Digital Humanities Internship Blog Post #2 – ‘Why So Called I Know Not:’ Transcribing and TEI Marking Up Joseph Holloway’s ‘Impressions of a Dublin Playgoer’

The following is the second blog post written in order to document progress on ‘The Lost Theatres of Dublin’ internship as part of the MPhil in Digital Humanities and Culture. This first post will detail the process of transcribing excerpts from Joseph Holloway’s ‘Impressions of a Dublin Playgoer’ that refer to the Queen’s Theatre and with the process of translating this transcription into a TEI document marked up according to the TEI-C guidelines.

It was decided at the start of this internship that the status of the manuscript itself would not form part of the TEI code and what mattered was the recording of the content, independent of the form in which it appeared. As such, features such as line breaks, blemishes or annotations were not transcribed.

Holloway’s punctuation is often inconsistent. His periods, commas and hyphens are used interchangeably and sometimes he will refrain from punctuating his sentences at all. Instead, they are allowed to run into one another. This led to procedural difficulties, not only because transcription becomes more difficult when dealing with jumbled syntax, but because at this point in the project it was decided that the end product would probably be provided on an open-access website. As Holloway’s diaries are presumably of interest to both amateur theatre enthusiasts as well as researchers, it was decided that as part of the transcription process the punctuation and spelling would be standardised, both in order for the code to make sense for the end-user or reader and in order to not give the impression that mistakes were made at the encoding or transcription stage. In one instance, in the entry given for the production of Sisyphus or the Forgotten Friend (1900), Holloway’s misspelling of the name of the character ‘Sisyphus’ as ‘Sisiphus’ was maintained and encoded using the element. The mistake was encoded within the element and the corrected spelling ‘Sisyphus’ was encoded by use of the element.

The TEI Header is a fundamental component of TEI documents and contains metadata relevant to the text that is being marked up. The element in turn contains and elements. It was decided that the title of this particular TEI document would be Excerpts from the microfilmed manuscript of Joseph Holloway’s ‘Impressions of a Dublin Playgoer’ from the years 1895, 1896, 1900, 1905 & 1910 as regards the Queen’s Theatre. This somewhat cumbersome title was used because if the title was simply Impressions of a Dublin Playgoer it could have been regarded as an inaccurate or misleading title, as if the full manuscript is being encoded, rather than just a series of excerpts. The was encoded as ‘Joseph Holloway.’ His birth and death dates, (1861-1944) were also provided inside this element.

The lists ‘Joseph Holloway’ as being the person responsible for originally preparing the manuscript. However, if Holloway was the sole individual credited with the creation of the text, it would ignore the role of those responsible for creating the microfilm of the manuscript. Unfortunately, in the ‘credits’ for the microfilm at the beginning of the reel, the individuals responsible for carrying out the work of converting the manuscript to film are not named. Instead, The American Microfilm Company, the company responsible for the project of converting the Manuscripts of the Irish Literary Renaissance, is named. The American Microfilm Company was therefore named in the as converting the manuscript into microfilm. ‘Chris Beausang’ was named as editor and transcriber.

The element gave the publication status of the manuscript as “Unpublished” and the fact that it is currently held by the National Library of Ireland. The address of the National Library of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin 2, was provided in the element.

The element was 2015, the year that this project commenced, rather than the year that the manuscript was written or the conversion into microfilm was carried out, in order to accurately reflect the time that the TEI file was created and written.

The element contained a element, to indicate the presence of bibliographic information about the resource being marked up. The following statement was inserted into this element: “Selections from Joseph Holloway’s ‘Impressions of a Dublin Playgoer,’ microfilmed by The American Microfilm Company in 1968.”

The and elements provide a good opportunity to summarise the rationale behind the project. The following text was placed within these tags between

tags: “This TEI document was prepared as part of a ‘Lost Theatres of Dublin’ internship. This was done in order to potentially provide a basis for a future, fully digitised, TEI version of the diaries. Each date, performance, actor, playwright and company was marked up. Each entry and year is contained in a separate ‘div’ element.” The contains in turn the elements and . In the element and through use of the

tags, it was indicated that punctuation is corrected ‘silently,’ meaning that their correction is not stated in the TEI code itself. As was stated earlier, this is because the preservation of the manuscript and its bibliographic codes was not a priority for this project. In the element, the following was embedded between the

tags: “Notes are not encoded as notes. Syntax and punctuation is corrected when the lack of punctuation corrupts the sense.”

When the first year being transcribed is encoded, the

element was used. The

was ‘year’ and the year was provided by using n= immediately afterwards. Here is an example for encoding the

for the year 1895:


When beginning a new entry for a particular performance, the

element is also used, but the div type is, in this instance, given as the word ‘performance.’ The element is also used, but the use of the element necessitated use of the element , as the TEI-C assumes that the use of would always be used in a context pertaining to bibliographic information. The result for the first entry in Holloway’s diary that pertains to the Queen’s Theatre is the play Forty Thieves and reads as follows: “

Forty Thieves.”

The text of Holloway’s entries is contained within the

tags. Though this was not a priority, this breaking of paragraphs only when a new entry is started has the serendipitous effect of being faithful to the layout of the manuscript as Holloway never uses paragraph breaks inside of a single entry.

Holloway provides the date of each entry in the following format: “21 September” followed by a dash or hyphen. This was embedded inside the element while a more expansive and detailed account of the date was provided inside the angled brackets. The result is as follows: “21 Monday”.

When a theatre company is referenced in one of Holloway’s entries, it is encoded as such, using the element . By way of example, the following is one instance of how the Milton-Rays company is encoded in TEI. Milton-Rays .

When Holloway’s writing was too difficult to decipher or the ink Holloway used blotted or the text had faded (either from the microfilm or the manuscript itself) the tag was used. Initially a guess as to what was said was embedded between the opening and closing tags but this practice was discontinued because of the likelihood that it was inaccurate. The unclear tags appear in the TEI document without these guesses and read as follows: “.” This has the advantage of allowing those who may wish to build on the work of this project to see where the absences in this project are and will allow them to be filled in more easily.

Performer’s names are encoded using the tag and the fact that they are performers is declared through use of the @type attribute. An example of this from Holloway’s first entry reads as follows: “Miss Ellie White.”

When Holloway refers to a character in the play by their name, the same element and @type attribute is used, as in the following example: “Lassim.”

Holloway sometimes notes what time that he gets home at or at what time the performance ended. Initially, this was marked up using the element, with the ‘when’ @type attribute, but this was discontinued, as Holloway only uses it a handful of times in the entire corpus. The fact that this was used only a limited number of times made it structurally insignificant.

When a playwright is mentioned, the element with the @type attribute is used to declare them as such. However, it seems that playwrights often appeared as performers in the plays that they write. Therefore, what they are declared as being depended on context and were decided on a case by case basis.

On or two occasions, Holloway mentions the person responsible for the scenery, probably in instances where the scenery was of sufficient quality to merit discussion. As these instances are as rare as they are, it was decided that another @type attribute would not be used. The mentioning of the scenographer is so infrequent, creating a new @type seemed gratuitous. Instead, the @type attribute ‘performer’ was used, which is not inaccurate, considering the porous nature of different roles in travelling theatre companies.


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