About The Stainforth Library of Women’s Writing

There are 3 parts to this documentation: Part I conveys the rationale for the project, Part II describes our methods, and Part III details our editorial principles.

Part I: Rationale

Francis John Stainforth (1797-1866) was a British Anglican curate and a collector’s collector of stamps, shells, and most of all, books. He curated what we have found to be the largest private library of Anglophone women’s writing in nineteenth-century Great Britain. His library catalog lists 7,726 unique editions (8,804 volumes) authored and edited by 3,721 writers, nearly all of whom are women. He left scholars a rich trace of his bibliographical enterprise in a 740-page library catalog manuscript, now held in University of Colorado Boulder in Norlin Library Special Collections. To grasp the size of this library, consider that Stainforth’s collection was slightly larger than the 8,000 volume collection of books by women showcased in the Woman’s Building Library at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair (Wadsworth 84).

In “Whence Feminism? Assessing Feminist Interventions in Digital Literary Archives,” Jacqueline Wernimont echoes Ellen Rooney’s argument that an “additive approach” to recovering ever growing lists of women writers does not solve the problem of making women’s work a “visible, central part of literary history” (4). Wernimont cautions that “perhaps a feminist analysis should be suspicious of any project where bigger is better?” (4). Laura Mandell echoes these concerns and adds that there is a “discriminatory sexual difference” in the way that critics have, historically, built collections: archival “male monuments” are characterized by continually adding texts to a male author’s corpus, and for women the standard has been to increase the number of authors in an archive, which fails to make individual authors significant in ways that do not rely purely on numbers (517).

What, then, if you discover in your home institution Special Collections the library catalog of the largest private library of Anglophone women’s writing collected in the nineteenth century, and you want to recover it? And many of the thousands of authors in this library were understudied and deserve more critical attention? You also find that Gale and Google Books offer digital editions of the auction catalog of the library that misrepresent the library and its contents in a way that further buries certain writers and their works. Given the reasonable scholarly objections by Wernimont, Rooney, Mandell, and others, to building extremely populous digital archives of women writers and their works, how can one electronically share the discovery of this library and its thousands of authors and titles in digital form and make its contents meaningful?

The editors of the Stainforth Library of Women’s Writing see this problem as a challenge that will require continued work to overcome. We believe that digital projects provide the most intellectual value for those that have their hands in them and can manipulate the data according to their interests, whether those be literary, bibliographical, or socio-historical. In our earliest published stage, we invite users to interact with the catalog at the level of the search and provide feedback on transcriptions. Users can also explore a map of where some of Stainforth’s books are today. Later stages of the project will include a textbase of the works in the library for corpus analysis and topic modelling. We will enable users to explore interactive social network visualizations and create their own visualizations with tools embedded in our site. Finally, we are organizing a pedagogy project in the style of Just Teach One to promote the teaching of lesser-known women writers from the Stainforth library.

The Stainforth Library is not a digital archive, yet. It is a dynamic digital edition of Stainforth’s library catalog accompanied by supporting projects, including our effort to understand Stainforth’s shelving system as well as the Stainforth Mapping Project. What sets our project apart from other similar projects, including digital editions and archives, is the library’s status as an artifact of nineteenth-century Great Britain. All of the women writers recovery projects in print and digital scholarship today are the products of twentieth and twenty-first century scholars who have painstakingly amassed bibliographies, personographies, and edited texts. Print examples include anthologies like British Women Poets of the Long Eighteenth Century (eds. Paula Backscheider and Catherine Ingrassia), which includes 368 poems by 80 women, and bibliographies such as James Robert de J. Jackson’s Romantic Poetry by Women, with 2,585 editions by approximately 900 authors. Digital examples include Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present, which contains thick descriptions of 1,325 British writers (mostly women) with a semantically encoded infrastructure, and Women Writers Online (WWO) and its 150 richly encoded texts and visualization tool. The Stainforth Library does not replicate these or similar efforts because no contemporary scholar gathered, edited, and published this collection. Rather, Francis John Stainforth (1797-1866) created this library. Our digital edition represents the bibliographical data that he cataloged. Furthermore, his nineteenth-century catalog illuminates the availability of women’s writing in the Victorian era. The database enables one to sort data by shelfmarks, which in some cases represent acquisition order. It also contains the list of books he wanted to acquire—a latter section of his library catalog. We can query combinations of shelfmarks and works on Stainforth’s wish list to theorize orders of acquisition as well as degrees of rarity of certain works in the context of the London book market between 1835-1866.

