First Published: April 2004
Revised (substantive): 4 June 2015
The past is not dead; it is not even the past.
— WILLIAM FAULKNER (1897–1962)
The New She-philosopher.com: a Note on Site Design
REPEAT VISITORS TO this website will notice that She-philosopher.com, redesigned in 2012, has a new logo
and organizational identity.
The new She-philosopher.com logotype is set in Linotype’s Waza font:
Developed [in 2008] by Polish designer Franciszek Otto, Waza is a script revived from the Baroque epoch, particularly an etching by Wilhelm Hondius (Hondt), the Dutch court engraver for the Polish king, Ladislaus IV [of the Vasa dynasty]. While the tendriled caps are what give Waza its distinctive, ornate character, there are tamer alternate glyphs for less ostentatious settings.
(FontShop Newsletter for Oct. 2009, “New Superfamilies from Linotype, Monotype, and ITC”)
Waza’s style of calligraphy will be familiar to anyone who has looked at many early-modern maps, and indeed, Wilhelm Hondius (born c.1598, The Hague; died in 1652 or 1658, Gdansk) was a cartographer and painter, as well as an engraver.
The new logo celebrates She-philosopher.com’s forthcoming collection of materials on early-modern calligraphy, as practiced by engravers of maps & prints and other instrumental discourses.
Digital design challenges & strategies
When she-philosopher.com first launched in 2004, many of us were still using dial-up modems, so “best practices” for Web designers included keeping images around 35KB in size so that your HTML pages would load quickly. Some graphics are better suited to this sort of processing than others, and I quickly learned that my digital facsimiles of 17th-century visual art fell into the “others” category. In particular, period line engravings and etchings with a staggering amount of graphic detail did not lend themselves well to a thumbnail presentation, and posed unique challenges. Back then, we were designing websites for display on VGA devices with 640 x 480 pixel resolution screens, using only GIF and JPEG compression formats, and 256 “Web-safe colors” (which is how puce — #996699 — became the original she-philosopher.com’s trade-mark purple). I fretted over every image I posted to the website, including the trade-mark graphic from Book 2 of Kircher’s Ars Magna Sciendi (Amsterdam, 1669) on she-philosopher.com’s welcome page, removing individual colors by hand to achieve a 4-color 780 x 378 pixel GIF graphic that was only 55KB in size, and still have the 17th-century engraver’s calligraphy be readable.
Today, I’m still making trade-offs concerning image quality and file size versus load time, but I no longer worry about having several higher-resolution and/or larger images in the 60KB–70KB range on a single Web page that is not a Gallery Exhibit (e.g., see the redesigned IN BRIEF biography of Sir Walter Ralegh, where I have juxtaposed 8 higher-quality portraits of Ralegh on a single page, in order to document his changing identity over time). I still favor GIF and JPEG data compression techniques, and avoid using the PNG compression format for critical images (such as She-philosopher.com’s banner graphic) because not all browsers support it; but for those originals where I find that the highest-quality digital facsimile I can create is a PNG file, I’ll probably use it. And I have, in one section of the new She-philosopher.com, indulged my own passion for visual rhetoric, building 6 Web pages around single images each about 200KB in size: for example, see the illustrated title-page for Robert Hooke in THE PLAYERS section, which is themed around Hooke’s double identity as “the greatest Mechanick this day in the world” and “an absent presence” in standard histories of science. This is an extraordinary practice, however, and single images of such large size are otherwise found only in She-philosopher.com Gallery Exhibits.
With 32-bit color now the standard, I have updated the She-philosopher.com color palette, replacing the old puce with multiple vibrant purples, only one of which is a Web-safe color. Plus, I have switched from a 780px to a 960 pixel-wide layout (taking advantage of the 1024px and greater resolution screen common with most netbooks, laptops, and desktop computers).
There have been a lot of technological advances since 2004 (especially in computer graphics adapters, which frees up other computing power, giving today’s website developers a lot more leeway), and the new standards in Web design have revolutionized not only the look-and-feel of the Web, but also its performance, causing most of us to revisit earlier design decisions and update our designs accordingly. I encountered my own tipping point when “tableless Web layouts” took hold, and I promised myself I would post no further content to the public-access areas of she-philosopher.com until I was able to overhaul the entire website.
