Tom Collins and Company, Text Editing and Annotation

In long-lived research projects, it is healthy to celebrate small victories, and so it is with pleasure that I announce a new contribution to the modules that extend from the Joseph Furphy Digital Archive. The first module, presenting the text of the extant typescript and manuscript of Such is Life, was published on AustLit on 23 July 2015. The second module, presenting the text of the 1946 edition of Rigby’s Romance, was published on 21 October 2016 . . . on a new platform for text editing and annotation, Tom Collins and Company.

Built using Ed: A Jekyll Theme for Minimal Editions, the website provides the independence to present reliable texts for collaborative annotation, and a record of text and website history via the technical infrastructure provided by GitHub. Open Scholarly Annotation is supported by, enabling texts to be collaboratively annotated. The text of Rigby’s Romance will provide a test-case for a period of annotation to be conducted by Furphy scholars, enthusiasts, and amateur historians with an interest in the time and place in which the novel is set. This will complete the trilogy of annotated editions of Furphy’s works, and suggest new directions for the future of annotation and commentary in an open and open-ended forum.

The availability and usability of website themes such as Ed, publishing platforms such as GitHub, and tools such as extends the possibilities for textual scholars to pursue digital editions, and to do so with entry level coding skills. With Tom Collins and Company to publish newly edited texts for collaborative annotation and AustLit to provide a solid bibliographical framework on which to assemble a variety of digital resources, it is possible to present an increasingly rich collection of textual and audio-visual resources for research, teaching, and general reading. The Furphy Digital Archive already assembles a variety of resources built on external services such as Google Maps, JUXTA, Timeline JS, Voyant Tools, and YouTube. It continues to grow as new resources become available, and as time and resources permit. Established in 2010 with Mapping Joseph Furphy’s Riverina, and with plans for the publication of abridged versions and full-scale scholarly editions in the future, the Joseph Furphy Digital Archive will be around for the long haul.

Textual scholarship can be notoriously slow, but to produce reliable scholarly editions and associated resources, slow scholarship is frequently unavoidable. Peter Shillingsburg said it best in a paper presented at the Social Digital Scholarly Editing Conference in Saskatoon:

I end by recalling the old saying about the desirables in almost any project of importance: We want it quickly, cheaply and of high quality. In scholarly editing, whether digital or not, whether done by an individual or a crowd, one can still have only two of those at a time: if it is cheap and fast, it will be of low quality; if it is of high quality, it was either slow and cheap or fast and expensive.

Slow and cheap is not necessarily bad as Geoffrey Rockwell reminded us in 2010 when urging scholars in the humanities to persevere in times of scarcity by computing with the infrastructure at hand. My scholarship on the works of Joseph Furphy has outlasted a number of the digital humanities projects that have informed it, but it continues to grow and evolve . . . slowly and cheaply . . .  as a disparate collection of resources that I hope goes some way to engaging new and old readers with Joseph Furphy and his work via new and emerging pathways. Only time will tell.

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R. G. Campbell’s Australian Journal


R. G. Campbell

The Fryer Library at the University of Queensland holds the Louise Campbell Collection (UQLFL120), 9 boxes of material relating to Louise Campbell’s life that also includes several objects related to her husband Ron Campbell’s career as an editor of the Australian Journal from 1926-1955. This material includes a typescript that provides a fragmented autobiographical account of Campbell’s life as an editor, nominally titled ‘An Editor Regrets’, and a typescript of an anthology of Australian Journal short stories that was never published, ‘The Australian Journal Story Book’. The Fryer material captures Campbell in a reflective mood as he looked back on his career as an editor with an opportunity to choose those stories that he thought were the best the Australian Journal had published. Bound with sheets torn from the Australian Journal, a letter to Beatrice Davis of Angus and Robertson indicates the proposed destination for the anthology. But no record of Davis’s response has been found. ‘The Australian Journal Story Book’ exists only as a plan proposed by a prominent figure in the print culture of his time. My Fryer Library Fellowship project will position this cultural artefact within the literary and print culture of its time in order to explore the conditions for freelance story writers and consider the inclusion and exclusion of these writers in Australia’s literary history.

