Facsimiles, zoom, transcriptions, critical essays, paleography lessons—all of these features and more are found on websites that offer online access to literary manuscripts from the period 1500 to 1900. Digitizing manuscripts for publication on the Web seems to allow what has hitherto been unachievable: high-quality reproductions that are also easily accessible for low-cost distribution. Nevertheless, in sharp contrast to the large number of digital collections of printed material that have appeared in the past decade, it is only recently that digital remediations of manuscript material have begun to appear online, and even then, to use Kevin Kiernan's terms, many digitized manuscripts are "plain old digital facsimiles" rather than "image-based scholarly editions" (2006). Not only are there fewer collections of digitized manuscript material compared to print, but theorization of the content and design of these resources is scant, particularly when compared to the robust scholarly work that investigates digital editions of printed material. If for some time digital editions have been accused of being too print-centric, and print-centric electronic resources have been criticized for their shortcomings (Fumerton 2008; Hayles 2003; Kichuk 2007; Spedding 2011), what might be the problems associated with digitizing manuscript material?

Perhaps printed books more readily lend themselves to digital remediations. A printed book is almost always immediately legible and easily contextualized in a way that a manuscript is not. Though publishing conventions have shifted over time, most printed books readily convey basic bibliographical data. What Adriaan van der Weel describes in his chapter as the "typographical condition" means that we are hard-wired to understand what a book is and its basic content without having read it. We also are implicitly aware that print publication signals an intention to make a text public. By contrast, manuscripts are often unintelligible: they may be literally illegible or difficult to read, but even beyond that it is often impossible for those except the most seasoned expert to readily apprehend the context of any given manuscript's production and circulation. Complexity is the norm in most manuscripts: questions of authorship and the relation between authors and scribes, editors, annotators, are not usually readily discernible; production and compilation can take place over a lengthy period of time; and contents can be entirely miscellaneous.

This difference in legibility between script and print may help to explain why the strategies used for digitally remediating print, particularly massive collections of printed books, such as EEBO (Early English Books Online), ECCO (Eighteenth-Century Collections Online), and Google Books, simply will not work for manuscripts. We see this most clearly with Gale's enormous repository of digitized manuscripts, British Literary Manuscripts Online (BLMO). BLMO offers remote access to manuscripts in their collection, but its poor image quality (given that page images are digital copies of microform copies of the original) and lack of cataloguing metadata make searching, browsing, and viewing difficult. Many manuscript digitizations are also limited because no optical character recognition has been developed that satisfactorily translates handwriting into machine-readable text (Brumfield 2015; Edwards 2007; Early Modern OCR Project 2016; Fischer et al. 2010; Rehbein, Sahle and Schaßan 2009). The result is that one of the key functional elements of large databases of print—easily readable texts and full-text searching—is unavailable, at least for the moment. As we will see, with only two exceptions, the digital collections we examine in this chapter offer neither transcriptions nor (as a result) full-text searching.

If it is the complexity, rarity, and uniqueness of literary manuscripts that demand a different approach, these elements are also what render digital remediations of manuscripts so promising. Specialized digital photography (such as hyperspectral imaging) can allow researchers to recover illegible, erased, or blotted text (Shiel, Rehbein and Keating 2009; Twycross 2008). Digitization can enable preservation, providing access to rare documents without subjecting them to human handling (beyond the initial act of digital scanning). Digitization also allows access to a potentially greater set of readers (including undergraduate students) who do not possess the credentials or funding often necessary to view the manuscripts in person—subscription-based sites, however, can also limit accessibility. But the digital takeover of manuscript material raises a serious conundrum. On the one hand, "digitization [i]s drawing more and more scholars into the study of manuscripts" who then wish "to see the originals as well as other related material" (Ioppolo 2004, 66-67); on the other hand, the availability of these digital surrogates empowers archivists and librarians to restrict access to the original manuscripts, perhaps completely. This may be the paradox of digital access: even the highest-quality digitizations increase the desire to examine the original, which sometimes makes the original even less accessible.

If (as seems likely) digital media will increasingly become the chief venue for examining manuscripts, we need to scrutinize how these manuscripts are being digitally remediated and ask what digitization can offer us beyond what is available via physical consultation. One of the exciting aspects of this new medium for the study of manuscripts is that it allows for what has been termed "digital reunification," making it "possible to access, read, and compare high quality images of original manuscripts whose material forms are scattered around the world in libraries and private collections" (cf. Sutherland 2012; Sutherland and Pierazzo 2012). Beyond facilitating access to manuscripts from disparate archives, allowing for far more capacious collections of primary and contextualizing material than is possible in a print facsimile, and providing facsimile images of far higher quality than what is possible in print facsimile or microform—the chief media for the reproduction and dissemination of manuscript material throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries—digitization can change the very way we read manuscripts. In a codex-based world, manuscripts and their descriptions are often kept in physically different spaces, and sometimes scholars cannot even consult them at the same time. Digitized manuscripts can naturally bring together the metadata with the text; hyperlinks can allow users to jump from indices to content or from source to adaptation. For literary scholars, digitized manuscripts can help identify previously overlooked writings, provide new sources and afterlives for our texts, suggest new contexts in which the texts were read and copied, and help trace the social networks in which texts circulated (Beal et al. 2004).

