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Gustav Fechner's Büchlein vom Leben nach dem Tode in English Translation: An electronic edition

A TEI Demonstration

Upconversion into XML from a plain text source, followed by hand editing for production.

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Project rationale

Works such as this, which have entered the public domain, are not now hard to acquire and study on the Internet — once you know what to look for. (The serendipity by which a text like this one may be discovered at all is a different matter.) This particular book has been available in several formats for some years (it appears to have been first scanned and released by the University of Toronto in 2006), even before several copies in various libraries were accessioned by Google Books.

However, the quality of such offerings is limited by the scale at which these projects operate. A sequence of images of a book's pages, as technologists know, is not the same as (nor so good as) an actual encoded version of the text itself (to say nothing of the significantly larger bandwidth required to communicate it). As for the latter, digital libraries projects are now, for the most part, giving us only such quality (of copy text and encoding) as we can get with machines programmed to recognize text in scanned images; and while we can hope and expect that the intelligence programmed into the machines will continue to become more sensitive and sophisticated, it is also likely that hand work will always be required to get hand finish, even if a text like this is ever touched again.

This project is intended to demonstrate what can be done, at minimal cost and with a modest investment in time, to bring the production values of an electronic (re-) publication up to the level of the original. To be sure, the expertise and experience required to avoid false starts and blind alleys is not negligible. Yet while there will continue to a need for specialists, the best way to learn is by doing it. It does not have to be a black art.

In the hope that this effort can help to make it less so, all the code developed in the course of this project is made available here.

Additionally, this text was chosen specifically because it is not so complex that it demands much special handling (the TEI tag set is capable of much more); its structures are entirely generic for discursive prose. For this reason it may make a good study text and example for students of text encoding.

It hardly needs to be added that an electronic text of reasonable quality such as this can also provide a solid foundation for further work.

Further information