The Australian Journal was one of Australia’s (and the world’s) longest-lived magazines, running continuously from 1865-1961. Several studies have examined the magazine in the nineteenth century, but little is known about the sixty-one years of its existence in the twentieth century. Ron Campbell was editor of the Australian Journal from 1926 until 1955, presiding over a period in which the magazine maintained a significant circulation and published the work of many Australian writers. Campbell’s tenure ended in 1955 when the magazine was sold by A. H. Massina & Co to Southdown Press. The Australian Journal published many unknown writers, but it also welcomed some of Australia’s best-known writers into its pages. The ‘Australian Journal Story Book’ includes stories from Marcus Clarke, ‘Waif Wander’, J. P. McKinney, Roy Bridges, J. H. M. Abbott, Osmar E. White, Xavier Herbert, Vance Palmer, Gavin Casey, Margaret Fane, Hilary Lofting, Robert S. Close, Jon Cleary and several other writers forgotten by recent literary history.



Australian Journal, January 1938.

Often seen by critics and literary historians as a publisher of ‘pot-boilers’ and maudlin romance, the Australian Journal of the twentieth century has attracted little attention except for its role as publisher of fiction from Xavier Herbert and Vance Palmer. But, as the list of writers above shows, the Australian Journal provided a space for many Australian writers to hone their skills and to earn a living in a marketplace where such opportunities were few and far between. The importance of the Australian Journal to emerging writers is seen in several dedications to Campbell in novels from such authors as Robert S. Close and S. H. Courtier. With a recommendation from Campbell and a selection of Australian Journal stories, Jon Cleary first broke into the American short story market in the mid-1940s, initiating his forty-year career as a trans-national novelist with a lucrative association with the Saturday Evening Post. Perhaps unexpectedly, several Australian Journal stories were selected in the annual Coast to Coast anthologies during the 1940s, a publication that was known for choosing the best writing of the year. Because of this, R. G. Campbell and his Australian Journal deserve more attention than they have so far received.

This project will build on my research on trans-national magazine culture, particularly the work on trans-national writers such as Louis Kaye and Vance Palmer. This project will closely examine Campbell’s biography and his selection of stories in conjunction with an analysis of the fiction published in the Australian Journal during Campbell’s editorship. Campbell’s editorial voice will be further explored by scrutinising his ‘In Passing’ column, which ran in the Australian Journal throughout his editorship. This study will demonstrate the significance of the Australian Journal in the twentieth century by positioning it in the print culture of its time. This will place more emphasis on the magazine as a publisher of short fiction and show that it had a greater (or different) significance to Australian writing and writers than most literary histories suggest.

The period under scrutiny roughly coincides with the years 1930-1950, the decades that Bruce Bennett, in his Australian Short Fiction, would say reverberated with ‘Local Loyalties and Modernist Impulses’. Bennett points out that the ‘1930s saw a boom in short story writing in Australian magazines and newspapers which was accompanied by rising expectations of the genre as an art form.’ Vance Palmer, one of Campbell’s most prominent writers (in Australian Journal pages under his own name or as the more disposable ‘Rann Daly’), was also one of the most vocal advocates for the short story as a form, but evolved from someone who warned that fiction should not move ‘too far from the bazaar and the market-place’ to become more modernist by moving towards ‘more delicate and subtle psychological exploration’ in his short stories. As I have shown elsewhere, Vance Palmer straddled these two worlds of ephemeral commercial fiction and more enduring literary fiction with ease but not without complaint for having to do so.

But back in the archive, Ron Campbell’s autobiographical fragments tell us something about the man and his career as editor of a popular magazine. The following paragraphs draw directly on Campbell’s ‘An Editor Regrets’ typescript and his description of the Australian Journal in The First Ninety Years: The Printing House of Massina, Mebourne, 1859-1949.

In the early 1920s Campbell was a school teacher with an aspiration to write the great Australian novel. But with a journalist uncle he was well aware of the precarious nature of the freelance writer and so began to write stories that had a greater chance of selling. He took some of these to the Australian Journal offices and an impressed Stanley Massina (Mr Stan) sent him away to try his hand at a 10,000 word detective story. If he could return with a suitable product in an efficient time, the languishing ‘Detective Album’ was his for the taking. He did so and got the job, continuing to work as a teacher and writer from 1922-1926.

Then, when the frequently absent 81-year-old Mr Adcock finally retired as editor of the Australian Journal in 1926 (a tenure that stretched back deep into the nineteenth century), Campbell was offered the position, one that he would occupy for the next thirty years. Under Mr Adcock, the Australian Journal relied heavily on syndicated fiction and paid scant attention to Australian writers of any merit. Under Campbell’s editorship, the Australian Journal would become a haven for Australian writing (of a particular type), supporting many Australian writers with regular payments that other magazines could not match. As Campbell himself put it in The First Ninety Years, ‘from a compilation of stories by amateurs or semi-amateurs the magazine developed into a vehicle for almost every Australian whose work was worth reading.’ Circulation rose from modest sales of 30,000 in 1926, maintained a healthy 54,000 during the depression, and reached a peak of 120,000 in 1945. The Australian Journal took its brand of short stories to a wide readership within Australia and across the world.