To historically situate Stainforth’s nineteenth-century library catalog and the collection it represents requires gathering several layers of context, as detailed by Jane E. Beaudoin’s study of context and the preservation of digital objects. These layers include that of the physical manuscript; the data it contains; and the network of writers, booksellers, collectors, and printers it belongs to. I will describe the first two layers, and the third layer is the subject of a future phase of the project, in which we use our data set to map the professional networks of writers in the Stainforth library, their publishers, and the subscribers to their volumes across literary periods.

Bibliographical Context: Or, a Tale of Two Catalogs

The Auction Catalog

The manuscript catalog at the heart of the Stainforth Library digitization project has been historically eclipsed by the auction catalog for the library, published in 1867. After Stainforth died in 1866, his family was forced to leave the rectory they inhabited at All Hallows Staining, and the auction house Sotheby, Wilkinson, and Hodge took possession of his library. Among the books on the auction block was his very own meticulously created library catalog manuscript, the blueprint of The Stainforth Library. As with every auction, the auction house created a catalog of the items for sale each day to advertise the items and the event to interested buyers. “An auctioneer’s catalogues are all important: they are the firm’s ambassadors, salesmen and recording angels all in one,” and this was especially true of Sotheby’s, which has even been accused of over-cataloging (xvi Hermann). The auction catalog for the Stainforth library tells us that the auctioneers divided the library into 3,076 lots to be sold over six days starting on July 1, 1867. The catalog is organized by day of the auction (days one through six) and by ascending lot numbers, where lots are organized roughly alphabetically by author last name, starting with printed matter by A. (C. E.) Grace and Glory delineated (1855). The last day of the auction concluded with the sale of Stainforth’s “fine engravings” and manuscripts, including his library catalog. The entire library sold for a total of 792 pounds and 5 shillings, with Thomas Bentley’s 1582 edition of Monument of Matrons winning, by far, the highest price at 63£.[1]

The auction catalog advertises Stainforth’s books in a manner meant to sell this dearly curated library to pieces. Like any good sales pitch, it emphasizes the product’s most attractive aspects, and it downplays the rest. In other words, it colors the library in ways that Stainforth’s own catalog does not. Most lots contained groups of works to help attract buyers to titles that may not sell on their own. Additionally, the auction catalog annotates the most valuable titles to highlight their desirable features, and it does not annotate other titles. For example, most lots receive no special treatment in the catalog, listing in one or two lines only the lot number, author, title, publication place, and date, in that order. In contrast, the entry for lot 283 showcases Juliana Berners Booke of Haukyng, Huntyng, and Fysshyng, with all the properties and medecynes that are necessary to be kept (n.d.). Below the long title, the catalog describes the book in several eye-catching fonts (page image linked here). Screen Shot 2016-12-27 at 7.30.39 PMThis note sets the book and lot apart from others by using physical description of the volume, typeface, and capitalization to declare its rarity and value. The catalog even suggests a value for the book based on the price in Lowndes’s manual, though at auction the book sold for £13, not £35, perhaps a weather vane for the challenge of an all-women’s library auction. (15)