Our analysis in what follows has been informed by Richard Grusin and Jay Bolter's (2009) theory of "Remediation": how one medium is presented in another. Grusin and Bolter contrast immediacy (in which the medium becomes transparent and we forget that we are, for instance, staring at a painting, watching TV, or, say, holding a seventeenth-century manuscript) with hypermediacy (in which we are made aware of the medium). Most digital collections of printed books strive for immediacy. Andrew Piper (2012) suggests that thus far designers of digital books have failed to depart from the paradigm of the page view (the ubiquity of the pdf is a good example of a digital form that merely mimics a printed one). The British Library's "Turning the Pages," an application that allows a user to simulate the process of physically turning pages (rather than clicking, as is common on most websites, or scrolling, which is in fact a throw-back to the pre-codex form), provides another example of a design that strives to replicate the experience of reading a physical book. Piper (2012, 60) claims that in developing digital surrogates of printed books, we must "move past the boundaries of the page"; we argue that these strategies are even more critical for digital remediations of literary manuscripts, where we ought to be confronted by the hypermediacy of the situation and recognize that we are not in fact reading an actual physical manuscript. Rulers and colour bars, as well as detailed metadata about format, size, watermarks, and binding, can help mitigate the distortion that inevitably arises when images are viewed on a flat and uniform screen. Further, page images are routinely cut and cropped—to present a single-page view as opposed to a full opening or book layout view—a practice that, if used, needs to be made more apparent to users.[1] As this analysis shows, it is important for digital surrogates to reintroduce the materiality of the original (so often stripped from print facsimiles and microform, which usually emphasize textual content at the expense of nearly all other physical features of the original document) in order to provide users with a sense of proximity to the handwritten artefact. The most effective manuscript digitizations go beyond simple immediate interfaces such as high-quality colour images; quality remediations are hypermediate because they provide more information than the original document (such as metadata on provenance, identifying hands, authorship, and more), even as they simultaneously seek an immediate user interface.

Our analysis, furthermore, moves "Beyond Remediation" as outlined by Alan Galey, Richard Cunningham, Brent Nelson, Ray Siemens, Paul Werstine, and the Implementing New Knowledge Environments (INKE) team (2012). As the INKE team explains, "To claim to digitize premodern culture is to speak in paradoxes. We cannot literally digitize an artefact from the past" (Galey et al. 2012, 21). The INKE team emphasizes how remediation and so many related terms—"redeploy, reform, refashion" etc.—privilege the anterior form while also suggesting that remediation "remedies" or fixes something by re-storing it to an ideal (Galey et al. 2012, 31). By considering a range of digitizations of British manuscripts, we argue that we should not strive for immediacy alone but rather embrace hypermediacy, such that digital editions and collections not only represent the original but take advantage of the new medium by incorporating elements not possible in the original manuscript or even a print facsimile.

Manuscript research is particularly important when it comes to women's writing, not only because it participates in the feminist and recuperative act of identifying and analyzing women's writing, but also because it changes the way we consider women's interactions with the public sphere and in social and domestic life. As scholars such as Margaret Ezell and Victoria Burke have demonstrated, women's manuscripts allow us to reconceive of book history, social history, and literary history as we explore the activities women engaged in within manuscript and print cultures (as copyists and readers, editors and illustrators), the roles they occupied within the home and the public sphere (as cooks and homemakers, preachers and activists), and the multitude of genres in which they wrote (as diarists and translators, poets and memoirists) (Ezell 1999; Ezell 2004; Ezell 2008; Burke 2012; Burke 1997; Burke and Gibson 2004; Dowd and Eckerle 2007).

Digitizing women's manuscripts builds upon and contributes to the ongoing recovery and theorization of women's engagement with literary culture, while also undermining the traditional distinctions and hierarchies between script and print, amateur and professional, non-literary and literary. The study of manuscript culture has allowed scholars to reconstruct a much richer historical understanding than is possible by exclusively analyzing print, and has precipitated a reconsideration of assumptions about gender. Our analysis in this chapter focuses on digital resources that include women's manuscripts because of their importance to these efforts to re-conceptualize book, social, and literary history. Digitization seems to promise improved access to women's manuscripts, which are often poorly catalogued and scattered across multiple archives. In part for these reasons, gender has been an important organizing principle for many digital collections, as we shall see.