As Russell McDougall’s work on Xavier Herbert’s short stories shows, most of Ron Campbell’s Australian Journal fiction was presented ‘through the lens of popular fiction’. In Campbell’s own words (to Xavier Herbert), Australian Journal readers were ‘mainly women, with limited literary tastes and expectations … Romance was de rigeur. Realism was barred.’ It’s also worth getting Herbert’s opinion out in the open. He loved the attention Australian Journal readers brought to him, but that didn’t stop him from referring to them as ‘mutton-heads’. In a letter to P. R. Stephensen during the 1930s, he wrote:

The best magazine in Aust. today is the Australian Journal. It is in fact the Real Magazine. And it is a very comfortable concern, eighty years old and getting older and more comfortable. Doubtless you know nothing about it. Few literate people do. It is a journal for illiterates. It could claim the patronage of literates too if properly run. The editor has often told me not to waste my time on what he calls Pretty Writing, because the class of reader he caters for realises nothing but plot. (Xavier Herbert, Letters, p. 12-13)

In his autobiographical fragments, Campbell points the finger at ‘academics and highbrows’ as the ones with such opinions, opinions that suggest that the Australian Journal ‘was a trivial publication, suitable only for the less knowledgeable type of housewife.’ Nevertheless, those writers Campbell singled out for special attention in his anthology and elsewhere had a stronger reputation in their day than they do now, and many of them were seen as experts in the field of story-writing, as this advertisement for a story-writing course shows.


Advertisement from Australian Writers and Artists’ Market, Including New Zealand: A Practical Selling Guide for the Freelance, 1946

Advertisements such as these suggest the importance of seeing these figures as freelance writers taking advantage of any opportunity available to make a living from their pen or their portable typewriter. For this period between 1926-1955 in Australia there were limited options to get published in the first place and even further limitations if you expected to get paid. It’s worth stressing that the Australian Journal was probably one of the highest paying outlets in Australia and maintained this reputation throughout the depression when others faltered.


During the 1940s, the Australian Journal often advertised Bernard Cronin’s Story Writing Course.

Bibliographical data extracted from AustLit allows us to look at the field from a broad perspective. A search (in July 2016) for short stories published in periodicals provides some interim data (interim because not all Australian Journal issues have been indexed, but, nevertheless, it is still the most comprehensive bibliography available).  As the tables below show, the Australian Journal is positioned beneath the Bulletin as the main publisher of short stories during Campbell’s editorship, but far above other competitors. The second table below gives us an idea of the the number of stories accepted from Campbell’s preferred writers,  as well as others of interest that some have suggested deserve more attention than accepted literary history provides. (I’m thinking here, particularly, of Myra Morris, Georgia Rivers, and Jean Campbell), but all will be worth a reevaluation within the period in which they were most active as freelance short story writers.



Top 13 Short Story Publishers, 1926-1955. (Source, AustLit, July 2016)


R. G. Campbell’s favoured writers were among the most prolific contributors to the Australian Journal, 1926-1955.

I have shown elsewhere how Vance Palmer’s commercial and literary fiction have significant inter-textual relationships, and there is no doubt that other connections will be found between the ephemeral Australian Journal short stories of others and the fiction that built their reputation. For instance, Xavier Herbert’s ‘Seven Emus’, published in the Australian Journal in 1942 was significantly revised for it’s 1959 book publication. Other authors on the list might also surprise as J. P. McKinney’s Australian Journal short stories have done for a few seasoned bibliographers. Unknown and understudied, McKinney’s ‘According to Noonan’ series places him firmly within the tradition of Steele Rudd’s comic portrayal of life in the Queensland back blocks. Better known for his philosophical writing and a prize-winning war novel, McKinney is revealed here as someone who made a living with commercial fiction in the 1920s and 1930s, before turning his hand to radio serials based on characters from his Noonan series. Writers like McKinney are not writing in isolation, producing works of art disconnected from the culture that surrounds them. Their relationships with editors, publishers, and other writers are worth considering.


An illustration that headed many of McKinney’s Noonan stories.