The auctioneers also used the title page and frontmatter to attract buyers. They titled the catalog Catalogue of the Extraordinary Library, Unique of Its Kind, Formed by the Late Rev. F. J. Stainforth, Consisting Entirely of Works by British and American Poetesses, and Female Dramatic Writers, Together with Some Interesting Unpublished Manuscripts and Autograph Letters, Also a few Engravings, framed and Glazed. Though long and detailed, the title is inaccurate. First, Stainforth did not limit himself to works by British and American poetesses and playwrights. For example, he also collected works by Swedish writer Frederika Bremmer, made popular in translation by British author Mary Howitt as well as American author Mary Traill Spence Lowell Putnam. His conception of authorship was also more expansive than the auction catalog title suggests. The authors listed in his catalog were not only poets and playwrights but authors who produced in multiple genres, such as Elizabeth Le Noir who wrote poetry as well as novels, Letitia Elizabeth Landon, not only a prolific poet but also the first editor of Fisher’s Drawing Room Scrap Book, translators like Howitt and Lowell, and even letterpress artists like Mary Potter. The auction catalog title wholly ignores the men in Stainforth’s library catalog such as those who co-authored with their wives, like George and Isabella Banks, authors of Daisies on the Grass: A Collection of Songs and Poems (1865), and Martha and Daniel Bellamy, writers and producers of Love Triumphant: or, The Rival Goddesses: A Pastoral Opera (1722), performed by students at Martha’s school. In his manuscript’s wish list, Stainforth lists a play he acquired by John Randall, The Disappointment (1732), which Randall adapted from Susannah Centlivre’s political farce “A Wife Well Manag’d” (1715). The catalog even lists at least one work that seems to be authored solely by a man, Edwin F. Roberts’ Essays and Poems (1844), and the manuscript entry is annotated “not female.” In short, Sotheby’s decided they would attract more interested bibliographers and make more money by narrowly characterizing the library as containing works by British and American female poets and dramatists and excluding the actual diversity of authorship that, in spite of the auctioneers’ gimmick, makes this library “extraordinary.”

Moreover, not only did the auctioneers mis-advertise the actual range of the library’s contents, they incorrectly portrayed Stainforth’s project to collect women’s poetry, drama, and non-fiction prose as complete. This is clearly incorrect, as Stainforth’s library catalog manuscript—a book the auctioneers had in their possession and likely used to create their version of the catalog—lists many titles in the “Wants” list that do not contain a strikethrough that indicates that he did not collect them and they, therefore, could not be auctioned. Sotheby’s catalog’s preface, to the contrary, boasts

This celebrated and unrivalled series of the Poetical Compositions of British and American Female Writers, exhibiting in a complete form the growth and progress of the genius of Woman in the department of Poetry, has been selected, with great zeal, industry, and toil, with a view to rescue our fair Poetesses from oblivion. (iii)

The auction house opens the auction of Stainforth’s library via the catalog preface with this claim to the “completeness” of the collection and its ability to illustrate the entire “growth and progress” of women poets up to the year 1866. After highlighting its most valuable titles, the preface then asserts that Stainforth’s library contains “the completest collection that could possibly be formed of the Works of Female Dramatic Writers, and of the Single Plays, [. . .] the whole forming AN ASSEMBLAGE WITHOUT PRECEDENT” (iv). Here again, the preface makes plain the auctioneers’ desire to name this collection “complete,” this time comprised of all the works by women playwrights that can be (“possibly”) acquired. The preface also repeatedly calls the library an “assemblage,” a term that designates a number items, or people, already coalesced together, and, furthermore, the authors add that it would not be possible “to get together another assemblage of works of a kindred nature, even with the most anxious and laborious research” (iv). In other words, this project or experiment cannot be repeated; the materials one needs to gather are “rare,” another word the auctioneers repeat, and have already been gathered. It would appear as though all of British and American women’s poetry and plays have already been collected and cataloged in total: a vast, singular effort on the part of the collector, an event that won’t happen again, an enterprise that bespeaks Stainforth’s labor to curate such a library rather than the intellectual labor of the authors represented in it. Nevermind that many of the authors Stainforth collected were still writing after he died in 1866.

