Last week, early November 2013, the archives of two dominant, western, female writers of the nineteenth century were made available online.
The collaborations are the latest examples of library-archive cooperation, making collections larger and more accessible to a greater number of people.
At the time of her death Dickinson’s family dispersed her writings to multiple institutions, edickinson.org culls the various Dickinson collections into one place. The archives reside at the Beinecke Library at Yale, Amherst College (where her father was treasurer), Boston Public Library, Harvard University, Houghton Library, Library of Congress, Smith and Vassar College. Site visitors may search manuscripts by title, date, recipient, or institution. You can zoom in on hi-res images and, for hard to decipher text, type written transcriptions are available.
Emily Dickinson spent much of her life working in a room where she had a bed, a cast-iron stove, and a writing table. She only shared her poems -which she wrote on scrap paper, envelopes and old bills- with close friends and relatives. The online archive brings her handwritten work to a larger audience than ever before.
Last week also saw the Halloween-day premiere of shelleygodwinarchive.org including the archives of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, William Godwin, and Mary Wollstonecraft. For the first time all of the manuscripts are online in the same place. Like the Emily Dickinson online archive, the Shelley-Godwin Archive is a collaborative effort from a number of libraries.
The site has a search option but browsing is limited. Some manuscripts are yet to be transcribed but images are tagged to indicate what state of the digital process they’re in. The Frankenstein manuscripts are vast and given their own link on the navigation bar. For each manuscript page a veiwer may choose to highlight the writing of Mary Shelley or the notations of Percy Shelley. The notes give us a unique window into their relationship.
From the NY Times:
“In particular, he pointed to two places in the manuscript where Percy drops his neutral editorial stance and addresses his wife intimately. In one, he corrects her spelling of [‘enigmatic,’] then addresses her using a favorite nickname: ‘Oh you pretty pecksie!’ (Mary, elsewhere, called her husband ‘Elf.’)”