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Thread: The Rossetti Archive

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    The Rossetti Archive

    The Rossetti Archive is a hypertextual instrument designed to facilitate the scholarly study of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the painter, designer, writer, and translator who was, according to both John Ruskin and Walter Pater, the most important and original artistic force in the second half of the nineteenth century in Great Britain. This is the first of four planned installments of the Archive. When completed, the project as a whole will provide students and scholars with access to all of DGR's original works, pictorial as well as textual.

    These original materials are gathered into the Archive along with a large corpus of contextual materials, most drawn from the period when DGR's work first appeared and established its reputation (approximately 1848-1920). All of these documents are SGML-encoded for full structured search and analysis. In addition, the plan is to include high-quality digital images, in full color as necessary, of every surviving documentary state of DGR's works: all the manuscripts, proofs, and original editions, as well as all the drawings, paintings, and designs of various kinds, including his collaborative photographic and craft works. These primary materials are transacted with a substantial corpus--also SGML-encoded-- of editorial commentary, notes, and glosses that elucidate the documents and the works they support.

    Among those secondary materials is a set of important contemporary documents. William Michael Rossetti's two volumes published in 1895, containing both his biography of his brother (volume I, the so-called Memoir) as well as the Family Letters (vol. II), is a work of virtually primary importance. The biography remains to this day one of the key biographical treatments, for obvious reasons, and the volume of letters contains a large and invaluable corpus of Rossetti's correspondence. Only slightly less important is William Michael's general introduction to his brother's work, Dante Gabriel Rossetti as Designer and Writer, which is also included as another fully-encoded part of the Archive. And there are various other crucial contemporary documents by F. G. Stephens, Pater, Swinburne, Buchanan, and others. The user of the Archive is therefore not simply given access to linked and organized sets of digital images and alphanumeric texts of Rossetti's own works. These primary materials have been integrated into a critical and scholarly environment of great depth and complexity.

    This first installment centers in the textual and pictorial materials that are most closely related to DGR's epochal volume of original poetry, the 1870 Poems. In order to create a hypermedia environment focussing on that work, we have had to construct --as an initial necessity of the project-- a complete global network, in schematic form, of all of DGR's works. In practical terms this means the following: first, that the user of the Archive's first installment will have access to one or more historically determinate versions of nearly all of DGR's textual works; second, that the user will be supplied with minimal bibliographical and documentary information for those works, textual as well as visual; third, that full editorial commentaries and notes for DGR's works in this installment are provided only for a large subset of the works (pictorial as well as textual) -- in particular, for the textual works that appeared in the 1870 volume and for the pictorial works associated with that volume. A generous selection of other textual and pictorial works are also given elaborate commentary in this first installment if they bear some strong relation to the poems published in the 1870 volume. As the Archive develops into its later phases, this schematic structure will succeed to a documentary and critical completeness for all of DGR's works corresponding to what is offered in this installment for the materials closely associated with the 1870 volume of Poems.

    While the literary works printed in the 1870 volume are a primary point of interest, so is a large corpus of paintings, drawings and additional textual materials, by DGR as well as others, that stand in close historical and imaginative relation to the 1870 volume. This first installment of The Rossetti Archive therefore includes a substantial body of DGR's early poetry and prose; some of his most famous pictorial works (including paintings and drawings that form part of many of his "double works of art"; and various other associated works, such as the Pre-Raphaelite journal The Germ .

    So far as textual materials are concerned, this first installment includes SGML-encoded texts for every printed version of the 1870 Poems(including all the pre-publication proofs and trial books as well as all the editions of the book published in DGR's lifetime). Copies of the book carrying autograph manuscript material are also included. The print record for the volume is thus bibliographically complete except for two copies of so-called mixed proofs, which present certain technical difficulties that will have to be addressed in the next installment of the Archive. Also included are all the manuscript texts to which we had access. In effect this means a nearly complete record of the manuscript texts for the works that are the focus of this installment. The Archive includes digital facsimiles of most of these textual documents. (Time and financial resources forced us to postpone digitizing all of these materials, and in certain cases we await permission to digitize.). All of these documents have been supplied with full sets of commentaries and notes (textual, historical, interpretive).