The Legacy of the Auction Catalog

The published auction catalog and its myopic and uncharacteristic portrayal of the library enabled scholars and the press to hijack the narrative of Stainforth’s project and relay it as a story of the catch-and-release of all of women’s writing. In 1883, The Woman’s Journal ran a feature story by “T.W.H.” about Stainforth’s library on the front page. In the article, the auction catalog stands in for the actual library, and the author treats the catalog as data that produces a new conception of the scope of women writers’ contributions to book culture. The author explains that she sits with the auctioneers’ catalog before her and marvels at the collection with language that treats it not only as a library, but instead as a “vast and singular monument of the literary industry of English and American women” (TWH 297). Like the auctioneers, and perhaps due to the auction catalog’s title and preface, she also miscommunicates that Stainforth’s collection only contains poetry and drama. The author then uses the auctioneers’ catalog to quantify and measure the library. She guesses that the catalog must list 7,000 volumes in the library, and “there are no less than 150 volumes by Miss Hannah More; 94 by Mrs. Elizabeth Rowe, once famed as “Philomela;” 79 by Mrs. Hemans; 66 by lady Mary Wortley Montagu; 61 by Mrs. Inchbald; 38 by Mrs. Maclean (L. E. L)” (TWH 297). Quantification goes hand in hand, for the author, with the collector’s “thoroughness”: “There is something extraordinary in the care with which whole series of editions were brought together by Mr. Stainforth; for example, the nine successive issues of the once famous poems of Charlotte Smith” (297). Stainforth’s sizeable auction catalog coupled with his assiduousness in collecting authors’ works as well as runs of editions leads the author to comment on the purpose of Stainforth’s library:

it would seem an infinite pity that it should have been dispersed; were it not that it is the mission of private libraries to feed public ones, and that this may have passed into some collection that may yet be made even more complete, and perhaps permanent. (297)

I read in this conclusion a desire for libraries and collections of women’s writing in particular to be “complete” and “permanent,” and for Stainforth’s “vast and singular monument,” twenty-years old by the time of this article, to make another library “even more complete” than it already is in terms of texts by women.

Thirty years later, we see this sentiment echoed by bibliographer and biographer Harry Buxton Forman. In his revised biography of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1913), he writes about the Stainforth auction catalog as a finding aid for researching women writers he wants to learn more about. He recounts how he used Sotheby’s catalog to discover works by Lady Emmeline Stuart Wortley:

It occurred to me to consult the auction catalogue of the Stainforth collection of poetry by women, a collection reputed to have contained everything and anything in verse published by English or American women up to 1866. It is a thoroughly useful work of reference, like many other sale catalogues issued by those eminent auctioneers Sotheby, Wilkinson, and Hodge. I always have it at hand. (xv)

Forman’s characterization of Stainforth’s library, like those before him, is also wrong. He calls it a collection of “poetry by women,” neglecting other represented sexes, genres, and roles, like editors and translators. He also alerts us that thanks to the auction catalog, Stainforth’s library garnered a reputation in the twentieth century for holding “everything and anything in verse” by American or British women poets until the year Stainforth died.

Stainforth’s Personal Manuscript Library Catalog

The manuscript library catalog stands in stark contrast to the Sotheby’s auction catalog, which misrepresents the library as Stainforth describes it in his catalog and related materials. It follows that one of the goals of the Stainforth Library of Women’s Writing is to correct these misrepresentations and more accurately portray the collector and his library with all the nuance the manuscript and supporting research provides.

The handwritten catalog is bound in a very thick quarto account book with cover boards backed in roan, or sheepskin. The book has 373 leaves (or 746 pages), of which 254 leaves comprise the holdings catalog, the wish list or “Wants” section takes up 92 leaves, and 26 are blank. He lists all of the works in his holdings in alphabetical order by author last name, or by title where there is no author listed. Almost every entry starts with an alphanumeric code that we interpret as a shelf mark that denotes how he ordered his books. Next, he lists author last name and first name, an abbreviated title, edition information, and pub year. He occasionally lists publication place, format (e.g., folio, octavo, manuscript), if a work was privately printed, and if it contains an author portrait or plates. In the holdings section, he also cross-references names and titles to create a finding aid that, for example, helps a user find the title “The Buried Bride” under the last name “Ward.”

