PREFACE TO RENAISSANCE ELECTRONIC TEXTS
The Renaissance Electronic Texts series consists of old-spelling,
electronic editions of single manuscript or printed copies of
early English works, encoded in Standard Generalized Markup Language
(SGML) syntax. Normally, two tagsets are employed: the RET
one, and HTML. Often these two appear in the same document.
Initially, RET volumes include only introduction, text, and
appendices. Full annotation is postponed.
Both paper and electronic editions may be read, but only the second
can be transformed into other forms easily, such as concordances,
collations, and specialized kinds of edition. RET editions enable
researchers to experiment with the texts and to use the software
of their choice. If accompanied by digitized images of the source,
however, electronic editions also take on an archival role, preserving
something of the original and providing readers a way of checking
transcriptions. An image base can assist in understanding books,
language, and literature, and help to increase knowledge by an
computer-based analysis of the texts. The electronic edition is a
sound basis for future work on primary texts. Drawing on palaeography
and bibliography, it supplies historical scholars with a flexible medium
for studying them.
The first volume in the Renaissance Electronic Texts series is
Certaine Sermons or Homilies appointed to be read in Churches,
In the time of the late Queene Elizabeth of famous memory,
published in 1623. The second volume in the Renaissance Electronic
Texts series is Edmond Coote's The English Schoolmaister
(1596). Shake-speares Sonnets, published in 1609, is the
The principles of RET editions are as follows:
- The entire text of a book is always transcribed, including
titlepage, headings, running titles, catchwords, and signatures.
- Each electronic transcription follows only one physical copy
of a book or manuscript and need not include variant readings
from other editions or emendations. Typos, that is, apparent errors,
can be left as is, with the error noted, or they can be corrected within
- All texts in this series employ one character-encoding scheme
and draw from a common set of reference tags. Without this kind of
uniformity, the texts could not be analyzed together.
- Different characters in the text normally have their own unique
representation in the electronic transcription. If any two or
more characters are conflated into one character (e.g., different
forms of r), this practice is stated at the beginning of
each electronic text. Otherwise, editions retain the spelling,
capitalization, brevigraphs, special characters, and font of the
original. No attempt has been made, however, to identify
damaged types or to distinguish between the two dominant
forms of Renaissance pica, Sface and Yface.
Only an examination of the physical depression made by each piece
of metal typeface into the paper can determine that adequately.
Changes in the paper over time, and the ill-defined nature of
the ink blot, are not satisfactory for this degree of discrimination.
- Any character or group of characters that does not appear
in lower ASCII is identified by an ISO entity reference or is
given a separate coded representation within braces. Because
different printers and scribes render the same character
differently, character representations in RET concern generic
entities. For example, the ampersand takes many forms, secretary
and italic and roman, but it is coded as |&| in all
texts (a form that appears mainly in italic hands of the period).
- Spacing between words is highly irregular in Renaissance texts.
In general, unless otherwise specified, word-separator spaces are
rendered as single, no matter how small or large the physical gap between
the words. The layout of each book is kept, including word-separation,
lineation, indentation, paragraphing, and pagination, but this is
managed mainly by tagging.
- Graphics--ornaments, woodcuts, engravings, lines, illustrations,
leaf-designs, etc.--are noted within comment-brackets but not
- All text is entered where it appears.
- The electronic transcription of an empty page includes essential
page tags but has no blank spaces. All spaces at the start or
the end of a line are ignored or indicated by tags where significant
(e.g., indented lines in stanzas).
- Abbreviations are all tagged as such and are normally expanded,
except where a very literal transcription is desired.
- Damaged, interlineated, and canceled text is all tagged.
- Encoding is governed by the need for economy, accuracy, and
For further discussion, see the RET encoding guidelines.