This was too ambitious, by far. A complete makeover proved even more daunting to implement than I anticipated, and another tipping point came when I realized I needed to rethink this approach if I still intended to move the website forward. My solution was inelegant, but necessary: focus instead on publishing some of the exciting new research I’d been holding back for a couple of years, and just let the old table-based, pre-CSS layouts be, until such time as I get around to updating them.
This means that the redesigned She-philosopher.com — launched in 2012 (with a greatly enhanced 62KB JPEG trade-mark image on the welcome page ;-) — still contains much of the old along with the new, and the website’s duelling personality may well be a permanent feature, since I am already over-worked as it is. It is also true that the new hybrid identity — merging past and present, with an eye on the future — runs deeper than mere appearances, and is not really at odds with the website’s mission.
A surprising number of design principles remain in place from the original launch in 2004.
I still prefer to format content on a given subject as one long (sometimes very long ;-) HTML page, rather than spreading it over several shorter pages which require multiple downloads and separate searches (for example, She-philosopher.com’s list of Primary Sources began its digital life in 2004 as a single page; then in 2009, I broke it up into 3 shorter pages; then in 2012, I consolidated the three pages into one again). I continue to cluster all of the website’s large, highest-resolution images in just one section, She-philosopher.com’s Gallery, where they are formally catalogued for ease of reference, and where visitors expect (and should be less surprised by) long download times. And for text, I’ve stuck with the type stalwarts Georgia and Verdana because they are almost universally available now (hence, aka “Web-safe fonts”); because, even after all these years, I still think Georgia is a beautiful typeface, and never tire of reading it online; and because I still don’t trust the new Web fonts to display reliably across a wide range of devices, especially as the amount of traffic congestion on the Web grows exponentially. While I did switch at the beginning of 2015 from using Verdana to using Corbel (or Carlito, or Calibri) for sans-serif body text on, e.g., top-level Web pages such as that for the new STUDIES section, in order to make such text more distinctive, I continue to use Verdana for navigation, notes, captions, sidebars, and pop-ups — in short, everywhere that requires type which is attractive and readable when set at small sizes.
In general, I still prefer less flashy designs than what is considered normal elsewhere on the Web, and am slow to adopt all the bells & whistles that are available to developers, ever mindful of the many visitors to She-philosopher.com using old (Windows 3.1 OS, and earlier!) as well as new (tablets and smartphones) browsers and platforms, and of visitors who use assistive technologies, as well.
By far the most difficult challenge I face is the same as it’s always been: figuring out how to layer a complicated, structured argument with lots of historical detail, and to do it in ways that optimize the new scholarly hybrid for searching and browsing, as well as more traditional forms of reading. In 2004, I had only clumsy tools for this, such as: using the Windows alert box for English translations of Latin and Greek text; using an image’s ALT tag to conceal+reveal layers of notes to the reader (this takes advantage of a bug in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, whereby that browser — and only that browser — displays the ALT tag when you mouse over an image); and using rollovers to conceal+reveal layers of information (in 2004, I limited my use of rollovers because they were not supported by all browsers; now, I limit my use of rollovers because their graphic text isn’t searchable).
Today, in 2012, I am able to combine a colorful array of links and related visual cues with strategic use of pop-ups, small scrollable second windows, and neatly-tiered sidebars and picture captions, all of which are searchable text (the first e-monograph at the new She-philosopher.com to make strategic use of this particular configuration of design strategies is the introductory essay on Robert Hooke in the Players section).
On balance, I would say this is progress.
But it’s not perfect, and the new She-philosopher.com of 2012 will continue to experiment with this and evolve.
1. The Issues
I continue to use most of the same information hierarchies — HOME, the PLAYERS, IN BRIEF, GALLERY, LIBRARY, REFERENCES, PREVIEWS — to structure website content, but the old she-philosopher.com’s section entitled “the ISSUES” has been dropped from the new She-philosopher.com, and replaced by a new section called “STUDIES.”
I had hoped to avoid any such radical breaks with the past, especially one with the potential to confuse visitors and make website navigation more difficult. But “The Issues” section of the old she-philosopher.com was a major stumbling block for me from the beginning, evidenced by the fact that 8 years after the website’s launch, “The Issues” remained the only area of she-philosopher.com without any content in it.
