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Research Mentor and Department
Professor Joseph Loewenstein, English
Besides the works of William Shakespeare, more than five hundred plays survive from early modern England, yet most are unknown to all but specialists. Thanks to the efforts of Professor Martin Mueller of Northwestern University and the Text Creation Partnership, copies of these surviving plays have been transcribed and their transcriptions published in the open-source database Shakespeare His Contemporaries (SHC). However, the transcriptions, which were produced using digitized microfilm images available in the database Early English Books Online (EEBO), retain gaps from both imperfections in the original printed books and poor image quality. We sought to correct most of these errors by visiting five libraries in the U.S. and the U.K. to examine first edition copies of the problematic texts. Working in tandem with recent Northwestern graduate Hannah Bredar, we corrected about 12,000 of the 20,000 extant errors between April and July 2015, supplying words, letters, punctuations marks, or entire passages where the microfilm images were illegible. We also collected photographs of the pages we examined for eventual publication beside the corrected transcriptions. Our work has been fully integrated into the texts in the SHC database, which makes under-read and underappreciated plays available to a larger public than EEBO, a subscription database realistically only used by those directly affiliated with universities. The SHC also contributes to scholarship in the digital humanities and early modern literature by providing machine-readable versions of the entire early modern dramatic corpus. That is, the transcriptions, which are tagged according to conventions established by the Text Encoding Initiative, can be used in various kinds of computer-assisted analysis.