Applying Digital Scholarship to Book History Inventory Research
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Inventories are one of the most useful types of documents available to book historians. They are essentially lists of person or organization’s goods, but these seemingly simple lists contain a wealth of data and information. For a private individual, an inventory of their household goods can point towards their wealth and status in society while an inventory of their books allows us to analyze their book ownership habits and potential reading. For members of the book trade, inventories of their businesses can tell us about the size and characteristics of their business, the typical tasks they performed, as well as what types of books they produced or sold. Aggregations of these book inventories help us understand the production, sale, ownership and reading of books in a given geographic and temporal space as a whole. However, the data found in inventories of early modern private libraries, booksellers, and printers are usually published by book historians as simple transcriptions of the documents (sometimes with metadata identifying the book described in each entry) in print or in online journals as PDFs. Whether in print or in PDF, this static presentation of inventory data makes it difficult for book historians to browse, search, aggregate, compare, and build upon each other’s data. As part of my doctoral work investigating bookselling and private libraries in early modern Navarre, Spain, I am using TEI-XML and the open-source database builder Heurist to address these issues of dissemination, interoperability, and sustainability for book inventory data and to improve my overall process for conducting historical research. In this presentation, I will outline my current workflow for moving from historical documents in the archives to a final dataset. I will discuss my use of TEI inside and outside of the archive and the development of my Heurist database, Libros en Navarra | Books in Navarre (LN|BN), which stores data for private library and bookseller inventories documenting what books were present in Navarre during the 16th and 17thcenturies. I seek to show how these methods of digital scholarship provide a base which facilitates not only my research but hopefully the research of other book historians who in the future may wish to incorporate and transform my data in their own work.
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Alexandra Wingate, PhD Student in Information Science, Luddy School of Informatics, Engineering, and Computing, Indiana University Bloomington
Presented as part of the Wednesday Noon Digital Scholarship Series
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