Module 7: Critical Editing

3. Describing Text Witnesses

When creating, generating or digitising a critical edition, it is of crucial importance to document the text witnesses whose transcriptions it contains. This can be done in a <listWit> (list of witnesses) element, which can be put either in the <sourceDesc> section of the TEI header (when creating or generating a critical edition), or somewhere in the <text>, usually in the <front> section (when digitising an existing critical edition). The <listWit> element should describe each text witness in its own <witness> element. This element can contain a prose description of the witness in plain text, possibly enriched with a specialised element for bibliographic description (<bibl>, <biblStruct>, or <biblFull>). The witness definitions should provide a unique identification code in the @xml:id attribute. This code is used as a sigil in the critical edition, in order to connect the textual variants with the respective witnesses in which they occur (see section 4). For example, the witness list for our critical edition of the TEI Guidelines could look as follows:

<TEI xmlns="http://www.tei-c.org/ns/1.0">
<teiHeader>
<fileDesc>
<!-- ... -->
<sourceDesc>
<listWit>
<witness xml:id="p2">
<bibl>
<editor>Sperberg-McQueen, M.</editor>
;
<editor>Burnard, L.</editor>
(eds.).
<title>TEI P2 Guidelines for the Encoding and Interchange of Machine Readable Texts Draft P2</title>
(published serially 1992-1993); Draft Version
<date when="1993-04-02">2 of April 1993</date>
:
<extent>19 chapters</extent>
. Available from
<ptr target="https://tei-c.org/Vault/Vault-GL.html"/>
(accessed October 2008).</bibl>
</witness>
<witness xml:id="p3">
<bibl>
<editor>Sperberg-McQueen, C.M.</editor>
;
<editor>Burnard, L.</editor>
(eds.).
<title>Guidelines for Electronic Text Encoding and Interchange. TEI P3. Revised reprint.</title>
<publisher>Text Encoding Initiative</publisher>
:
<pubPlace>Oxford</pubPlace>
,
<pubPlace>Providence</pubPlace>
,
<pubPlace>Charlottesville</pubPlace>
,
<pubPlace>Bergen</pubPlace>
,
<date when="1999">1999</date>
</bibl>
</witness>
<witness xml:id="p4">
<bibl>
<editor>Sperberg-McQueen, C.M.</editor>
;
<editor>Burnard, L.</editor>
(eds.).
<title>TEI P4: Guidelines for Electronic Text Encoding and Interchange. XML-compatible edition.</title>
<publisher>Text Encoding Initiative Consortium</publisher>
:
<pubPlace>Oxford</pubPlace>
,
<pubPlace>Providence</pubPlace>
,
<pubPlace>Charlottesville</pubPlace>
,
<pubPlace>Bergen</pubPlace>
,
<date when="2002">2002</date>
</bibl>
</witness>
<witness xml:id="p5">
<bibl>
<editor>Sperberg-McQueen, C.M.</editor>
;
<editor>Burnard, L.</editor>
(eds.).
<title>TEI P5: Guidelines for Electronic Text Encoding and Interchange. Revised and re-edited.</title>
<publisher>Text Encoding Initiative Consortium</publisher>
:
<pubPlace>Oxford</pubPlace>
,
<pubPlace>Providence</pubPlace>
,
<pubPlace>Charlottesville</pubPlace>
,
<pubPlace>Nancy</pubPlace>
,
<date when="2005">2005</date>
</bibl>
</witness>
</listWit>
</sourceDesc>
</fileDesc>
<!-- ... -->
</teiHeader>
<!-- ... -->
</TEI>
Example 5. A list of witness descriptions for four versions of the TEI Guidelines.

Such bibliographic descriptions of course are easier for printed works than for manuscripts; for the latter type of witnesses, some kind of description inside <listWit> is advised, preferably with a pointer (using <ptr> or <ref>) to a full description of the manuscript inside <msDescription>.

Reference

For a full discussion of the <msDescription> element, see section 10.2 The Manuscript Description Element of the TEI Guidelines, and section 12.1.4.3 The Witness List for examples of describing manuscript witnesses in a digital edition.