The passive and active position-taking or position-making within Australia’s literary and print culture draws attention to the benefits of employing Pierre Bourdieu’s notion of the ‘cultural field’. The relationships that form between writers, publishers, critics and readers can tell us a lot about the period of time in which these individuals and institutions were active, and so this project will exploit that as much as possible in order to provide the broadest account of the story-writing freelance in the middle decades of the twentieth century. Closer examination of the profiles and relationships that emerge from the archive for each writer will contribute to a fuller consideration of ‘The Australian Journal Story Book’ as a product of its time. The questions that arise will require some time in other archives to compile the evidence needed to support the biography and bibliography that will better accommodate these freelance writers within literary history. Evidence from the archive will be complemented by distant views of literary and print culture through tables, graphs and network visualisations such as those included in this post.


Network visualisation showing relationships between short story writers and the top 13 publishers. The Bulletin is the central node on the right. The Australian Journal on the left. Many of Campbell’s ‘experts’ are situated in the middle of the visualisation, indicated by the small green nodes and connecting lines.

With the help of the Fryer Library and UQ’s digitisation program, there is huge potential to ‘liberate the archive’ through thoughtful digitisation that supports the biography and bibliography of this project, drawing attention to Ron Campbell’s autobiographical fragments and his unpublished anthology, and demonstrating the value of these items as significant cultural objects that demand further scrutiny.



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Joseph Furphy Digital Archive Launched on AusLit

I think it was Peter Shillingsburg who once emphasised that scholarly editing projects are positioned along a wide spectrum of financial support: at the high-end are those with significant financial support and large numbers of employees, able to complete large projects in a short period of time; at the the low-end are solitary scholars with little-to-no financial support, requiring a long period of time to complete their project. It looks like I’m in this business for the long haul.

My interest in Joseph Furphy’s Such is Life extends back to 2001. After completing my PhD (a textual history and scholarly edition of Joseph Conrad’s Under Western Eyes), I knew Furphy’s Australian classic was in need of a scholarly edition, and so I wrote several postdoctoral proposals. None found a place in the research programs of Australian universities. After completing a postdoctoral fellowship studying Australian magazine culture, I joined the ranks of the academic precariat, and have since held a number of short-term, fractional positions, all the time maintaining a strong research record in book history and textual scholarship. In 2013, Cambridge University Press published my edition of Under Western Eyes, an edition I co-edited with Paul Eggert.

In 2011, I was awarded the Nancy Keesing Fellowship, which enabled me to undertake preliminary research on Joseph Furphy’s manuscript and typescript material in the Mitchell Library. I completed a first-run transcription and began plans for a digital scholarly edition while I worked part-time as a project manager on the Aus-e-Lit Project, continuing my long association with AustLit, a bibliographical database devoted to the study of Australian creative writing in all its forms. Furphy’s Such is Life then served as a case-study for AustESE, the Australian Electronic Editing Project, which is currently marking time on GitHub while waiting for further development funding. I had pushed the Furphy project further towards my goal of an independent electronic scholarly edition, but was stymied by problems associated with the support and sustainability of large digital projects.

In 2014, AustLit completed a period of redevelopment that included an open-contribution platform similar to the one I’m writing on now. While working in the AustESE Project, I had theorised the idea of a scholarly edition (print or electronic) as an assembly of constituent parts, and AustLit now provided a platform to put this into practice on the stable foundation of an extensive national bibliographical record. I could draw together work I had done on Juxta Commons, Google Maps, and Timeline JS, and publish it in exhibition form on a digital resource devoted to Australian writing. The Joseph Furphy Digital Archive had found a home.

The Joseph Furphy Digital Archive on AustLit

The Joseph Furphy Digital Archive on AustLit

The Joseph Furphy Digital Archive aims to provide greater access for more people to the material archive that lies behind Furphy’s fiction and poetry. The modular nature of AustLit’s exhibitions platform provides a suitable space to publish transcriptions, timelines, maps, and associated essays as they become available.The first module to be published is Such is Life Typescript (1898).This module includes a transcription of the typescript, colour-coded to identify deletions and additions, and visualisations of textual variation with the Bulletin Library first edition. Images of typescript pages can be viewed by clicking on the page numbers in the transcription. An essay on the composition, revision, and publication describes the textual transmission and the unique properties of the typescript that resulted from these processes. This module aims to provide unprecedented access to the pre-publication material for scholars, critics, teachers, and students. It is hoped that this access will encourage new and innovative readings of Furphy’s work and facilitate a greater appreciation of the impact that book production can have on literary works.