The “Wants” section, or wish list, also organizes its titles by author last name, however these entries are more free-form than those in his holdings list: they are less formulaic and contain less information—just enough to search for the book, but not enough to describe it as an acquisition. The Wants catalog is also slightly harder to read because many of the entries have lines through them. When Stainforth acquired a book listed in his Wants catalog, he crossed it off and, sometimes, added it to the holdings catalog, which was conveniently attached by the same spine.

To find the start of the Wants catalog in the manuscript, you must flip the book 180 degrees on its spine so that what was the back cover is now on top, with the spine on the right. Then, rotate the book so it opens, once more, with the spine on the left. This is the hallmark of a tête-bêche, or head-to-toe book format. The Oxford Companion to the Book describes it as “a type of binding, gathering two books, with one bound upside-down relative to the other.” While Stainforth might have crafted his catalog tête-bêche to save paper or just to stay organized, this format has additional significance as it relates to stamp collecting. Stainforth would certainly have been familiar with it, as he was a well-known stamp collector who helped establish the Royal Philatelic Society of London. The Stamp Collector’s Magazine describes the tête-bêche to beginner collectors as a valuable printing error:

produced by the insertion of one of the casts wrong side up in the frame, so that, relatively to the surrounding stamps, the stamp is upside down. In order to show this accidental variety, it is necessary [that] the tête-bêche should be preserved by the side of its neighbor. The two stamps should be cut out together from the sheet, and of course must not be separated from each other, or the wonder ceases, for the tête-bêche derives its value simply from the position in which it lies relative to the other stamps. (“Newly Issued”, 10)

Stainforth would have known about the famous series of stamp printing errors in France between 1849 and 1866 that introduced hundreds of thousands of tête-bêche pairs—some of which appear in Mount Brown’s revered 1862 stamp catalog that Stainforth helped compile. As the magazine quote emphasizes, the value of the tête-bêche resides in keeping the perforation between a pair of stamps and treating them more like leaves joined by a book spine, as this enables one to see the rare inverted orientation of one of them.

This manuscript format is significant because it characterizes the authors and titles on Stainforth’s wish list as part of his library catalog. While tête-bêche stamps were usually printing accidents, according to the Stamp Collector’s Magazine, the format of Stainforth’s library catalog appears to be intentional. This is to remark that for the Stainforth catalog, the tête-bêche conjoining his holdings and wish list catalogs augments the value of the wish list to that of an organized sub-catalog of its own and part of Stainforth’s greater catalog and library project. The collector carefully organizes the Wants catalog such that it mimics the holdings catalog with entries in alphabetical order by author last name or title. Further, Stainforth breaks this back catalog into sections: poetry and drama by British authors, then a section for “American Writers,” then a section devoted to “Plays Wanted,” and finally a list of desired literary annuals. Even those titles with no strikethrough—those that he did not obtain—are part of the Wants catalog and his library. In fact, a stamp collector like Stainforth would argue that the inverted and attached Wants list is a rare component that makes the entire catalog more valuable.

The Wants catalog, which is not in the auction catalog, is a crucial part of the Stainforth Library of Women’s Writing digital edition. Not only does it list some of the rarer works by women in the nineteenth century, it is also a key to understanding Stainforth’s acquisition processes and values as a bibliographer.

What Does the Library Reveal about Women’s Writing across Literary Periods? What Can the Library and Catalog Teach Us?

I have discussed how the digital edition corrects patriarchal views of women writers promulgated by the auction catalog by offering searchable access to the manuscript catalog. However, the idea of “access” to the catalog data is too vague to be meaningful. What does access achieved by the digitization and editing processes accomplish? The searchable edition of the library catalog offers several perspectives on women’s writing across five centuries of publications, from the Early Modern period to the Victorian era. It defies narrow literary period-specific views, and its contents feed interdisciplinary research in the fields of literature, women’s and gender studies, bibliography, religion, music, race studies, and more. The edition allows users to search by keyword, section (holdings catalog or wish list), shelfmark, author, title, publication place, publication date(s), format, if the book was privately printed, and if the book contains plates or portraits. In the coming months, we will add the capability to search by genre, as well. The edition also enables users to browse the manuscript with side-by-side transcriptions and their page images to perhaps discover interesting titles, such as Emily Thornwell’s Rainbow around the Tomb (1860) or a collection called The Lovers Cabinet (1755). We designed each feature of our digital edition to help users explore or search this catalog, which is too large to process without the help of computing to reveal the scope and variety of its contents.

