September 25, 2007
By Vernon Horn
The letters of Thomas and Jane Carlyle, those quintessential letter-writing Victorians, are now available online through Duke University Press. The project began in 1999 and the editors struggled with finding the best way to create a useable and useful online version of the printed collection. Ultimately they "decided that the first twenty-nine volumes of the edition would be encoded in XML (eXtensible Markup Language), conformant with Textual Encoding Initiative (TEI) guidelines." Seven years later after much experimentation with different types of technology, they were able to create documents in which "every reference to another letter or text in the eCarlyle would be rendered as a hyperlink, which would create a vast web of interconnectivity within the resource." This format has also allowed them to create a very powerful search engine that, for example, allows users to specify recipients or limit results to a certain date range. Despite the high level of sophistication achieved the editors report that "this version of the Carlyle Letters Online does not represent a final product. Work now shifts again to the future and next phases, new functionalities, and eventual connectivity with other electronic resources."