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 hypothes.is, 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 hypothes.is 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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