By examining several recently released digital collections that include writing by women, this chapter examines some of the special problems posed by manuscript artefacts and the distinct ways in which they are used. The digital collections we examine are subject-oriented, repository-oriented, and author-oriented: like much digital scholarship, these often blur the line between online archive, facsimile, and edition (for more on the terms we use to describe "large-scale text based electronic scholarship," see Price 2009). We focus on digital collections of British women's manuscripts from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries, a period chosen both because it encompasses our own research fields and because it spans four centuries during which manuscript culture existed in a complex and fascinating relationship with print. While many manuscripts by women can be found in collection-based sites of major institutions and libraries, we have elected to discuss sites that are devoted to, or are more fully representative of, women's writing, including Perdita Manuscripts, Defining Gender, and the Wellcome Library's Recipe Books. We then investigate two sites that are collection-based but contain important writing by women: Literary Manuscripts: 17th and 18th Century Poetry from the Brotherton Library, University of Leeds and Romanticism: Life, Landscape, Literature. We conclude by turning to three recent editions of manuscript sources focused on individual women writers and that take advantage of the digital medium to offer exceptional resources and move beyond “collections of digital facsimiles” (Kiernan 2006, 262): Bess of Hardwick's Letters: The Complete Correspondence, 1550-1608; Jane Austen's Fiction Manuscripts Digital Edition; and The Shelley-Godwin Archive, a site that now presents in digital form all the known manuscripts of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and that will eventually provide the digitized manuscripts of William Godwin, Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Mary Wollstonecraft.

Subject-oriented collections of women's writing

Perdita Manuscripts, 1500-1700, contains more than 230 digitized manuscripts by women with the accompanying catalogue entries from fifteen libraries and archives in the UK and North America. While the manuscripts themselves have not been transcribed, there is a profusion of metadata because this resource was based on the scholarly, collaborative Perdita Project, an online catalogue (with no facsimiles) of early modern women's manuscripts that sought to recover women's writing (see Figure 1) (Perdita 2016). First, a physical description is provided for each manuscript including information about the form, support, extent, hand, binding, condition, and acquisition history, including secondary sources. Second, each manuscript is catalogued with a reference or call number, title, date, name, role, repository, and a detailed note about the history, condition, and contents of the manuscript. The provision of these details—who wrote the manuscript and when and for what purpose—offers the kind of information that we take for granted with printed books but which is not readily apparent for manuscripts.

Figure 1: Start of Perdita catalogue information for "The autobiographical writings of and meditations of Katherine Ross and Jean Collace," National Library of Scotland MS Adv. 34.5.19. Image courtesy of Adam Matthew Digital.

Start of Perdita catalogue information for The
 autobiographical writings of and meditations of Katherine Ross
 and Jean Collace, National Library of Scotland MS Adv.
34.5.19. Image courtesy of Adam Matthew Digital.

The scholarly origins of the project are apparent in the inclusion of rich metadata, which enhances browsing and search capability. One can search or browse by titles, names of women involved in manuscript production, names in general, genre (including genres within a document), source locations, dates, language, and first and last poetic lines. Recognizing the heterogeneity of most manuscripts, the editors devised sixty-six manuscript type categories (such as account book and devotional book) and sixty-seven separate item-level genres, ranging from "Culinary writing" to "Vision."  This classificatory scheme expands the often limited and gendered definition of genre itself, drawing attention to the wide variety of textual forms that women were engaged in composing, copying, exchanging, and collecting. The advanced search function allows keyword searches of the metadata, and these searches can be refined using the same categories listed above in addition to Boolean operators. The result is a collection that rewards both specific searches (if one is interested in, say, a particular author or genre) and more general searching and browsing by the less directed user. The rich metadata and search functionality create a resource that fulfills the promise of allowing users to "unlock the potential of a catalogue in ways that would be difficult or impossible in print" (Milman 2016). Indeed, the fully searchable and browseable metadata enable us to see an entire class of material that Margaret J. M. Ezell has termed "invisible books," domestic manuscript notebooks so heterogeneous and "messy" that they have "eluded our scholarly gaze" (Ezell 2009, 57, 60).

Where the site is less successful is in the viewing and manipulation of the manuscripts themselves. Most of the page images are digital reproductions of poor quality microform made from black and white photographs, so resolution and clarity are lacking. While one can zoom and easily move the page image within the display window, as much as 50% of the screen size is lost to the site's frame, and there is no full screen option, although this difficulty is largely mitigated by the ability to download all or part of the manuscript as a pdf. Fortunately, as well, there are no limits on the number of pages or documents that can be downloaded (a frustrating limitation implemented on other sites). Nevertheless, the poor reproduction quality and the lack of any images of anything other than pages (such as bindings or endpapers) compromises the representational value of the collection, as the page images do not convey many of the physical details of the actual manuscripts.

