In ‘The End of the Monarchical Republic? Robert Parsons and William Shakespeare think about politics and history’, the historian Peter Lake (Vanderbilt University) read Richard II against the political polemics surrounding the Elizabeth succession.

Kathy Eden (Columbia University) brought in a comparative perspective, in a paper on Montaigne which formed part of a larger exploration of  the role of classical rhetoric and hermeneutics in ‘The Renaissance Rediscovery of Intimacy’.

Exploring ‘Latin and Literature in Seventeenth-Century Britain’, Jane Stevenson (University of Aberdeen) showed how the apparently universal medium of neo-Latin poetry failed to bridge significant cultural gaps between seventeenth-century England and Scotland – though she ended with a suggestive counter-example involving Milton’s ‘Lycidas’.