Here are three examples of how searching the digital catalog reveals its extent as well as nuances of literature by women from the Early Modern period to the Victorian Era. They are a very small sample of what we can glean from Stainforth’s library catalog about the histories of women’s writing from the vantage of a Victorian book collector.

Example 1: Searching Publication Places, A Global Library

Sorting the library catalog contents by publication place yields a staggering array of cities and countries in which women published. While Stainforth did not write down this information for every title, he did record publication places for about 1500 editions in the collection. The publication places span four continents: North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. North American cities are well represented and include New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Charleston, Cincinnati, and Montreal. European publishing houses listed were largely English but also include locations in Ireland (Belfast and Dublin), Germany, France (Boulogne, Paris, Caen), Belgium, Italy (Florence), and Scotland (Glasgow and Edinburgh). Stainforth also owned nine editions that were published in Calcutta, India, and two that were published in Perth, Australia. The global array of publishers represents the diaspora of nearly 10 million Anglophones in the nineteenth century (Vugt 68). This is a reminder that scholarship and teaching concerning women’s writing in English requires reading beyond the borders of England and America and would benefit from considering a broader range of colonial publication histories.

For example, the two titles published in Perth are Christian Gray (ed.), A New Selection of Miscellaneous Pieces in Verse (1821) and Christian Songs and Elegies, edited by Eliza and John Caird (private circulation, 1846). Searches in Worldcat.org reveal that both titles are extremely rare. There are no digital copies of Christian Songs and Elegies, the only print copy is held at the National Library of Scotland, and information on the editors is scarce. Gray’s New Selection, however, is available online through Alexander Street Press but behind a paywall. Gray is a Scottish author, and Stainforth also owned her Tales, Letters, and Other Pieces in Verse (1808), which was published in Edinburgh and is much easier to locate in libraries and online. The title page of Tales indicates that Gray was “blind from her infancy” and, in the preface, the author admits that she believes her disability affects her writing quality and prevails upon her readers to indulge her. These two titles share the shelfmark L2. Analyses of Stainforth’s shelving system indicates that he did not organize his library by author name, date, title, or topic. Rather, we theorize that he shelved his books as he acquired them, and those with the same shelfmark were likely acquired together or nearly so, like Gray’s books. In sum, an investigation of Gray’s publication places shows that Scottish Romantic women’s writing circulated globally—as a book could be printed in Britain’s farthest colony and collected in London—even when initially it circulated privately, as in the case of Christian Songs. Further, it raises questions of why Gray published New Selection in Australia, how Perth publishers’ processes differ from those of her Edinburgh publishing house, and how the Australian-manufactured form of the book affects its content.

Example 2: “See” Entries, Sowernam “Hang’d” Swetnam

Searching for “See” references, the catalog will return over 600 cross references in which Stainforth writes [title or author] – See [title or author]. In many cases, Stainforth meant for these cross references to teach a reader how to connect pseudonyms and titles to author names. In other words, in his manuscript he unmasked cryptic or hidden authorial identities. These cross references also occasionally provide clues about the content of a title. For example, on page 13, line 16, he writes “K2 Arraignment of Women – See Sowernam.” However, under the entry for “Sowernam,” we find a different title: “Esther hath hanged Haman” (1617). “Arraignment of Women” is the abridged title of a 1615 pamphlet fully entitled “The arraignment of lewd, idle, froward, and unconstant women” by Joseph Swetnam, though he takes the pseudonym of Thomas Tell-Troth” in the pamphlet. Swetnam is not female, and his pamphlet vituperates women for Adam’s fall as well as the trials of Greek gods. The question is why does Stainforth list the title of a misogynist pamphlet as a referent for Sowernam? Who is Sowernam?