Defining Gender, 1450-1910, like Perdita Manuscripts, is another Adam Matthew Digital resource with a focus on women's history. In contrast to Perdita Manuscripts, however, the bulk of documents in Defining Gender are print sources, although this site includes some hidden manuscript gems. Unlike Perdita Manuscripts, which provides detailed metadata, Defining Gender lacks both catalogue information and searchability. Scholars can be frustrated with the student-friendly interface that does not allow complex searches or even shelfmark browsing. Patient users, however, will find that Defining Gender yields multiple women's manuscripts across a variety of genres and periods, such as Elizabeth Tudor's translation of Marguerite de Navarre's Le miroir de l'ame pecheresse, as well as diaries, notebooks, correspondence, and receipt (that is, recipe) books. While many of the manuscripts in Defining Gender are associated with a particular historical woman, those that cannot be traced to one particular woman or that show women's participation in larger manuscript coteries, such as the receipt books from the University of Hull, are equally important for recuperating women's writing. As a collection not limited to manuscript resources, Defining Gender also includes texts that combine both print and manuscript, such as twentieth-century recipes with printed headers that were completed by hand. One of the strengths of Defining Gender (like Perdita Manuscripts) is that it allows users to download complete pdfs of most of its primary sources; however, as with Perdita Manuscripts, the bulk of the manuscripts are digitized from microfilm, creating the same problems. Defining Gender suggests that there are multiple ways of approaching and describing gender while also providing fodder for expanding our definitions of book history, archival research, and women's writing by providing access to often overlooked sources.

Repository-oriented collections of women's writing

While Defining Gender covers a broad array of primary sources by and about women, the Wellcome Library's open-access "Recipe Books" (formerly "Domestic medicine and receipt books" ) as the title suggests, focuses on the library's exceptional collection of recipe books (called receipt books in the early modern period), which were often in a woman's purview. There has been a recent surge in the study of receipt books for what they can tell us about the history of medicine, cooking, family life, and society (DiMeo and Pennell 2013; Field 2007; Smith and Leong 2016; Wall 2011). Scholars have written about receipt books by notable women such as Lady Margaret Clifford and Grace Mildmay. Often, these women become notable precisely because of their manuscripts (Anderson 2011; Bayer 2005; Hellwarth 1999). The Wellcome Library's digitizations encourage scholars to consider receipt books by lesser-known and anonymous women, which has the potential to bring otherwise overlooked women writers to the fore. Most importantly, the Wellcome Library's collection encourages a broader understanding of social history by representing the quotidian lives of women, expanding our understanding of women's coteries and family writing as well as how recipes passed from person to person and changed over time.

The Wellcome Library's "Recipe Books" is one of their many digitized collections on the history of medicine, which range from "Sexology" to "Codebreakers: Makers of modern genetics." Unlike some other subject guides, "Recipe Books" includes links to the catalogue and to digitized facsimiles of the primary source material as part of their ongoing plan to digitize their entire archive (Silva 2012). The digitized early modern recipe books are organized by period, ranging from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. These chronological lists include, when known, the (often female) manuscript owner or compiler, the estimated date of compilation, and a link to a full description of each manuscript in the catalogue. Clicking through to the catalogue allows scholars to download a high-resolution pdf of the entire manuscript, rather than simply pointing to an online facsimile (see Figure 2). The library also provides an overview of how to find recipe manuscripts online (from their collection) and how to use the Archives and Manuscripts catalogue.

Figure 2: Example of a high-quality pdf from the Wellcome Library, MS 3768, "Mrs Jane Parker her Boock," ff. 20v-21. Inset detail from manuscript cover. Images courtesy of the Wellcome Library.

 Example of a high-quality pdf from the Wellcome Library, MS
3768, Mrs Jane Parker her Boock, ff.
20v-21. Inset detail from manuscript cover. Images courtesy of the
Wellcome Library.

The easy-to-navigate interface provides access to beautiful digitizations. As a library-funded project, this collection pays particular attention to the objects it digitizes, offering context through images of the covers and binding as well as inserted pages and foldouts, and by supplying high-quality colour images that allow readers to recognize slight variations in ink colours and even see the texture of scraped vellum. The attention to each manuscript as a valued artefact is also evident in their detailed catalogue descriptions, with links to related secondary sources. The quality, open-access digitizations of "Recipe Books" makes this a worthwhile project in itself, but, like most manuscript remediations, it could benefit from transcriptions (Smith and Leong 2016). The Wellcome Library's digitizations encourage further scholarly work, such as a database of recipes (which could be sortable by dish, remedy, title, or ingredient) or editions of individual receipt books that could eventually catalogue receipt books from other repositories as well. The Wellcome Library's "Recipe Books" exemplifies the high caliber of digitizations possible today, while also opening the door for future research that will take advantage of the digital environment through hyperlinks and hypermediation.

