Early Modern Literary Studies
The Perdita Project: A Database for Early Modern Women's Manuscript Compilations
Victoria Burke and Elizabeth Clarke
Nottingham Trent University

Burke, Victoria, and Elizabeth Clarke. "The Perdita Project: A Database for Early Modern Women's Manuscript Compilations." Early Modern Literary Studies 3.2 (September, 1997): 3.1-5 <URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/03-2/burkperd.html>.

Project Overview | Methodology | Participants

Project Overview

  1. Literary and historical scholars have recognized in recent years the importance of the study of manuscripts for a more complete understanding of early modern and seventeenth-century culture. Until now, a major impediment to this research has been that manuscript compilations, particularly by women, are little known and are scattered in collections throughout the world. Nottingham Trent University, in partnership with Oxford University's Centre for Humanities Computing, is funding a three year project which aims to produce a comprehensive guide to over 400 manuscripts compiled by women. This will consist of a database covering compilations of poetry, religious writing, recipes, autobiographical material, and account books. It is intended to be a research tool for scholars of history, literature, cultural studies, and women's studies. The database will not include reproductions of texts, but will provide information on the contents of manuscripts and biographies of the compilers. Using this database, scholars will be able to identify networks of related manuscripts, and men and women who carried on a literary or social correspondence. They should also be able to ascertain whether a trip to the holding library is necessary. It is our intention that the database will help researchers, students, and the general public learn more about early women's writing in all of its forms.


  2. To enable the widest searching capacity, each manuscript will be described in detail in two different ways: by short articles and lists of information. Two short essays will provide an extended catalogue entry for the manuscript and a biography of the compiler. The catalogue entry will describe the contents of the manuscript, historicize the manuscript, and suggest similar manuscripts which would repay study. It will include a consideration of readership, literary genre and other types of manuscript writing, preliminary dedications, and scribal hands. A second article will provide a biography of the compiler, including her political, religious and class affiliations.

  3. Information will be presented in a list format for the following areas: the collection in which the manuscript appears; dates; names of people mentioned in the manuscript with any extra information; names of places associated with the manuscript (including counties, European countries, and American colonies); physical characteristics of the manuscript (including size, details of binding, and numbers of folios, blank or otherwise); authors of transcribed material (in printed sources and other manuscript versions); references to printed books; receipts or recipes (medicinal, cookery, and other); accounts (household, real and personal estate, wages of servants, alienation of property, rents and rates); titles of poems, sermons, meditations, prayers; a first- and last-line poetry index; cross references with other manuscripts; references to scholarly articles and editions; and keyword search.

  4. Much of the groundwork has already been done, but the research will proceed by study visits to libraries, and the use of microfilm copies. In partnership with Oxford University's Centre for Humanities Computing, we will be developing an encoding system following TEI guidelines which conforms to international standards (SGML). The information in the database will be encoded in such a way that complex and wide-ranging searches will be possible, and particular software and hardware will not be required. Publication is intended to be on the Internet, or possibly on CD-ROM. The database will be an important addition to the growing number of projects which merge the humanities with computing technology, such as the Brown Women Writers Project and The Orlando Project: An Integrated History of Women's Writing in the British Isles. A web site will be established where we will provide updated information about the project.

  5. The project is funded for three years by Nottingham Trent University. Additional funding is being sought from the Humanities Research Board of the British Academy and from the Modern Humanities Research Association. If your department would be interested in using this material we would like to hear of your particular concerns and interests so that we can design the project most efficiently.

    Participants (all at Nottingham Trent University):

    Elizabeth Clarke, Project Director
    Martyn Bennett, Project Director
    Victoria Burke, Postdoctoral Researcher
    Marie-Louise Coolahan, PhD Student

    Project Address:

    The Perdita Project: A Database for Early Modern Women's Manuscript Compilations
    Faculty of Humanities
    Nottingham Trent University
    Clifton Lane
    NG11 8NS

    E-Mail: perdita@ntu.ac.uk
    WWW: http://human.ntu.ac.uk/foh/ems/perdita.html
    Telephone: +44-(0)115-941-8418, ext. 3020.

Responses to this piece intended for the Readers' Forum may be sent to the Editor at EMLS@UAlberta.ca.

1997-, R.G. Siemens (Editor, EMLS).
(VB, SL, RGS, 15 September 1997)