In keeping with my academic training, I designed “The Issues” to function as a “literature review” — akin to the opening section of most published scholarly papers, where a researcher summarizes the existing body of scholarship on a given subject, and positions her own research as an “original contribution” within that circumscribed context. Following this print-based model, I made “The Issues” the first content category (after “Home”) on the navigation menu, and promised visitors a series of webessays that would “delve into the more relevant theoretical controversies having to do with science, technology, and gender in the early-modern period.” The topics to be covered included:
- Gendered Images & the Politics of Representation
- “under the name and cover of a Woman”: Early-Modern Gender Ventriloquy
- “Pictures of the Thought”: Visual Poesie and vocal Painting
- Revisioning Early-Modern Optics
- Magical Mechanism: Retooling the Machine Metaphor
- “Use thy gifts rightly”: The Material Culture of Science
- Technology Is to Male as Nature Is to Female?
- Science = “A Male Linguistic Economy”?
- Larry Summers on Gender & Science
- Feminist Science
- Feminist Historiography
- Feminist Political Economy
- Feminist Medical Literature
The reasons this all went nowhere are several.
For starters, literature reviews are tedious exercises which few of us choose to do when we don’t have to. I have never enjoyed doing literature reviews, and no longer feel compelled to do so.
Secondly, my emphasis at She-philosopher.com has always been on primary over secondary sources, as explained on the introductory page for She-philosopher.com’s REFERENCES section.
Thirdly, it’s not as though “The Issues” go away simply because their physical location in a server’s directory structure goes away. What are to me the most interesting and influential arguments in the secondary literature are already discussed elsewhere at She-philosopher.com. Repeatedly. Contentious theories about
“Magical Mechanism: Retooling the Machine Metaphor”
“‘Use thy gifts rightly’: The Material Culture of Science”
frame most of what I have written and will continue to write about two of the most “deservedly Famous Mechanician[s]” (Boyle, New Experiments Physico-Mechanicall, 1660, 363) and inventors of the 17th century: Cornelis Drebbel and Robert Hooke.
“Revisioning Early-Modern Optics”
already spawned a forthcoming series of IN BRIEF topic essays on 17th-century optical technologies (microscope, drop microscope, helioscope, scotoscope, camera obscura, magic lantern, burning-glass, speculum, beryl, glass-making in general) and 17th-century studies of optical phenomena (bio-luminescence, “the Bononian stone” and other phosphori, rainbows), in addition to scattered comments elsewhere at She-philosopher.com. The complex of issues surrounding
“Gendered Images & the Politics of Representation”
are explored over and over in the many She-philosopher.com Gallery Exhibits which feature goddess iconography and female personifications of arts & sciences, as well as visual & verbal portraits of real-life 17th-century women of varying classes, occupations, and ethnicities. And questions about whether
“Technology Is to Male as Nature Is to Female?”
“Science = ‘A Male Linguistic Economy’?”
are already a central preoccupation for me (who answers no to both, just in case anyone is still unclear on this ;-). Indeed, the ongoing controversy surrounding gender and science guides much of my 17th-century research, and turns up in just about everything I write for She-philosopher.com.
Fourthly, I find I prefer to discuss “The Issues” in context, where they have immediacy and meaning beyond their ranking in some remote scholarly pantheon. Such rankings are of little interest to me; but how an issue plays out in real lives, through time and across cultures, is of great interest.
Fifthly, my driving ambition for She-philosopher.com is to create a vibrant online scholarly community where each of us can find the tools to engage past & present cultural politics with “the heat and abstracted passion of intellectual inquiry” (Hornaday, E2). This different style of critical engagement, which I associate with the new dialogically-based sociable scholarship, has never thrived within traditional scholastic confines and hierarchies of expertise. Nor am I the only scholar to chafe at such institutional constraints.
The following paper is an adaptation of a plenary lecture written for the annual conference of the Design History Society in 1997. My brief was to provide an overview of the history of design in eighteenth-century England for an audience largely without a specialist knowledge of this period. I decided against attempting a survey of current scholarship in this area on the grounds that surveys all too frequently centre upon pointless recapitulation. Similarly, these did not seem to be the right circumstances to air those finer points of difference which tend to govern the polemics of specialist research. I chose, instead, to develop my own account of historical development.