In a critical edition, it may make sense to discern groups of witnesses that have many text variants in common in comparison to other witnesses and can often be conveniently summarised in one sigil. In the witness list, witnesses can be grouped by wrapping their <witness> descriptions in nesting <listWit> structures. The common sigil then can be provided as the value for an @xml:id attribute of the group’s <listWit> element. The nested witness groups can be labelled with a <head> element. For example, in our sample text witnesses it may make sense to discern those versions of the TEI Guidelines dealing with SGML, and those dealing with XML. This could look as follows:

<TEI xmlns="http://www.tei-c.org/ns/1.0">
<teiHeader>
<fileDesc>
<!-- ... -->
<sourceDesc>
<listWit>
<listWit xml:id="teiSGML">
<head>TEI Guidelines covering SGML</head>
<witness xml:id="p2">
<bibl>
<editor>Sperberg-McQueen, M.</editor>
;
<editor>Burnard, L.</editor>
(eds.).
<title>TEI P2 Guidelines for the Encoding and Interchange of Machine Readable Texts Draft P2</title>
(published serially 1992-1993); Draft Version
<date when="1993-04-02">2 of April 1993</date>
:
<extent>19 chapters</extent>
. Available from
<ptr target="https://tei-c.org/Vault/Vault-GL.html"/>
(accessed October 2008).</bibl>
</witness>
<witness xml:id="p3">
<bibl>
<editor>Sperberg-McQueen, C.M.</editor>
;
<editor>Burnard, L.</editor>
(eds.).
<title>Guidelines for Electronic Text Encoding and Interchange. TEI P3. Revised reprint.</title>
<publisher>Text Encoding Initiative</publisher>
:
<pubPlace>Oxford</pubPlace>
,
<pubPlace>Providence</pubPlace>
,
<pubPlace>Charlottesville</pubPlace>
,
<pubPlace>Bergen</pubPlace>
,
<date when="1999">1999</date>
</bibl>
</witness>
</listWit>
<listWit xml:id="teiXML">
<head>TEI Guidelines covering XML</head>
<witness xml:id="p4">
<bibl>
<editor>Sperberg-McQueen, C.M.</editor>
;
<editor>Burnard, L.</editor>
(eds.).
<title>TEI P4: Guidelines for Electronic Text Encoding and Interchange. XML-compatible edition.</title>
<publisher>Text Encoding Initiative Consortium</publisher>
:
<pubPlace>Oxford</pubPlace>
,
<pubPlace>Providence</pubPlace>
,
<pubPlace>Charlottesville</pubPlace>
,
<pubPlace>Bergen</pubPlace>
,
<date when="2002">2002</date>
</bibl>
</witness>
<witness xml:id="p5">
<bibl>
<editor>Sperberg-McQueen, C.M.</editor>
;
<editor>Burnard, L.</editor>
(eds.).
<title>TEI P5: Guidelines for Electronic Text Encoding and Interchange. Revised and re-edited.</title>
<publisher>Text Encoding Initiative Consortium</publisher>
:
<pubPlace>Oxford</pubPlace>
,
<pubPlace>Providence</pubPlace>
,
<pubPlace>Charlottesville</pubPlace>
,
<pubPlace>Nancy</pubPlace>
,
<date when="2005">2005</date>
</bibl>
</witness>
</listWit>
</listWit>
</sourceDesc>
</fileDesc>
<!-- ... -->
</teiHeader>
<!-- ... -->
</TEI>
Example 6. Grouping descriptions of related text witnesses in <listWit>.

Summary

The different text witnesses included in a critical edition should be documented in a <listWit> element. Such a list may occur in the <sourceDesc> section of the TEI header (for digital editions created or generated from scratch), or in the <text> of the edition, usually in the <front> section (for digital editions digitised from an existing edition). Each text witness should be described in a <witness> element, containing either a prose description as plain text, possibly enriched with specific TEI elements for bibliographic description (<bibl>, <biblStruct>, <biblFull>). An @xml:id attribute must be provided for each witness, which is used as the sigil for this witness in the edition. Witness groups can be distinguished in separate nested <listWit> elements.

Bibliography

  • Vanhoutte, Edward, and Ron Van den Branden. 2009. “Describing, Transcribing, Encoding, and Editing Modern Correspondence Material: a Textbase Approach.” Literary and Linguistic Computing 24 (1): 77–98. 10.1093/llc/fqn035.