Understanding the role of women in manuscript culture necessarily extends beyond considering only those manuscripts authored by women, but those collected and copied by women, those written about women, as well as poems written by women but that circulated in manuscripts complied by men. We find this capacious understanding of manuscript culture reflected in Literary Manuscripts: 17th and 18th Century Poetry from the Brotherton Library, University of Leeds (another Adam Matthew Digital resource, like Perdita Manuscripts and Defining Gender) with its repository- and genre-based focus on early modern verse miscellanies at Leeds. Particularly with repository-based collections, an important part of remediating women's literary manuscripts is the metadata and searchability that allows users to first find those manuscripts. The comprehensive information about the Brotherton poems, including a first-line index, contextualizing essays, and short description of each manuscript's contents, allows users to search for individual women writers and can help locate poems about women, such as "To a lady on her love of poetry" (MS Lt 117, f. 108) and "Some women who are verie olde/Soe lecherous they bee" (MS Lt 50, f. 264r). Laura Runge's (2006) "From manuscript to print and back again: Two verse miscellanies by eighteenth-century women" (a contextual essay on the site) offers an analysis of Mary Capell's and Eliza Marriott's commonplace books, while also effectively contextualizing women's participation in manuscript culture for an undergraduate reader. Although it is possible to supplement information from the Folger Shakespeare Library's Union First Line Index of English Verse: 13th-19th Century (bulk 1500-1800) and the Catalogue of English Literary Manuscripts 1450-1700 for sites that lack a first-line index, Literary Manuscripts does a great service to researchers by providing this search capacity.

For Literary Manuscripts: 17th and 18th Century Poetry from the Brotherton Library, and other sites that include women's writing as part of a larger project, additional search and browse filters could be of use, such as "women authors,""poems about women," and "dedicatees."Literary Manuscripts offers a hidden wealth of poetry by and about women's social sphere that could be made easily accessible by increased searchability: for instance, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, women writers would often eulogize women who had recently passed away. Literary Manuscripts, for instance, includes a range of women's elegiac verse from Lady Mary Sudley's poem "in memory of her maid" (MS Lt 100 f. 74) to Lady Mary Wortley on the death of Mrs Bows (MS Lt 12 p. 28). This collection includes works by famous women poets (such as Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea) but also other women who were not know as writers (such as Lady Jane Wharton or Mrs Wakeford). The more well-known writers can be easily found by searches. A simple search filter (such as "women writers") would allow users to search for topical resonances across writing by women and also help users find previously overlooked women writers. Literary Manuscripts goes beyond many other resources in this field by having a “Content” field where they describe what a poem is about: for instance, one poem is described as "Epitaph on Maria or Mary Mason, extolling her beauty and virtue, suggesting that her life and premature death can be used as an example to others to lead godly lives" (MS Lt 99 f. 96v-97r). This feature allows users to find works on Mary Mason that would not be evident from first line alone (this poem begins "Take holy Earth! all that my soul holds dear"). Being able to search "poems about women" more broadly would augment the already robust search on Literary Manuscripts and facilitate further recuperation of writing by and about women.

The next repository-based resource we look to, Romanticism: Life, Landscape, and Literature, reflects the enormous importance of expert cataloguing metadata being integrated with digital facsimiles of manuscript pages. Released by Adam Matthew in 2011, its contents are based entirely on the holdings of the Wordsworth Trust, a collection focused on the works of William and Dorothy Wordsworth and the Lake District, which they made their home and the subject of so much of their writing. It includes an extensive multimedia collection of original manuscripts, including notebooks, loose sheets, and letters; printed books (including those with handwritten annotations); and a large collection of paintings, drawings, and maps. This collection is enhanced by superb metadata provided by catalogues of the Trust. Although the sheer number of documents is overwhelming—there are hundreds of manuscripts and other cultural artefacts included—excellent cataloguing and search capability (even if not full text) renders the site navigable and useable.

With Romanticism: Life, Landscape, and Literature, we make an evolutionary leap forward (as in the Wellcome Collection) to the use of full-colour, high resolution page images, providing a vividness and a fidelity to the original that seems truly revolutionary, with zoom technology rendering details with clarity beyond what is visible to the unaided eye. As Carl W. Griffin (2006, 60) has observed, digital photography "effectively places the text under a digital magnifying glass"; we thus see a new level of physical detail in this latest generation of digitized manuscripts. Although not gender-based and indeed largely focused on the writing of William Wordsworth, Romanticism is broadly representative of women's involvement in literary manuscript culture. Indeed, because the collection focuses on a prominent literary family active in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, it brings to light the ongoing involvement of women in manuscript culture in ways that are often obscured (or devalued) by exclusive attention to print (as often happens especially as we move into the nineteenth century). The archive establishes the importance of collaborative practices within families and households. Dorothy Wordsworth, Mary Wordsworth, Dora Wordsworth, and Sara Hutchinson were all actively involved in the preparation of William's manuscripts for print as authors, copyists and editors. We find ample evidence of the ongoing involvement of women in manuscript culture as they produced diaries, correspondence, verse, and travel journals. Romanticism's multi-media content also highlights women's contributions to the region's visual art. This collection, as with Perdita, suggests how thematic or author-based collections offer distinct advantages, providing researchers with thoughtful collections of materials in which curatorial and scholarly knowledge has been embedded to allow for new forms of interaction and knowledge production.