Such is Life Typescript Transcription and Image

Such is Life Typescript Transcription and Image

The second, third, and fourth modules will produce critical editions of Furphy’s three main works for distribution in both print and digital formats. These editions will include a critically established text and an essay that describes the textual and cultural history of each of Furphy’s works down to the present day. The fifth module will deliver a digital edition of the abridged English edition of Such is Life, including an essay on Vance and Nettie Palmer’s role in editing the text for the London publisher Jonathan Cape, particularly the ways in which the original work was changed for English readers of the 1930s. Digital editions of the abridged Such is Life and the unabridged Rigby’s Romance will be published here for the first time.

The first module was published on 23 July 2015. The next three modules will be delivered by the end of 2016, and the final module is to be delivered in 2017. Throughout this time, the Furphy Digital Archive will provide enhanced timelines and maps, and access to innovative text analysis tools. This will help to prepare Furphy’s work for the next generation of scholars and critics.

But, for now, I happily launch the first iteration of the Joseph Furphy Digital Archive into the fertile field of Australian literary and book history.

[Note: The complete Archive is freely available to AustLit subscribers and members of subscribing institutions. If this is not you and you would like a preview, please leave a comment with contact details below.]

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Such is Life Archive Update

For Furphy scholars attending ASAL2014, this is a brief snapshot of the Furphy Electronic Archive. I would like to establish a more formal advisory group at the conference. Please contact me if you are interested in joining.

Transcriptions have been completed for all the versions of interest. They are awaiting checking and final correction before full-blown annotation and commentary can begin. Below is a snapshot of a page of the Such is Life manuscript in the AustESE WorkBench Editing Interface. Credit must go to Anna Gerber, Desmond Schmidt and Damien Ayers for their work on the AustESE Project at Professor Jane Hunter’s UQ eResearch Group. It has been a pleasure and an education to work with them.

AustESE WorkBench Interface for Transcription.

AustESE WorkBench Interface for Transcription.

Using an ontology (similar to the FRBR used by AustLit) which Anna Gerber and I designed for the WorkBench, all of the “works”, “versions”, and “artefacts” can be viewed in many different ways, including the “Reading View” (below) where I expect most registered users will create their annotations. Filtering and search options will soon be added to the project, allowing readers to view annotations by creator, category, or tag. The screenshot below shows the reading view with annotations. My primary aim is to use the annotation tool to write a comprehensive “Textual Commentary” on the 1898 Typescript. This commentary will ultimately support (and provide an archive for) several chapters of a book I plan to write on the textual and cultural history of Such is Life.

AustESE Reading View with Annotations

AustESE Reading View with Annotations

The Reading View also provides access to side-by-side views of versions with variation highlighted. This feature is supported by Desmond Schmidt’s Multi-Version Documents. Currently, each chapter of Such is Life is broken down into smaller sections for processing, but in the near future I expect to be able to process the entire novel. See Desmond’s blog for an update on this exciting prospect. The archive provides side-by-side comparison views of all versions of Such is Life, Rigby’s Romance, and The Buln-buln and the Brolga. This includes the Palmer abridgement for English readers, published by Jonathan Cape in 1937.

Side-by side comparison of the first edition with the Palmer abridgement.

Side-by-side comparison of the first edition with the Palmer abridgement.

In the short term, the AustESE WorkBench will provide the primary interface for viewing the transcriptions and page images, but a number of export options can be considered to enable viewing on other platforms, including e-readers, apps, and books. The advisory group will play an important part in imagining the possibilities for these alternative views. Outcomes from any ASAL meetings will be posted here in the future.

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Visualising Australian Book History

For the last few years, I’ve been involved in a variety of research projects, some that have sent me into archives to examine the records of authors and publishers, and others that have inspired me to experiment with bibliographical data drawn from AustLit. I’ve learned a lot from IT colleagues, particularly Anna Gerber, and I’ve been inspired and encouraged by many of the participants who attended THATCamp Canberra, and THATCamp Brisbane. My field of research crosses over book history, scholarly editing, and transnational literary studies, but I’m an enthusiastic amateur when it comes to data visualisation. And so, I flit around between distant reading of small collections of bibliographical data, and close reading of archival records that will probably never be digitised.

Most of my research productivity comes out in journal articles and scholarly editions, but the visual guides that I use for quiet contemplation or guidance when thinking about how to characterise relationships between authors and publishers, or publishers and publishers don’t get much further than my MacBook Air or a slide in an occasional conference presentation … until now.