    A proper appreciation of those key documents is impossible without certain other textual materials. The Archive's first installment has therefore included SGML-encoded texts of at least one copy of three other books published by DGR in his lifetime--the 1861 edition of his Early Italian Poets project and the two volumes published in 1881, Poems. A New Edition and Ballads and Sonnets . An SGML text of the 1911 Works of Dante Gabriel Rossetti --the hitherto standard collected edition--is also included in this initial installment. Finally, we have included SGML texts, digital facsimiles, and full commentaries and notes for a number of other works--for example, Hand and Soul , "St. Agnes of Intercession" , and various early poetical works that bear closely on the book DGR published in 1870.

    The texts of about two dozen known unpublished poems and prose fragments are not incorporated into this first installment of the Archive, and we expect that we will uncover other new materials as the Archive is being built. These documents will be added in the fourth installment.

    As with DGR's textual works, the special focus of this first installment necessitates a comprehensive context of pictorial materials. None of DGR's works can be adequately studied apart from that context of the whole. To do this we decided that this initial installment would provide the user with a museum of DGR's pictorial works in digitized facsimiles of the photographic reproductions of his works that were created in the period from about 1870 to 1915. This approach has two great advantages, one scholarly and historical, the other practical and financial. Digitizing the early photographic reproductions of DGR's pictorial works has allowed us to supply the user with a detailed sense of how DGR's works were known during and immediately after his lifetime. Because the period is a seminal one in the history of photography, and because DGR and many of his friends were much involved with the new pictorial medium, this corpus of original photographic material possesses a scholarly importance that even transcends its immediate relation to DGR. Many hundreds of DGR's paintings and drawings were photocopied and widely distributed before 1915, and in this installment of the Archive we have digitized much of this material, supplied it with scholarly annotation, and integrated it into the logical structure of the Archive. The reader should be aware, however, that while we have provided at least minimal descriptive information about these photographic images, not all have yet been incorporated into the Archive. The plan is to digitize the whole photographic corpus by the Archive's next installment. The user thus will have access to the images of DGR's pictures that were most readily available to his early audiences--i.e., the audiences through whom DGR's first reception histories were established. Taking this approach also allowed us to postpone many of the problems of permission fees. In this installment of the Archive we include several score full color digital images of DGR's original paintings, drawings, and designs. Many more will be added in the next three installments. The original plan to include a complete corpus of such full color digital images of all DGR's works remains in place, but its fulfillment will await the resolution of certain institutional and copyright problems raised by the scholarly use of this kind of material in electronic forms.

    While this early photographic record of DGR's work comes from various sources, two are primary: first, the large collection of photographs preserved in the Bancroft Collection of the Delaware Museum of Art; second, the hundreds of reproductions printed in H. C. Marillier's foundational study of DGR's art, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, An Illustrated Memorial of His Life and Art . This body of material includes color, black and white, and sepia reproductions of works that extend across the full range of DGR's career.

    Since no thorough scholarly edition of the textual works has ever been undertaken, we have tried to insure that these critical materials are comprehensive and that they place the works in relation to their received scholarly history. The same situation does not pertain to DGR's pictorial works, largely because of Virginia Surtees' great catalogue of The Paintings and Drawings of Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Authoritative as the latter is, the catalogue genre ensures that its commentaries are more abbreviated than one would wish. Furthermore, the catalogue is now seriously incomplete as a record of DGR's "Paintings and Drawings", and of course it never undertook to deal with DGR's many other visual creations, collaborative and otherwise. Consequently, the user of this Archive will have access to a much larger body of DGR's original works than could be seen or even known from any set of available sources. The body of new and unknown textual works is smaller than the equivalent body of visual works. Together they enlarge the corpus of DGR's work to a considerable extent.

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