Early Americas Digital Archive
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Introduction to the Archive

The Early Americas Digital Archive (EADA) is a collection of electronic texts and links to texts originally written in or about the Americas from 1492 to approximately 1820. Open to the public for research and teaching purposes, EADA is published and supported by the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) under the general editorship of Professor Ralph Bauer, at the University of Maryland at College Park. Intended as a long-term and inter-disciplinary project in progress committed to exploring the intersections between traditional humanities research and digital technologies, it invites scholars from all disciplines to submit their editions of early American texts for publication on this site. Texts may be submitted with or without introductions and annotations, as fully marked-up .xml documents or as "plain-text" files. Full credit will be given to contributing guest editors for their work. For more details, see our "instructions" on how to submit a text and our list of contributing guest editors.

The EADA Database and the "Gateway to Early American Authors on the WEB"

EADA consists of two basic components: a) the EADA Database and b) the "Gateway to Early American Authors on the WEB."

a) In the EADA Database, you can find texts that are housed at EADA itself and that have been encoded using TEI, which makes it possible for you to search for specific terms, such as author, title, and subject, within and across the texts. EADA vouches for the accuracy of the header information as well as for the authenticity and quality of the texts contained in its database, which is continually and gradually expanding. If you do not find the early American text you are looking for in the EADA database, you may also consult the

b) "Gateway to Early American Authors on the WEB," which allows you to browse a list of early American authors whose texts are available both on sites that others have posted on the World Wide Web as well as texts from this site, the Early Americas Digital Archive. Texts external to the EADA Database cannot be searched with the EADA Search Engine; nor can EADA vouch for the authenticity or quality of any of the texts external to its database and referred to in the Gateway.

History

In May of 2002, the Society of Early Americanists launched its initiative in Teaching Early Ibero/Anglo American Studies by hosting the first "Early Ibero/Anglo Americanist Summit" in Tucson, Arizona. This event gathered roughly one hundred scholars from various fields and languages in order to use new research examining early American literatures from a hemispheric perspective, to develop a collection of texts, model curricula, and teaching materials that embody a hemispheric approach to the study of the early Americas, and to generate professional and intellectual exchanges among scholars from various fields. For the purpose of this event, the Program Committee constructed an electronic anthology as an archival basis for discussion and granted restricted access to Summit Participant. The Maryland Institute of Technology in the Humanities (MITH) generously provided the technological equipment and the server space necessary for the construction of this anthology. This Summit Anthology became the foundation for the present Early Americas Digital Archive (EADA). However, unlike the password protected Summit Anthology, EADA is accessible to the general public for teaching and research purposes.

Why an electronic archive of early American texts?

The foremost advantages of a digital archive are cost efficiency and accessibility. To date, only a fraction of early American texts is readily available in inexpensive paper-back editions. Typically, those early American texts easily available in print have been selected for canonicity from the point of view of the various later literary-historical narratives that have emerged during the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries. In order to consult texts not readily available in commercial print media, scholars must physically visit archives and libraries or order items through interlibrary loan. Being less dependent on the economic pressures of commercial publishing in print, an on-line archive such as EADA can thus provide the foundation for truly multiple literary-historical narratives. Unlike several digital archives of early American texts already existing on the internet, EADA is offered as a public service free of charge. For this reason, EADA must limit itself to the electronic publication of printed editions that are in the public domain and, thus, available to EADA free of charge. Although in many cases more recent editions of a given text exist in print than the one published digitally at EADA, first priority has been given to keeping EADA free of charge.

The second advantage is searchability. Texts included in EADA have been encoded in Extensible Markup Language (XML), following The Text Encoding Initiative Guidelines (TEI), "an international and interdisciplinary standard that helps libraries, museums, publishers, and individual scholars represent all kinds of literary and linguistic texts for online research and teaching, using an encoding scheme that is maximally expressive and minimally obsolescent."

The TEI provides for very detailed textual encoding to facilitate multi-faceted document retrieval. For example, not only can documents be searched via plain text, but they can be retrieved through a rich scheme of meta-information contained in the headers of each text. Through EADA's Search Page texts can be accessed according to genre type (prose, poetry, drama), format (chronicle, diary, etc.), mode (satire, pastoral, etc.), historical period (by 50-year intervals), geographic location (New England, New Spain, Virginia, etc.), as well as by author, title, and subject headings. For example, one might search for "Georgic" "Poetry" about the "Caribbean" published "1750-1800;" for poems written by "Bradstreet, Anne;" or for texts about "Native Americans." For further instructions on searching, please see the Search Page.

Why XML?

Most web pages are created using an encoding language known as HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) which allows viewers to read formatted text using a web browsers. However, all documents in EADA are encoded using XML (Extensible Generalised Markup Language). XML offers opportunities and advantages over both print publication and HTML-encoded text to distribute and store information rich in complexity and ambiguity. The encoding features of the language records information about the content of the text rather than its layout or format. Linguistic features, such as personal and organizational names, titles, and place names are encoded or marked so that they can be easily be retrieved by a search engine. XML has proved to be the best long-term media in which to preserve textual material in digital form. It is non-proprietary, in other words, it is not owned by an individual or corporation, so those working in XML have no fear that one day it might be economically out of the reach of the individual user. It provides for unparalleled textual search, navigation and retrieval facilities. And last, but not least, it is possible to display XML-encoded text over the Internet through HTML, albeit with a loss of considerable functionality. XML, which many feel will replace HTML, will create ideal conditions for the publication of highly structured information on the World Wide Web. For further information on EADA's encoding guidelines, please see the EADA Documentation.

EADA Policy Statement

All texts encoded and published by EADA have either been scanned from sources in the public domain or obtained in digital version as plain text by permission from other internet sites, which are given credit in the header. Subsequently, all texts have been proofed against the original source and marked up in .xml. Line and paragraph numbers contained in the source text are retained. In cases where the source text displays no numbers, numbers are automatically generated to assist the user's orientation in the text. In the header, personal names have been regularized according to the Library of Congress authority files as "Last Name, First Name" for the REG attribute and "First Name Last Name" for the element value. Names have not been regularized in the body of the text. For specifics with regard to individual texts, see the colophon information included in the headers. If texts have been included for which no source could be found in the public domain, permission to publish has been obtained from the copy-right owner. Contributing guest editors are fully credited for their work on our "List of Guest editors page," which contains their name, a paragraph of biographical information, and a link to their works on EADA, as well as in the header of the individual text, which makes their names searchable via the EADA Search Engine. For more details, please see the EADA Documentation.