(Matthew Craske, “Plan and Control: Design and the Competitive Spirit in Early and Mid-Eighteenth-Century England,” 187)
In the end, my desire to enact a back-to-the-future vision of sociable scholarship won out over my need to maintain continuity between the old and the new She-philosopher.com.
With great relief, I finally removed “The Issues” tab from the website’s navigation menu, and once again committed She-philosopher.com to the brave new world of sociable scholarship and the 21st-century respublica literaria.
The hardest — and most time-consuming — thing about publishing reams of scholarship in a rich, multi-layered and dynamic online environment such as She-philosopher.com is figuring out where all the new information goes. Most of my postdoctoral research, and what I have to say about it, fits in several categories, and I often make one or more false starts before I figure out the right strategy for developing new material.
The problem has been around as long as the encyclopedia of cultured knowledge, which, in the Latin West, dates to the first encyclopedia compiled by Plato’s nephew, Speusippus (only fragments of which remain), followed by the exemplary ancient works of Pliny the Elder’s Historia Naturalis (CE 77) and Saint Isidore of Seville’s Etymologiae (CE 560–636), both serving as model for encyclopedias for more than a millennium.
Because of geographic and economic expansion in the 16th and 17th centuries,
Europe had acquired unclassified places, peoples, plants, animals, minerals, and objects. The explorations of Columbus and others redrew the face of the known world. The colonial aftermath of those voyages created a need to refashion the classification of human knowledge.
(Lawrence Sullivan, “Circumscribing Knowledge: Encyclopedias in Historical Perspective,” 316)
“The tenth-century work called Suidas was the first encyclopedia to be arranged entirely in alphabetical order, an idea that would not catch on, however, until the mass productions of books in the sixteenth century.” But the alphabetical arrangement of encyclopedia entries — which we now take for granted as the correct format for both encyclopedia and dictionary — broke the circle of knowledge and values that was central to the classical concept of encyclopedic knowledge, intended originally to be a sure and indispensable tool for the pursuit of truth and a worthy life: “In its Greek origin, the word ‘encyclopedia’ itself refers to a shape, the circle that circumscribed a well-rounded education.” (L. Sullivan, “Circumscribing Knowledge,” 317–20)
The modern reshaping of knowledge by way of alphabetization led to what the English poet and critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge condemned as a “huge unconnected miscellany” of information, resulting in a piecemeal education, which Coleridge blamed on the “impudent ignorance of Presbyterian bookmakers” (qtd. in L. Sullivan, “Circumscribing Knowledge,” 320). The looser structure of accidentally-aligned articles (as we get with an alphabetical ordering) meant that huge amounts of specialist information could be made readily available to the book-buying public — ensuring a run of good profits for the booksellers — but only at the expense of the classical humanist’s pursuit of clear, methodical thinking and the sort of true philosophical harmony that comes with an emphasis on unity of design. Modern encyclopedic information is not easily transformed into knowledge by the non-specialist reader, as Darwin’s grand-daughter once complained.
Yet alphabetical arrangement did not remove the fact that encyclopaedias assumed some prior acquaintance with major subject categories. This point was made in a strikingly simple way by Gwen Raverat, Charles Darwin’s grand-daughter. Recalling, in her autobiography, a childhood attempt to find the facts of sexual reproduction in a nineteenth-century encyclopaedia, she declared: “You can have no idea, if you have not tried, how difficult it is to find out anything whatever from an encyclopaedia, unless you know all about it already; and I did not even know what words to look up.” In The Pickwick Papers (1866), Charles Dickens made a more direct comment on what Jonathan Swift, in his Tale of a Tub (1704), had dismissively called “Index-learning”. Pickwick’s acquaintance boasts that he knows a man who learned all about Chinese metaphysics from the Encyclopaedia Britannica. When Pickwick asked how this was done, this is the solemn reply: “he read for metaphysics under the letter M, and for China under the letter C, and combined his information, sir!” Rather than targeting the pretentious scope of encyclopaedias, or the arbitrary character of their content, as some other writers had done, here Dickens goes to the heart of the question of how a reader, without a secure map of knowledge, might actually use an alphabetically arranged work. Given the popularity of the Penny Cyclopaedia in his time, this was a telling jibe against the mantra of useful knowledge, personified in his own Mr Gradgrind, which confused knowledge with factual information that could be absorbed in any order. These examples provide lessons for the story of encyclopaedias: the alphabet did not necessarily mean liberation from the hard task of putting knowledge into categories. In a number of the following chapters it is argued that this quest for ordered knowledge persisted in spite of the fact that the major encyclopaedias, from the eighteenth century on, were alphabetically arranged.