In Romanticism, detailed descriptive notes provide crucial information about the physical manuscript and its content, greatly improving the user's ability to search and contextualize the provided manuscript images. Relations between manuscripts are charted, such that when viewing any given document, a pop-up menu of related documents appears, enabling one easily to view a set of related manuscripts in separate windows. The documents are also easily viewed and manipulated: they can be moved, enlarged, reduced, or rotated, and they can be saved, downloaded and shared (via a slideshow) within a "my archive" feature; furthermore, all documents and images can be downloaded in their entirety as pdfs without page restrictions. While it is inevitable to want more—more contextualizing essays, transcriptions of manuscripts—it is hard to complain too strenuously, for with this resource we have, in effect, a digital reproduction of an entire archive.

As Romanticism demonstrates, even when an online resource is not organized around women's manuscripts, it may still contain valuable archival material and contextual resources. The digitized collections from, for instance, the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, "Reading: Harvard views of readers, readership, and reading history," and the University of Pennsylvania's "Penn in hand" also contain important women's manuscripts, as do "Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts" from the Bodleian (Luna) and the Folger Shakespeare Library's Digital image collection (Luna). As more manuscripts continue to be digitized, more writing by and about women will surface and can add to our literary canon and perceptions of literary history. Digital manuscript collections can support this feminist scholarship by creating search functions that not only navigate the manuscript's content, but categorize manuscripts by compiler and subject, copyist and editor, illustrator and owner, to reflect a fuller range of women's participation in manuscript practices beyond authorship.

Author-oriented collections of women's writing

While many of the resources we have discussed so far include women's manuscripts broadly conceived, others, like Bess of Hardwick's Letters: The Complete Correspondence, 1550-1608, focus on manuscripts produced by or related to a particular woman (Wiggins et al. 2013). Bess of Hardwick was a formidable matriarch notable for becoming Countess of Shrewsbury from relatively modest beginnings, commissioning stately homes with beautiful furnishings and heading one of the Elizabethan court dynasties. Married four times, Bess was part of a vibrant social circle: by digitizing letters both to and from the countess, Bess of Hardwick's Letters opens the door into both Bess's life and those of her correspondents. As current digital projects demonstrate, digital editions of letters have the potential to greatly increase our knowledge of epistolary culture and history itself. As is so often the case, digital projects on letters began by focusing on men. After beginning by digitizing the letters of four men, Cultures of knowledge (Hotson 2016) expanded with the Early Modern Letters Online (2016) project that catalogues sixty thousand letters, including some by women, though predominantly by men. Their offshoot, Women's Early Modern Letters Online (currently in development, see Daybell and McLean-Fiander 2016), will, like Bess of Hardwick's Letters, turn to women's letters but with a broader scope.

Bess of Hardwick's Letters demonstrates how digital projects can encourage new scholarship by reuniting material spread over multiple repositories. This digital initiative could serve as a template for new projects: part of this site's success is due to its attention to the material objects represented (including, for instance, seals, ribbons, and enclosures), the text (the letters), and its metadata (including sender, recipient, date, and more). Its success is also no doubt a function of the manageable scope of the project: it would be far more difficult to provide similar treatment for a much larger collection of primary documents. Through its use of interactive media (including teaching modules), innovative search filters, high quality images, and an extensive archive of valuable secondary material, Bess of Hardwick's Letters exemplifies how digital resources can change the way we access knowledge.

Bess of Hardwick's Letters allows users to access Bess's writing in ways that would be impossible in the material archive or in a print facsimile by combining transcriptions and high-resolution colour images. Users can easily access both image and text, as well as search by the letters' material contexts (such as seals or enclosures), their letter-packet types (for instance, sewn or accordion), their textual components (such as postscripts and signatures), and their current location. The extensive metadata on sender and receiver, chronology, and handwriting makes Bess's letters searchable in a way that previously could only have been achieved with unwieldy indices and concordances. Unlike static print facsimiles, this project makes its XML-encoded (eXtensible Markup Language) transcriptions available for download, which enables and encourages scholars to manipulate and repurpose these transcriptions. This shared XML could serve as datasets for entirely new projects and purposes, such as a linguistic corpus analysis, and can also be used as a teaching tool for students learning XML.

Figure 3: Bess of Hardwick's transcription tool (featuring Huntington Library MS HM 803). Image courtesy of Bess of Hardwick's Letters.

 Bess of Hardwick's transcription tool (featuring Huntington Library MS HM 803). Image courtesy of Bess of Hardwick's Letters.

Taking advantage of its online medium, Bess of Hardwick's letters project includes multimedia presentations such as Unsealed, a series of podcasts about the letters. Beyond images to examine, transcriptions to read, and audio files to listen to, Bess of Hardwick's Letters includes a truly interactive feature: a paleography course that allows users to transcribe the letters and check their transcription, word by word or page by page (see Figure 3). [2] Allison Wiggins, the primary editor, has included a variety of helpful contextual essays that, like the paleography course and the transcriptions, make this as valuable a tool for a high school student or Tudor history enthusiast as for a professor emeritus.