In the manuscript, under the author “Sowernam” you find the following entry:

K2 Sowernam (E) Esther hath hanged Haman 1617 (page 428, line 17)

A little research reveals that Sowernam’s first name is “Ester,” and the title associated with her is self-referential: Ester hath hang’d Haman: or An answere to a lewd pamphlet, entitled, The arraignment of women. Her title hints that Ester is a pseudonym taken from the Old Testament heroine of the book of Esther, where Haman is her antagonist. Her surname, Sowernam, is a cheeky pun calling herself “sour” to Swetnam’s “sweet” and sets the stage for her pamphlet’s critique. Stainforth’s cross-reference “See” entry for Sowernam provides a clue that Ester hath hanged Haman responds to Swetnam’s The arraignment of women. In other words, his “See” reference for Sowernam ensures that Swetnam’s pamphlet does not go unanswered and that Sowernam’s pamphlet becomes the focal point.

Example 3: Editions and Literary Annuals

Sorting the data by title reveals that Stainforth owned many editions of the same title, as many as he could collect, in fact. His manuscript shows that he leaves a blank space where he knows he is missing an edition in the hopes that he will collect that edition and catalog a complete edition history for a given title. For example, searching on the title “Bath” yields six editions of Mary Chandler’s major published poem called The Description of Bath in the acquisitions list as well as three editions in the wish-list. The wish-list entries have no strikethrough on the first and second editions, but the fifth edition is struck out. This means that Stainforth knew these three editions were in circulation somewhere, and he was only able to buy the 5th edition, not the first or the second. Examining the catalog transcription or the manuscript page images will show that Stainforth also left a blank line in his acquisitions list before the third edition (page 87, lines 7-9). These details tell us that the first and second editions were more difficult to obtain than others, but the reason for this is unclear. Interestingly, if you examine the shelfmarks for Chandler’s Bath titles, you find that Stainforth did not shelve them with one another.

C7 [Chandler (M.)] Do. [Bath] 3rd Ed 1736

F4 [Chandler (M.)] Do. [Bath] 4th Ed 1738

D.10 [Chandler (M.)] Do. [Bath] 5th Ed 1741

C9 [Chandler (M.)] Do. [Bath] 6th Ed 1744

E3 [Chandler (M.)] Do. [Bath] 7th Ed 1755

E5 [Chandler (M.)] Do. [Bath] 8th Ed 1767

I theorize that he shelved books as he acquired them, with shelfmark A1 given to his earliest acquisitions and Z10 to his last. If this is the case, then we learn that the 4th edition was the most difficult to acquire and the third edition the easiest. This makes sense, as the third edition was expanded to include more poems and, further, was the first with Chandler’s name on the cover (Orlando). These changes are likely to accompany popularity and a higher print run than earlier editions. However, more evidence is needed to support that theory.

Though Chandler’s poem enjoyed great success in eight editions, this is a small number compared to those of literary annuals in Stainforth’s library. Literary annuals were beautifully bound volumes published to celebrate each new year beginning in 1822 with the publication of Rudolph Ackerman’s Forget Me Not. They contained steel-plate engravings of well-known works of art and sentimental poetry and prose that attracted a primarily female readership (Harris “History”). Stainforth was fond of literary annuals and owned multiple editions of many titles. For example, Stainforth owned every edition of Fisher’s Drawing Room Scrapbook, which published from 1832-1849; every edition of the Keepsake (1828-1857), and every edition of Forget-Me-Not (1823-1847), a total of 73 volumes. Literary annuals also appear in Stainforth’s wish-list. In fact, the very last page of the wish-list contains a number of annuals Stainforth wanted to acquire, and many of these he eventually did. These include Amulet 1828 (acquired), English Annual (1836), Forget Me Not (10 editions, all acquired), Juvenile Forget Me Not (16 editions, only three acquired), Juvenile Scrap Book (16 editions, 7 acquired), Ladies Magazine (1775-1777, acquired), Keepsake (1835), Gem (1830-1831, neither acquired), and Bengal Annual (1831-1832, neither acquired). With the exception of Katherine D. Harris’ scholarship on literary annuals, they have not received the same consideration from contemporary scholars as novels, drama, or poetry have. However, Stainforth’s cataloging attributes a level of significance to literary annuals that matches his treatment of poetry and plays, a fact which may encourage further scholarship.


