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Shelley-Godwin Archive to Offer Digital Versions of Key Romantic Texts


Percy Bysshe Shelley’s working notebooks and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s manuscript of Frankenstein among texts to be made available

June 7, 2011, New York, NY – The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded a grant of $300,000 to the Shelley-Godwin Archive, a digital resource comprising works of Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Humanities scholars, curators, and information scientists from The New York Public Library (NYPL), the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH), the Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford, the Houghton Library of Harvard University, the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, and the British Library will collaborate on the archive's creation. They will be led by Elizabeth C. Denlinger, Curator of the Pforzheimer Collection of the NYPL. Neil Fraistat, director of MITH, a renowned scholar in both the digital humanities and Shelley studies, will act as co-Principal Investigator.

The Shelley-Godwin Archive will draw primarily from the two foremost collections of these materials, those of the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and the Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle at NYPL, which together hold an estimated 90 percent of all known relevant manuscripts worldwide. With the Archive’s creation, manuscripts and early editions of these writers will be made freely available to the public through an innovative framework constituting a new model of best practice for research libraries. First among these is the manuscript of Mary Shelley's iconic novel of 1818, Frankenstein; and second will be the working notebooks of P.B. Shelley, which are scattered amongst the five partner institutions from California to England. MITH will create the project’s infrastructure with the assistance of the New York Public Library’s digital humanities group, NYPL Labs.

This single family – Mary Shelley was the daughter of Godwin and Wollstonecraft, and the wife of P. B. Shelley – embodies an archetype of British Romanticism: all four struggled in their writings and their lives to change the world. Their most important works – in addition to Frankenstein, these are Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Godwin’s Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, P. B. Shelley’s Queen Mab and Prometheus Unbound – received very different degrees of acclaim in their authors’ lifetimes. All, however, have had lasting and profound effects on international culture – from Aaron Burr raising his daughter on Mary Wollstonecraft’s educational principles in the 1790s to Mohandas Gandhi’s public reading from Shelley’s Mask of Anarchy in twentieth-century India, to the inexorable vitality of Victor Frankenstein’s creature who lurches through public consciousness the world over.

While this project is just the first phase of the Archive, it will in itself constitute a rich stand-alone resource. In this initial phase, project partners will also digitize copies of Shelley’s major philosophical poem, Queen Mab, with his extensive reworking; the first two volumes of Mary Shelley’s journals; and manuscripts of two novels by William Godwin, Fleetwood and Cloudesley. In addition they will make available the ten volumes of Shelley and his Circle with their invaluable research and all the manuscripts contained in those volumes. With the digital publication of these materials, the Archive will bring together an entire group of widely scattered rare sources. In its final incarnation, project partners anticipate that the Archive will comprise digital images of all the major extant manuscripts of the four principal authors, and selections from their correspondence.

The project’s technical capabilities will build on the tool set and interface developed and since improved by MITH and the Bodleian for the Shakespeare Quartos Archive. It will enable new kinds of scholarly research and new pedagogical applications. Tools and functions will include capacity to collate texts, the ability to overlay images of the original printed editions, compare images side by side, search full text, and tag text with user annotations. The prototype will be assessed both by undergraduate and graduate students, and by a group of established specialists drawn largely from the project’s Advisory Board. At all points the project staff will have the benefit of advice from this Board, which includes the top scholars in both Romantic literature and the digital humanities. NYPL and its institutional colleagues are committed to developing and maintaining this archive as a flexible, versatile and potent source for the study of British Romanticism by teachers, students, scholars and lovers of poetry and history at all levels.

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About NYPL Labs
NYPL Labs is an experimental unit exploring new approaches to librarianship and digital humanities research. A distributed team of curators, librarians and technologists from across the library, NYPL Labs develops everything from proof-of-concept pilots to fully realized web applications and digital archives, and hosts a range of staff workshops and external events. Building on the Library's public mission, NYPL Labs also seeks to play a meaningful role in the wider internet commons, collaborating with the public to build and enhance digital collections, and sharing tools and data with the digital humanities community.


Press contact: Jennifer Lam | 212.592.7708 | jenniferlam[at]nypl[dot]org