Few of my colleagues pursue research that looks at Australian book history from a distance to capture the nuances of publishing trends and relationships or spatial distributions. The obvious exceptions are Katherine Bode and Jason Ensor, both of whom have done remarkable work with AustLit data. Kath’s Reading by Numbers: Recalibrating the Literary Field revised Australian literary history by looking at publishing trends rather than the trajectory of a few canonical texts, and Jason has done similar work with articles like ‘Is a Picture Worth 10,175 Novels‘ and ‘Still Waters Run Deep: Empirical Methods and the Migration Patterns of Regional Publishers’ Authors and Titles within Australian Literature‘. Research methods such as these have shown the promise of employing AustLit’s bibliographical data, but we have seen little uptake by PhD students and other scholars.

For my own part, I’ve embraced the spreadsheet and have used data collected in various projects to experiment with network visualisation and mapping, primarily with thoughts of employing such techniques as a scholarly editor and book historian to better understand the contexts in which literary works are found. For some time, I’ve been working with David Carter to explore the trajectories of Australian novels as they made their way to publishing houses in the United States of America. Drawing on AustLit’s bibliographical data, we produced and enhanced a spreadsheet that provided an efficient way for us to graph publishing trends for the 150-year history of American editions of Australian novels. The spreadsheet also provided the data to look at relationships between Australian authors and American publishers on a large scale. Using Gephi, I experimented with authors and publishers as source and target until my eyes went bleary. While some of the major publishers and authors were no surprise, representation of the field in this way serves as a reminder of the complexity of the publishing world, but also suggests possible meanings in proximity that we are still working through as we write a narrative for publication.

American Publishers

Network of Relationships Between Australian Authors and American Publishers, 1840-2012.


Detail of Australian Authors and American Publishers, 1840-2012.

Detail of Australian Authors and American Publishers, 1840-2012.

More recently, I’ve been compiling a bibliography of criticism of select Australian authors for a colleague who aims to look at the way these authors have been positioned in ‘world’ literature. For most of these authors, the numbers of their international reception equals or exceeds their reception within Australian borders, indicating the transnational nature of Australian literary production and reception.

Tabulating Criticism of an Australian Author by Country and Year of Criticism.

Tabulating Criticism of an Australian Author by Country and Year of Criticism.

AustLit’s recent restructure has made it easier to export search results into a variety of formats. After exporting from AustLit and importing into Zotero for enhancement and management, I exported again in RIS format and sent that through JabRef to create a csv file which I then used to create tables (like the one above) and graphs and networks. My colleague has a lot more reading and thinking to do in order to position and interpret individual works of criticism, but looking (below) at this network of a selection of seven novelists and their many critics, the potential for network analysis on a much larger scale is evident. If only there was world enough, and time, and . . .

Critics and Works Network

Visualisation of Relationships Between Seven Australian Authors and Their Critics.

I look forward to getting back to the archive to leaf through manuscripts and business records created by human beings for human beings, but I am also attracted to the promise of visualisations such as those above to guide and shape my thinking about the activities of those humans whose biographies emerge from archival research. I don’t see these as definitive representations of the way things are, particularly since I made them, but they are artefacts of my attempts to understand Australian book history and print culture on a national and an international scale. I have much more to learn about the best way to visualise the data and follow that up with legitimate interpretation. (Please contact me with advice and encouragement!)  But, as my spreadsheets evolve and grow so will the tables and visualisations that are produced from that data. I’d like to think that I am modelling contingent data in support of contingent knowledge production, but I might sleep on that and see what I think in the morning.

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Assembling an Electronic Edition of Such is Life

I’ve been working with the Australian Electronic Scholarly Editing Project to develop a WorkBench that will help scholarly editors (and others) with limited technical skills to assemble electronic scholarly editions. The project is in its final months and there are still a few components waiting to be integrated, but the WorkBench is advanced enough to give a preview of my work on Furphy.

Works, Versions, and Artefacts

Works, Versions, and Artefacts

For my electronic edition of Joseph Furphy’s Such is Life, I am currently working through a period of checking transcriptions and will soon upload the available page images and connect them to the relevant pages in the transcriptions. This will make checking the transcriptions much easier, and so, sometime in November, I’ll be extending an invitation to Furphy scholars and enthusiasts to help me. This will be the final stage before I start the big job of writing the annotations and commentary that will guide readers through the complex relationships between the different versions. In the near future, I’ll also invite experts in nineteenth century literature and history to contribute annotations and commentary to the edition.

