Announcing a digital humanities project in descriptive bibliography (long)

Dear members of Exlibris-L, SHARP-L, and TEI-L

As many of you know, I have researching the writings of Edmond Hoyle for several years with the expectation of publishing a descriptive bibliography. It will include descriptions of approximately 200 books and a number of essays in bibliography and book history relating to Hoyle’s work.

Recently I decided that I wanted to publish the descriptions incrementally on the web before publishing the book. The decision led me to launch an ambitious digital humanities project:  I have started to encode book descriptions in TEI-like XML files. The XML files are transformed both into HTML and into word processing documents. Thus, I can publish incrementally on the web while having all the work available for later print publication. Importantly, each time I create a handful of new descriptions, I run programs to regenerate all the indices and book lists for both the web site and the print version.

To make sure everything was going to work, I built a web site as a proof of concept, located here. If you are interested, I would encourage you to visit the site and to comment upon it. Each page has a link at the bottom for feedback which will result in an email to me (and not to the list).

Below you will find (1) a description of the site; and (2) feedback that I would find helpful.

Any comments or thoughts would be most welcome!

With thanks,

David Levy




The home page lists:


  • Separate Works
  • Publisher’s Collections of Works Published Separately
  • Collected Editions


and a number of Search tools. Eventually there will be ten items listed underSeparate Works, three under Collections and ten under Collected Editions, more when I get into the 19th century. You can click on titles under each category to navigate to lists of books and then to book descriptions.


There are the following Search tools, all of which will let you navigate to lists and descriptions.


  • The Chronological Listing is self explanatory.
  • Holdings gives a count of holdings in the British Isles, Continental Europe, North America, and elsewhere. Click on any of these to get a list of institutions and private collections, and then on to titles held.
  • Indices:
  • Games Covered provides an alphabetical list of games and the books that treat them. Among other uses, this will allow us to see when various games were in fashion.
  • Subjects provides a subject index for things other than the games themselves.
  • Included Works identifies books not written by Hoyle that were added to editions of Hoyle’s Games.
  • Producers allows search by printer or publisher.
  • References notes books listed in other bibliographies. Jessel and Rather are the two best guides to Hoyle; others cited are Horr and Todhunter.


Book descriptions can include the following sections:


  • Title (and similarly Half Title and Section Title) is a quasi-facsimile transcription of the title page. Color, italics, small caps, and black letter are reproduced, although you need the right font on your computer to see the black letter. See this description and note whether “Whist | Quadrille | Piquet” appear properly.
  • Collation follows Bowers with all the appropriate typography.
  • Contents shows signature and page references to the contents and running titles. When in single quotes, the contents and running titles are quasi-facsimile transcriptions. As an experiment, I interspersed the two, hoping it would make the structure of the book clearer.
  • Plates notes the presence of engravings or other illustrations.
  • Catchwords shows anomalous catchwords with signature and page references.
  • Press Figures are noted by signature reference with an indication whether the mark appears on the inner or outer forme.
  • Publisher, Printer, Advertisement, Review, Notices, and Price are self explanatory.
  • References links to the appropriate ESTC page and identifies entries for the book in the other bibliographies, noted above.
  • Copies Seen and Other Copies are self explanatory. When I can identify a surrogate for a copy (ECCO, Google Books, Internet Archive), I note that in parenthesis after the shelf mark. Some books are found bound with other titles in publisher’s bindings and noted as Copies Seen in Publisher’s Collections or Other Copies in Publisher’s Collections.
  • I expect to add substantially to the Notes section for each book.
  • I expect to add a lot of images as well.


I have tested the web site on current releases of the major browsers, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Internet Explorer, and on both Windows and Apple machines.  Beware: you’ll run into an occasional broken link when a book I’ve described refers to a book I have not yet described.




I’d be very interested in feedback on any of the following questions:


  • Does the overall navigation—the search aids and book lists—seem appropriate?
  • What other indices would be useful?


  • Regarding the book descriptions:
  • Are there other items I should be including?
  • Should any included items be omitted? I worry that material may overwhelm once the later editions start to include more material. Consider this book covering only five games and a more complexbook that appeared twenty years later.
  • In particular, I wonder whether recording the running titles is useful.
  • Is quasi-facsimile transcription useful for the section titles? Contents? Running titles?
  • Ligatures are a really interesting technical challenge that I have not fully solved. Is it necessary to show ligatures in the transcriptions?


  • Is it worth the (substantial) effort to conform fully with TEI?


  • How worried should I be about my intellectual property when I publish on the web? What steps can I take to protect it?
  • Will posting descriptions online, but not essays, destroy interest in the book when it appears in print?


  • As I said, I have not focused on appearance, but if you have thoughts I’d be eager to hear them.


  • Would other bibliographers be interested in the software I have developed?