(Richard Yeo, Encyclopaedic Visions, 26–7)
With the advent of the Internet and mechanized search tools operating on a global scale, the already “hard task of putting knowledge into categories” (Yeo, Encyclopaedic Visions, 27) and drawing meaning from miscellany has become harder than ever. As a scholarly website invested in the classical humanist ideal of encyclopedic knowledge, She-philosopher.com can not resort to simple schemes (alphabetical and not) for dumping undigested data on an unsuspecting public. All of my research must be culled through and organized and designed — not just as an aid for information retrieval and academic citation, but also for didactic ends.
As with the great Age-of-Enlightenment encyclopedists (Pierre Bayle, Antoine Furetière, Ephraim Chambers, Denis Diderot) who developed the alphabetical organization, 21st-century encyclopedists (including the many lesser mortals who voluntarily toil at Wikipedia) are engaged in nothing less than the reshaping of knowledge. It’s a grand project, the success of which — like most poetic visions — depends on the implementation of prosaic details, in this case, the drudgery of forging digital standards and new “best practices” for teaching and learning that can withstand the twin tests of time: speed-up (rapidly-accelerating technologies), and slow-down (the world of deeper time in which human beings do, think, revise, and evolve).
It’s a balancing act which I have yet to figure out, and there are no guidelines to follow from those who have done this before. I’m making it up as I go along, and as such, taking plenty of wrong turns. For example, new content created in March 2013 having to do with Lucy Hutchinson’s and Mary Evelyn’s work on Lucretius’ scientific poem, De Rerum Natura [On the Nature of Things], started out in the updated introductory essay on “Mad Madge” in the PLAYERS section, but ended up being spun off into a new gallery exhibit, plus three new digital editions of 17th-century texts for the LIBRARY, plus several new second-window asides; at the same time, a relatively inaccessible content piece about naming Margaret Cavendish (first published in April 2004) was moved from its original location in the PLAYERS section to the new STUDIES section, and then moved again and converted from a study to an IN BRIEF topic (to be referenced by the overview page on early-modern branding in the STUDIES section).
In each case, the reorganization was driven by the type and quality of research data I have accumulated, my evolving interpretations of that data, and what I’ve learned about how best to “connect the dots” for complex processing by human and artificial intelligence.
The new STUDIES section is my latest attempt to provide thematic consistency and structure for the proliferating scholarly miscellany scattered across She-philosopher.com.
To the extent that it forces me to write synopses for some of the new content under development (such as my ongoing study of the natural and cultural history of the chameleon), the STUDIES section is both a help and a hindrance.
I find I need, and benefit from, the mental scaffolding this exercise provides.
But I certainly don’t need or want the extra work (having to write yet more scholarly essays, rehashing research and ideas covered in more depth elsewhere).
I will try, as much as possible, to keep STUDIES section synopses fresh and interesting.
But I will, of course, fall short of this goal on occasion.
3. The Library
The LIBRARY section of She-philosopher.com has been completely reorganized.
Most noticeably, the cumbersome, alphanumeric, multi-page HTML catalog previously used to access Library publications in the old she-philosopher.com has been discontinued. Given the different ways visitors now access and move through a website, the original rationale for the Library Catalog no longer applies, and because a text-based catalog such as this is difficult to maintain and update, I was happy to get rid of it.
