The Melville Electronic Library
The Melville Electronic Library (MEL) is a born-digital critical archive that features scholarly editions of all versions of all works by American poet and novelist Herman Melville (1819-1891). With MEL’s innovative “fluid text” editing tool TextLab, visitors to the site can track Melville’s revisions in writings in manuscript and the revisions made by him and editors in his print editions. With the projected tool, MELCat, users will also be able to compare images, sources, and adaptations to Melville’s originals in a workspace for creating essays, exhibits, and presentations. When completed, this NEH-funded “We the People” project will be the principal online center for Melville studies, research, and pedagogy.
The “textual core” of MEL’s database will include all versions of Melville’s published and unpublished works, in manuscript and print, to be edited in compliance with the protocols of fluid-text editing and MLA and ADE guidelines for scholarly editions. Aside from its textual core, the various “rooms” in this digital library’s interface will contain materials related to Melville’s life and travels, his book and print collections, sources for his writings, and links to primary and secondary bibliography. In addition to Melville’s works, MEL will include a room devoted to adaptations of Melville and the continuing presence of Melville in world culture. It will also provide finding aids for these materials and links to critical works and scholarly tools.
To generate and display MEL’s scholarly edition, we have developed TextLab, a digital tool that enables editors to transcribe manuscripts, compare print editions, track revisions in manuscript and in print, and compose innovative annotations of revision sequences and narratives. Currently in development is MEL’s workspace, MELCat, a content management system that will allow users to annotate MEL texts and link them to source texts, external texts, and adaptations, as well as to various visual images, including art works referenced in Melville’s writing and his personal art print collection of over 400 items. As a digital research center, MEL will add new scholarship by encouraging user projects such as Melville’s Geographical Imagination, which will use Hofstra DRC’s mapping tool, Itinerary, to link MEL texts and images to annotatable and sequential points on layerings of historical and contemporary maps.