At the moment, I have transcriptions of the following versions:

      1. 1897 Manuscript: I have another thirty or so pages left of the 56 extant pages to transcribe.
      2. 1898 Typescript: All of the 403 typescript pages are transcribed, awaiting a second round of checking against the images
      3. 1903 First Edition: Generously provided by the Sydney Electronic Text and Image Service (SETIS).
      4. 1921 Abridgement of Rigby’s Romance: Generously provided by SETIS.
      5. 1937 Abridgement of Such is Life: Complete, awaiting checking against original.
      6. 1946 Edition of Rigby’s Romance: Complete, awaiting checking against original. This will eventually be superseded by a transcription of the 1905-6 serialisation from the Barrier Truth.
      7. 1948 First Edition of The Buln-Buln and the Brolga: Generously provided by SETIS. This will eventually be superseded by a transcription of the ca 1905 typescript.

In addition to providing greater access to the pre-publication versions, the abridged Such is Life (1937) and the full-length Rigby’s Romance (1946) are available here for the first time in electronic form. All of these transcriptions are currently mounted in the AustESE WorkBench and will be made public after the period of checking and initial annotation is complete. 

Reading view showing the Palmer abridgement.

Reading view showing the Palmer abridgement.

Readers of the electronic edition will also have access to MVD side-by-side or table views to see the variation between versions at any point. These views will soon be integrated into the Reading View seen above. I will be using these, combined with annotations and an extended essay to establish a reading text that presents a full version of the 1898 typescript as closely as my argument and editorial skills will allow.

MVD showing variation between TS and The Buln Buln and the Brolga.

MVD showing variation between TS and The Buln Buln and the Brolga.

I’ll write more posts as features are added to the AustESE Workbench during the next month or so. If you have read this far, and you are interested in volunteering to check transcriptions, I’d love to hear from you to discuss the possibilities. The AustESE Workbench is set up to facilitate collaborative editing. All assistance will receive due credit in the Furphy Project pages. I can also jet up a limited preview (probably starting mid-November to mid-December) if you’d just like to explore how the archive and edition is coming together.

Viewing Typescript Images in the AustESE WorkBench.

Viewing Typescript Images in the AustESE WorkBench.

 Ultimately, I hope to use this electronic edition as the foundation and reference for a monograph along the lines of Paul Eggert’s Biography of a Book: Henry Lawson’s While the Billy Boils. By following the life of the work from its origins at the hand of Joseph Furphy through revisions, abridgements and reception down to the present day, I aim to contribute a better understanding of Furphy’s position in his own time, and in ours. 

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Mitchell Library Hail Fellows Presentation, 15 February 2012

As the 2011 Nancy Keesing Fellow, I presented a work-in-progress talk at the Mitchell Library Hail Fellows Evening earlier in 2012. The video of that presentation is now available. The presentation provides a general description of the approach I am taking towards an electronic edition of Such is Life. Updates to that approach will be posted here in 2013.

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On this day …

The door through which Furphy’s body was carried on the day of his death, one hundred years ago today.

Early on 13 September 1912, Joseph Furphy set off to his son’s house with a horse and cart to pick up a load of iron railings. At about 8am his daughter-in-law, Mattie, saw him standing in the street in front of her house. After attempting to take a step, he collapsed and was assisted by neighbours into the house where he died of a cerebral haemorrhage soon after. On his death certificate his occupation was recorded as ‘Mechanic’.

Joseph Furphy’s name lives on as the author of Such is Life and people will gather today in Shepparton to mark the centenary of his death. John Barnes will present the John Furphy Memorial Lecture tonight on the topic, ‘Joseph Furphy: the Philosopher at the Foundry’, providing an opportunity to hear an esteemed Furphy scholar discuss the life and work of one of Australia’s most important writers. On Friday, Reading Joseph Furphy in Shepparton will bring a group of Furphy scholars together to continue the discussion.

Unfortunately, I’m unable to attend, but I’ll spend a few quiet moments today thinking about the man and the literary work that maintains such a prominent position in Australia’s literary history. Such is Life is one of those works that most people agree is not an easy read, but I line up with all those who will tell you that the rewards come in re-reading. The images and ideas that Furphy created emerge with such clarity in those moments when you concentrate on passages that were only vaguely familiar beforehand. I am looking forward to the next time I read about Tom Collins’ final approach to the ‘civilisation’ of the station mounted on a horse with his borrowed coat and bell-topper. I have laughed again at Tom Collins’ naked adventures on the ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ side of the Murray River, and I continue to learn things about myself while thinking about Joseph Furphy’s particular brand of socialism.

