Establishing a Text

19C Bush Carpentry

One of the more mundane tasks in this project is to transcribe the Typescript in order to have text files that I can use to compare different versions and, ultimately, to provide a reading text for any electronic or print scholarly edition of Such is Life.

I’m using an OCR (optical character recognition) program that can turn the digital images of each page of the Typescript into useable text.

This is not a perfect solution, but for my small-scale project it’s saving me some time. The first phase of the project consists of running the OCR program on an image of each page and then following this up with corrections. With Furphy’s handwritten revisions on many pages, the OCR program sometimes has trouble and delivers a text that is nowhere near what Furphy typed on the page. This requires a lot of correction or re-transcription. At other times, the program delivers a perfect representation of what is on the page and there is little work to do.

With a little help from friends and family, I hope to have the text of the original Rigby’s Romance completely transcribed by early July. The pressure’s on because I’ll be talking about the text at the ASAL conference. Preliminary comparison using the JUXTA collation program shows a lot of variation between the Typescript and published versions of Rigby’s Romance. Many of the changes can be seen in Furphy’s hand on the typescript, but others must have happened later … on another typescript, perhaps.

There is a typescript of Rigby’s Romance in the Bernard O’Dowd collection of the State Library of Victoria. An early John Barnes essay suggests that Furphy had nothing to do with the typescript, but I’ll have to see for myself when I’m in Melbourne in July. Whatever happens, phase one of the project – establishing the text of the ‘first’ Rigby’s Romance – should be complete by July 2011.

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