All Library e-pubs are now issued in two parts: Part I consists of the introductory commentary for each Library title (this content was previously published in the multi-page Library Catalog); and Part II contains the actual digital transcript of the primary source. It makes more sense to juxtapose editorial commentary with the digital content it describes (as in an old-fashioned printed book), and by so doing now, I am able to discontinue the redundant printing of Library Catalog introductions in second-window files — previously accessed via the small decorative initial “C” (captioned “editor’s commentary”) in the top right corner of each HTML transcript page.
All of this will greatly simplify Library upkeep, from now on.
The first digital edition to be fully converted to the new, two-part, e-publication format is the popular excerpt from Richard Flecknoe’s A Relation of Ten Years Travells in Europe, Asia, Affrique, and America (London, c.1656), describing his trip to Brazil in 1648–50 (Lib. Cat. No. FLECK1656). Other titles have been only partially converted — enough to launch the new She-philosopher.com, minus a library catalog and all those second-window files, but little more. I will continue working on the conversions as I have time (and/or a special need for them), but in most cases, the older HTML transcripts will suffice as is, making their digital reissue a lower priority than the first-time publication of new titles for the Library (and I have many of these in the works).
Because “pop-ups” do not scroll with the Web page (thus giving the appearance of “hovering” over the page), they can be problematic when viewed on smaller screens.
Pop-ups are typically used by online advertisers, who are able to size their pop-up ads to display reliably on a wide range of Internet-enabled devices.
At the new She-philosopher.com, we use pop-ups for variable scholarly content (a high-tech version of footnotes/endnotes) — not for ads of a fixed size — so there is no optimal one-size-fits-all hover box I can use. As a result, longer pop-up notes that exceed the height of your screen may only partially display, and you may not be able to access the full content by other means, without delving into the source code.
When working properly, a “hover” note will display whenever you mouse over (or tap on) the associated underlined text which calls it. This calling text looks like any other link, but behaves differently: it is not “clickable,” and when you hover over it on a computer, your cursor will change to a ? (question mark) graphic. (See the pop-up associated with the name of Wilhelm Hondius at the top of this page for an example.)
And while search engines will index a pop-up’s content (because it is part of the Web page’s HTML source code), you cannot go to that content directly using a browser’s Find command (keyboard shortcut: CTRL+F) in normal display mode.
To compensate for these shortcomings, I will on occasion extract the hover notes for a Web page — if there are enough of them with substantive content — and cluster them (like endnotes) on a separate HTML page, which opens in a small, floating second window, the content of which you can scroll and print.
If such a page of endnotes exists, there will be a link for it in the sidebar of QUICK LINKS and NOTES (e.g., see the Note at the bottom of the sidebar for the introductory essay on Robert Hooke in the Players section).
Since 2004, She-philosopher.com has used FDSE (Fluid Dynamics Search Engine) shareware for its customized website search tool. With the website redesign of 2012, I switched to Open Source KSearch software, because it’s a powerful search engine that I can update and customize, with community support, whereas FDSE is no longer actively maintained by its developers.
There are many good reasons for keeping a custom search tool (instead of, say, using the Google or Bing toolbars) at She-philosopher.com. For starters, I know the quality of the search is better. Unlike the big commercial search engines, my customized KSearch tool will not filter search results or rank returns based on aggregated data concerning you and your social network’s “likes,” past purchases, or past searches.
Moreover, I update the KSearch engine every time new content is added to the public areas of the website, thus ensuring the most comprehensive and reliable searches of She-philosopher.com. (There is no telling when — or even if — the commercial search engines will re-index a website or “crawl” new pages, and most have an incomplete and dated picture of what’s actually at a website.)
Unfortunately, KSearch lags Google and Bing in one area: the display of search results. There may well be times when KSearch returns garbage characters for typographic quotes and dashes (and other characters outside the core range of ASCII-128) used on She-philosopher.com pages ... which is pretty much everywhere. I have located what I think is the problem (the KSearch engine changes my Firefox browser’s default character encoding from Unicode [UTF-8] to Western [ISO-8859-1], whenever I do a search, so I confront this problem regularly). I have at least one fix in mind for the code, but no time right now to follow up on a technical problem that is neither urgent nor consistent across browsers and platforms. At this point, I don’t even know how widespread the problem is. (E.g., not everyone in the KSearch developer community experiences the problem.)
