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Encoding Texts: A Background

A few notes about the origins of this website may give both a necessary account of why certain choices were made and a taste of what may be done in the future.

The first idea for the website was triggered by the request of the Italian publisher of the letters for help preparing the indexes of cited people, places and musical works for the future printed edition.

The translators were asked to highlight any reference to instances of these categories with different colors. The files were simple Microsoft Word douments, and a macro was written to add four appropriate tags: <person>, <place>, <Mozart's work>, <other composer work>, to the highlighted portions of text.

A database of these occurrences was prepared, and the text of the letters was manually connected to the appropriate database entry through a content management tool specifically written for the project. The tool allowed the following:

1. a narrative reference (like: 'the prima ballerina'; 'the convent'; 'a serenata') to be connected to an entry in the database (i.e.: 'Anna Salamoni Morelli'; 'Damenstift, Hall in Tirol (Solbad Hall) (Austria)'; 'Ascanio in Alba');

2. variants and mispellings to be saved;

3. annotations to be added to the letters.

Since the original correspondence of Mozart was naturally in German, and a complete printed version was already available in French, the project evolved into the development of a multilingual website, at least in German, French, English and Italian, with a common navigation tree enabling users to access the letters in the language of their choice.

The Italian Committee of the European Mozart Ways provided seed money to give birth to the project and the project obtained licences to use the original German text from the Mozarteum, as well as the French version from Flammarion, the Italian version being already part of the project. Due to the lack of a modern English version, a translation was commissioned for this project. The text of the letters in the German, French, English version was then again manually linked to the database, through the same content management system. The tagged Word documents were finally converted via software into HTML pages to go online.

Meanwhile the project team, limited in size and resources, began to explore existing academic editorial standards, and became increasingly aware of the importance to use open source tools and text encoding standards to allow interoperbility. Thus, in 2010-2011, a small part of a broader EU project dedicated to 'Mozart and Italy'  Opens in a new window permitted a new website design, based on open source software, in which all the text have now been transformed in a skinny version of TEI  Opens in a new window, the reference standard for the representation of texts in digital form.

The project team is now following with increasing interest the evolution of the recommended standards, and in particular the birth of a SIG (special interest group) of the TEI consortium dedicated to correspondence  Opens in a new window.

The next stage of the project will hopefully witness

1. the adoption of the formal description of correspondence recommended by the TEI group;
2. extensive use of geographical mapping of the citations within the letters;
3. the addition of a timeline
4. the addition of visualisation tools to help investigating the social network of Mozart and his correspondents.

Patrizia Rebulla
Project Manager 'In Mozart's Words'

Please use the following reference when citing this website:
Eisen, Cliff et al. In Mozart's Words, 'Encoding Texts: Background' <http://letters.mozartways.com>. Version 1.0, published by HRI Online, 2011. ISBN 9780955787676.
In Mozart's Words. Version 1.0, published by HRI Online, 2011. ISBN 9780955787676.