I hope the accessibility and the flexibility of an electronic edition of Joseph Furphy’s works will attract more first-time readers and encourage some of those to pursue the richer experience of second and third readings to get closer to the ideas and the fictional world that emerged from the author’s imagination in the 1890s.

The Shepparton mechanic and author of Such is Life died one hundred years ago today. Long may he live in the minds of readers everywhere.

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The Palmer Abridgement of Such is Life

Such is Life (Palmer) 3 by Tom_Collins
Such is Life (Palmer) 3, a photo by Tom_Collins on Flickr.

Have just received my own copy of the 1937 Palmer abridgement of Such is Life. Scanned and roughly transformed into text I can now see the extent of the Palmer revisions. An extended account will be provided later, but for now I can confirm that the Palmers removed approximately 40,000 words for this English edition of an Australian classic. This edition will be included in the electronic edition of Such is Life for those interested in editorial intervention for marketing and cultural reasons.

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Further Towards an Electronic Edition of Joseph Furphy’s Such is Life.

Joseph Furphy at Work in the Furphy Foundry

For more than three years, Joseph Furphy resisted suggestions that he shorten Such is Lifefor publication. But, after a visit to Sydney in April 1901, he gave in to the pressure from A. G. Stephens and the Bulletin Publishing Company. When he returned to Shepparton, he wrote to Stephens with a plan that would make radical changes to his novel: ‘As we agreed, contraction is impossible; the operation must be performed as if you would cut an ocean liner in two, then take a portion out of the centre, and deftly stick the ends together, making a tight, seaworthy brig.’ Such iron work might have been performed daily in the family foundry where Furphy worked, but the author performed a similar feat by lamplight in the ‘sanctum’ he had built for himself at the rear of his  cottage. This skillion had just enough room for a table, a bookcase and a stretcher bed, but Furphy retired there every evening to work on his ‘magnum opus.’

As I have described in a previous post, Furphy replaced the second and fifth chapters with shorter ones that contained significantly different content. The original chapters were revised and eventually published as The Buln Buln and the Brolga and Rigby’s Romance. As Julian Croft has argued in The Life and Opinion of Tom Collins, Furphy’s revisions changed the book’s ‘centre of gravity.’ With most of the text from the extracted novels, the 1898 version was ‘more concerned with relationships of men and women, and far more concerned with the notions of art, artifice, realism, and romance.’ With the two new chapters, the 1903 version placed greater emphasis on the theme of alternatives, choice, and determinism. In effect, Such is Life became a MUCH different book than the one Furphy had hoped to see published in 1898.

Collation of the 1898 typescript with the published versions confirms the variation discussed by Croft, John Barnes and Kevin Gilding, but it also identifies a multitude of variants that weave the extant documents together into complex sets of material and textual relationships.

In addition to revealing the complexity of this variation, I would also like to show today’s readers the text of Such as Lifeas Furphy typed it in 1898. But because parts of the

Furphy’s Shepparton Home (Click on image to go to State Library of Victoria)

typescript are missing, it is difficult to represent the complete text of that document with certainty. Nevertheless, we can approximate that text by drawing text from the published documents, and by flagging any words or passages likely to have been added to accommodate the new chapters, two and five.

Such a procedure will always be provisional, and so the established text is best provided in an electronic form that is easily updated and open to comment from readers. I aim to establish the provisional text over the next few months and work towards the best electronic environment for such an edition with my colleagues at the AustESE Project.

The AustESE project aims to build an electronic workbench that includes a workflow engine for scholarly editing and the best open source tools available . . . all tied together with a data model based on FRBR and the SPAR ontologies. A variety of export formats will be available, and so editors can choose from web-based electronic editions, e-reader versions, or traditional print formats.

For Such is Life, I’m aiming for something like the social editions discussed at the recent conference, Beyond Accessibility: Textual Studies in the 21st Century, but more thought will be necessary before the best way to represent Furphy’s documents and texts comes forward. With a suitable electronic environment, a beta version of ‘Such is Life (1898)’ can be offered to Furphy scholars and general readers for perusal and comment, in order to collaboratively determine which of those elements drawn from the published texts are most likely to be anachronisms. New versions of the text can then be released when necessary and made available in a variety of formats for readers of different persuasions.

By providing greater access to Furphy’s texts, with suitable tools to deal with the complex network of relationships between the related documents and people, we can all get a bit closer to a work that retains a significant place in the history of Australian literature.

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