You can help the troubleshooting process along by letting me know if you encounter similar problems when you use our local KSearch tool.
In the meantime, I have decided that these are minor annoyances to put up with, in order to benefit from the KSearch engine’s other advantages.
A KSearch data-entry box is conveniently located at the top right of most new She-philosopher.com Web pages (or in the footer, for those page designs without a right-hand sidebar, such as the illustrated title-page for Virginia Ferrar in THE PLAYERS section).
To aid in Web-based reading and searching, I have modernized the typography used for transcribing direct quotes from 16th–18th-century texts (e.g., i instead of j and j instead of i, u instead of v and v instead of u, w instead of vv, etc.). I have not, however, modernized the original orthography or punctuation, since She-philosopher.com’s scholarly audience needs and expects full and precise documentation and quotations.
Such She-philosopher.com standards are evolving, and have been inconsistently applied over the years (new material will, I hope, be better standardized). Plus, I continue to face unexpected challenges with some content. E.g., at the end of 2011 I was forced to reconsider She-philosopher.com’s policy concerning use of ligatures — spec. œ (oe), Æ (AE), and æ (ae) — in HTML transcriptions of early-modern Latin texts, such as antique medical recipes.
Even in the 17th century, scholars complained that ligatures were “Thorns in the Eyes of all that first learn Greek.” In his book review of Henry Wetsten’s 1692 edn. of the “Ten Books of Diogenes Laertius,” Richard Waller applauded the printer-publisher for several innovations, chief among them his avoidance of ligatures.
Its evident that Mr. H. Wetsten before he adventured on this famous Piece, first took the Advice of his Learned Friends of several Nations; from whom he understood what further Improvements Diogenes might yet receive. After this he (and who could do it better?) cast the Work into the most useful Form and Model. Lastly, He spared no Cost in providing the most excellent paper, Types, Sculpts, and Heads of the Philosophers which could be found amongst the curious Antiquaries.
And when we speak of the Elegancy of the Types and Letters used in this Impression, we cannot but observe to the Reader, that Mr. Wetsten, by Advice of that most Learned Man Mr. Mark Meibomius, hath in this Edition (and some other Greek Books) thrown away out of the Alphabet all those knotty and perplexing Abbreviations, commonly called by Printers Ligatures. These Ligatures have been a long time Thorns in the Eyes of all that first learn Greek. It may be hoped that all Founders of Greek Letters will for the future wholly omit, and banish these troublesom and useless Ligatures.
(Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 1693, no. 203, 886–7)
I have felt the effects of such “thorns” myself, and give below four examples of early-modern printing practices, the first two of which brought my own research process to a grinding halt.
Having thus stumbled over antique Greek (and sometimes, Latin) ligatures myself several times, I have taken Waller’s criticism to heart, and am now following the recommendations of Deborah Leslie and Benjamin Griffin in their 2003 conference paper, Transcription of Early Letter Forms in Rare Materials Cataloging, where they “recommend ignoring the LCRI [Library of Congress Rule Interpretations] and instructing catalogers to separate the component letters in ligatures and digraphs without exception.” (Leslie and Griffin, 2003, 18 of 36) Careful readers of their paper will note that I do not, however, follow Leslie and Griffin’s recommendation of “normalizing and modernizing all punctuation marks.” (Leslie and Griffin, 2003, 14 of 36) I agree that this practice is useful for cataloging early-modern book titles, especially those which were artistically arranged for poster-style letterpress and engraved title-pages, emphasizing aesthetics over grammar, where line breaks worked with display typography to make sense of text, rendering punctuation unnecessary. Modern library catalogs, which treat book titles more as data than art, are more usable when we supply standardized modern punctuation to texts stripped of their design context. And I follow this practice myself when making casual references to early-modern titles in She-philosopher.com webessays. But I apply a double standard when it comes to cataloguing early-modern titles in the website’s bibliography of primary works, where I try to keep transcriptions as accurate as possible.
To experience a truer transcription of the look-and-feel of early-modern typography (in this case, for a text first printed in 1705), see She-philosopher.com’s digital edition of Robert Hooke’s “Lecture explicating the Memory, and how we come by the notion of Time” (read at meetings of the Royal Society, May–June 1682).
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