The second author-centric site we turn to is Jane Austen's Fiction Manuscripts, which contains 1,100 pages of fiction written in Austen's own hand, that is, all extant autograph manuscripts of her fiction. An open-access, scholarly-edited resource, first released in 2010, it aims to reunify manuscripts that were dispersed, first at Austen's death, when they were bequeathed to different family members, and then in the twentieth century, when they were put up for auction and bought by various institutions (Sutherland and Pierazzo 2012). In a sense, digital collecting can help virtually to reconstruct documents that, due to the vagaries of history, have become fragmented. Digitization can thus assist the ongoing recovery of women writers, whose papers were often, as in Austen's case, separated at their deaths. The fate of Austen's manuscripts and books may be usefully contrasted with those of Wordsworth, who lived to old age and whose fame upon his death was such that his surviving family members took upon themselves the task of preserving his papers, intact. Like Bess of Hardwick's letters, this resource has been transcribed, something that is only possible given the more contained scope of the collection (and the high status in which the author is held). Each manuscript page is thus rendered alongside of "fully [TEI-]encoded and searchable diplomatic transcriptions" (Sutherland 2012).

This is a superb tool for both research and pedagogical purposes. Students can use the site to investigate the various forms manuscripts take (drafts and fair copies, loose sheets and bound, hand-made and store-bought books) and consider the various uses to which they were put; they can experiment with transcription; and they can use the digitized manuscript pages and the diplomatic transcriptions to examine various authorial acts of revision (Levy 2015). Austen's fans can also use the site to connect with the handwriting and compositional processes of a beloved author.

Some inadequacies, however, are apparent in the site's design. When viewing the diplomatic display alongside the facsimile, it is impossible to zoom: one can only do so in "facsimile view," where spectacular high definition does bring into view variations of ink colour and line thickness, and even the minutiae of abraded paper and binding thread. The browsing viewer makes it impossible to compare manuscripts, although this can be overcome by opening a new browser window), to enable the site's promise of "simultaneous ocular comparison of" the physically separated manuscripts (Sutherland and Pierazzo 2012, 192). There is also no possibility of viewing or downloading the diplomatic transcriptions on their own, or of generating a reading text based on the textual encoding, features many would find useful. Some of these manuscripts are lengthy (Lady Susan is 158 pages; the cancelled Persuasion chapters are 32; Sanditon is 39), and it is a tedious process to click through these pages. Given the detailed encoding that was done, providing a clean reading text seems like a feature that could be added, and it would lend considerable utility to the site. It would be helpful if some of the encoding, even a page or two, were shared, as a template for teaching text encoding, an increasingly important skill for digital humanists and literary scholars. Sutherland and Pierazzo (2012) are "unapologetic in saying that the website contains objects to be used" as opposed to texts that allow for "continuous sequential reading" (209). But it need not be an either/or proposition, as they acknowledge earlier by noting that XML-encoding enables a range of different outputs (193). The Shelley-Godwin Archive, as will be discussed at the end of this chapter, is an example of a site that displays multiple renderings of the same text.

The Jane Austen's fiction manuscripts digital edition presents itself as a "digital edition," though it is devoid of the editorial apparatus that we associate with a scholarly or critical edition. Instead, what is promised is a forthcoming "print edition" that "will be enhanced by richer annotation, discursive essays on the genesis and composition of the manuscript works" (Sutherland 2012). It seems that a compromise has been reached such that these important enhancements are reserved for print alone, likely in the interest of cost recovery, as the "digital edition" is freely available online, unlike many of the pay-walled resources discussed in this chapter. While our analysis moves "beyond accessibility" in order to analyze how women's manuscripts are remediated digitally, we recognize that issues of access to both print and digital resources are important concerns for knowledge mobilization both within and beyond the academy. Similarly, accessibility of online resources for the differently abled is an important issue facing the academy and web, but is beyond the scope of this chapter.

The Shelley-Godwin Archive, promises to bring "together online for the first time ever the widely dispersed handwritten legacy of this uniquely gifted family of writers," those of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, William Godwin, and Mary Wollstonecraft (The Shelley-Godwin Archive 2016). It launched with the remediation of the seven extant manuscript notebooks of Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein and includes Charles Robinson's magisterial introduction to and chronology of the manuscript notebooks, first published in The Frankenstein notebooks, a meticulous two-volume edition that is now out of print (Robinson 1996a). The site features diplomatic displays of these (often heavily emended) manuscripts based on Robinson's transcriptions, which distinguish between the hands of Mary and Percy (a difficult if not impossible task for all but the most expert reader). By using different font colours, the diplomatic display visually renders those emendations by Mary and those by Percy, and the interface allows users to isolate the changes made by Mary or Percy, thus offering readers the ability to scrutinize Percy's corrections and to come to their own conclusions about the controversies they have engendered (Robinson 1996b). In addition, the website's elegant interface enables users to see a full screen view of the manuscript page images; and it allows for them to view, alongside the manuscript image, either a reading text (generated from the final corrections), or the XML encoding. There are also links to Stuart Curran's digital edition of the 1818 and 1831 print editions of the novel, and it is to be hoped that this resource will be integrated more fully (Shelley 2009). The digital remediation of the Frankenstein notebooks in The Shelley-Godwin Archive has indeed moved us far "beyond accessibility": high quality digital images are wedded to magnificently detailed transcriptions, which have been fully integrated with the remarkable scholarly record that already exists, providing a resource that is truly unimaginable in print. The Shelley-Godwin Archive thus fulfills the promise of digitally remediating manuscripts, while also suggesting the rapid evolution of best practices within the changing digital environment.


