Minimal Editions in Practice: The Digital Anthology of Early English Drama

This project arises from the firm belief that the best ways to study and share the substantial dramatic output of pre-Shakespearean Britain has not kept pace with the rise of digital scholarly editions. Primarily due to the allure of Shakespeare, it is exceedingly difficult to locate usable and accessible editions of these texts. To date no single resource has emerged to provide single-portal, open access to the corpus of pre-1576 dramatic texts. As a result, students, scholars, theatre professionals, and the public often ignore the long history of pre-Elizabethan theatre in Britain. Students lack reading editions, theatre professionals lack scripts, and digital humanists lack even a basic corpus to analyse algorithmically. The Digital Anthology of Early English Drama will remedy this lack by providing a complete, lightly encoded corpus of all extant drama produced in Britain from 1066 to 1576.


This paper will present this project and its workflow in the context of existing digital scholarly editing practices. Most digital scholarly editions (DSEs) are designed to be comprehensive, multimedia documents, integrating facsimile images, intense encoding, and bespoke HTML. They are maximal editions. The Digital Anthology of Early English Drama instead emphasises multiple-use cases for the resulting corpus, a corpus designed especially for practical, classroom pedagogical use. This work will result in several hundred machine-readable texts that serve as the basis for not only diverse local output formats for reading and printing (HTML, PDF, EPUB, DOC, and TXT), but also as foundational working texts for scholars hoping to create a more developed scholarly edition. Texts will be “remixable,” allowing users to create customised anthologies for specific themes, genres, courses, or performances. The goal is a minimal edition, and to think through what a classroom-ready DSE can and should be.