The best features of the digital manuscripts examined here are those that contribute, paradoxically, both to their hypermediacy (those elements that remind users they are not faced with a manuscript) and their immediacy (those aspects that hide the remediation and encourage users not to reflect on the medium). The hypermediated elements are often the improvements that allow us to access the text in ways the manuscript itself does not permit—though, as the history of remediation teaches us, we can through time and experience lose sight of hypermediate elements and come to expect them (Bolter and Grusin 2009). Digitized manuscripts can be combined with detailed catalogue information and first-line indices, those hypermediate and paratextual elements that enable a kind of reading that is often not possible with the physical manuscript itself. As this chapter has shown, improved cataloguing, more transcription, and increased metadata pertaining to dating, hands, subjects, and so on can shape the way we search, browse, navigate, and ultimately use digital remediations of women's manuscripts.

Though we have argued that scholarly, paratextual additions (hypermediation) are crucial to improving digital manuscripts, conversely, increased immediacy is also necessary. For the benefits of digital media to be exploited fully for the purposes of research and teaching, it is necessary to bring to the screen as much of the rich detail of the material artefact as is possible—the full-colour and three-dimensionality that print and microform tend to obliterate. Downloadable, high-quality images of manuscripts (often in pdf) allow users to mimic the experience of reading by flipping easily between pages with no scholarly interventions. The ideal digitized manuscript would be available in both formats (hypermediated online and downloadable), which would allow researchers to interact with the digitized manuscript in multiple ways. Online resources can allow for more capacious archives, increased metadata, and new ways to navigate texts; they can serve as indispensable aids to research, both on the part of academics and students, by bringing us closer to the material features of the original while also providing layers of additional meaning via scholarly apparatus and contextualizing material. The most functional manuscript digitizations anticipate users at multiple levels with varying expertise and diverse research questions. They will enable both serendipitous exploration and more focused study. With further manuscript digitization projects underway, new technologies such as 3D images of manuscript pages (Manuscripts of Lichfield cathedral 2015),[3] and projects that tackle optical character recognition (OCR) for handwriting, the next generation of digitized manuscripts promises to yet again extend and revolutionize the study of historical handwritten documents.

Table 1: Selected digitizations of women's manuscripts, 1500-1900


URL Open Access Publisher Quality of Facsimiles



Trans-cription Scope
Bess of Hardwick's Letters Y University of Glasgow high quality colour images of most letters extensive Y (+ XML) 1550-1608; letters to and from Bess of Hardwick located in multiple repositories
Defining Gender, 1450-1910 N Adam Matthew Digital mostly from microfilm introductory essays N 1450-1910; variety of print and manuscript sources from multiple repositories
Recipe Books Y Wellcome Library high quality colour images Some N 16th-19th centuries; receipt books in the Wellcome Library collection

Jane Austen's Fiction Manuscripts

Digital Edition Y University of Oxford and Kings College London high quality colour images essays on manuscript content, conservation, and technical aspects of markup Y All of Austen's extant fiction manuscripts
NYPL Biblion: Frankenstein Y New York Public Library high quality colour images Short essays on “The Making of Frankenstein N Mary Shelley's 1816-17 draft of Frankenstein
Literary Manuscripts: 17th and 18th Century Poetry from the Brotherton Library N Adam Matthew Digital some high quality colour images; others from microfilm essays; detailed catalogue N 17th-18th century; verse miscellanies from the University of Leeds Brotherton collection
Perdita Manuscripts N Adam Matthew Digital from microfilm essays; detailed catalogue N 16th-17th century; variety of manuscripts from multiple repositories
Romanticism: Life, Landscape and Literature N Adam Matthew Digital high quality colour images detailed catalogue N 18th-19th century manuscripts, printed books (with handwritten annotations), and visual art from the Wordsworth Trust holdings
The Shelley-Godwin Archive Y New York Public Library; Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities; and others high quality colour images extensive Y (+ XML) 18th-19th century; currently contains the Frankenstein notebooks, will contain 90% of the manuscript material by William Godwin, Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, and Mary Wollstonecraft


[1] A good example of a site that uses layout view to capture the appearance of a codex is This site, however, as the name suggests, remediates printed books.

[2] Other online interactive paleography courses are available through Cambridge University's Scriptorium and the National Archives' Palaeography.

[3] 3D images of Lichfield Cathedral's St Chad Gospels are now available online:

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