Part II: Methods

The Stainforth Library of Women’s Writing is a collaborative digital humanities project that, since 2012, has involved the work of thirteen members employed as faculty, staff, and students at the University of Colorado Boulder and Dartmouth College. The aim of the project is to create a digital version of Stainforth’s library. The product of our first phase is a searchable electronic edition of Stainforth’s manuscript library catalog. The 740-page catalog lists approximately 8,804 volumes written by or containing writings by 3,721 authors who published in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. We will submit our project for peer-review under NINES.org by the end of November 2016. Our Faculty Seed Grant expires on December 31, 2016.


Before we began transcribing, we assigned each line in the catalog a unique identifier so that we could track transcriptions. Thus, we scanned the catalog and created a PDF file for each page that labeled page and line numbers. We access them here.

Once the PDF pages were created, the team set about transcribing the entire catalog page by page, line by line. It was a painstaking process that required the work of nine editors over three years. Before the transcription process started and during the work, a complex set of Guidelines took shape in the team’s Google Drive folder that established mutually agreed upon editorial rules for how the team would consistently treat the data. For example, our guidelines specify that where data is unreadable due to damage (torn pages, spilled ink, etc.), we include tags around the damaged text with x’s to denote missing characters and that the type of damage be recorded in the notes field for the line. These guidelines also cover how to deal with incomplete data, unreadable data, deleted entries, or entries with data added above or below the line, for example. Guidelines further include rules for what data types to enclose in specified tags that accord with the Text Encoding Initiative P5 Guidelines. All of this was done to ensure transcriptional fidelity with Stainforth’s original entry and consistency among an evolving group of collaborators.

For each page of the manuscript, editors created a new Google Sheet from a template and transcribed the manuscript line by line according to our guidelines. This process could be as easy as noting that every line was blank or could be an involved process requiring extensive research and consultation with other editors. Some transcription puzzles were even solved with the help of crowdsourcing solutions on Twitter. The resources we used most often for transcription research include the Sotheby’s auction catalog, worldcat.org, The Orlando Project, Google Books, Internet Archive, and HathiTrust.

Before an editor could begin work on a page, they would “sign” that page out on a tracking sheet maintained in Google Drive. Most editors signed out blocks of approximately ten pages at a time. This same tracking sheet template was use during the editorial process as we double checked each other’s work.


Once each line of the manuscript was transcribed, the Team began editing the data in stages. Raw transcriptions were saved in a separate Google Drive folder and edits made to our transcriptions in new files so that we (a) had backups of our data and (b) could compare the original or raw transcription with the edited version if needed. The complete editorial process involved comparing our transcription to the manuscript in three different phases. If we found a discrepancy, we would communicate as a team via email to get confirmation from at least one other team member on our proposed change. Our first phase confirmed the shelfmark transcriptions and edited for interlines—places where Stainforth wrote an entry between two lines. Then we looked solely at content to ensure no information was missing from the body of the transcription. Finally, we reviewed our TEI tags to check for any errors. The purpose for editing in multiple phases was to focus our attention on one aspect of the data at a time and thereby create a more accurate and streamlined editorial process. (We discovered that trying to do all of these editorial tasks at once led to too many human errors.) After these three phases were completed, spot-checked every 10th line (about 2 lines per page) and revisited challenging areas. In an effort to ensure that our data is as clean as possible, we plan to include feedback forms on our site to crowdsource edits to human error that we did not catch in our review despite our best efforts.

After every page had been thoroughly edited, we compiled all of our data (each ms page had its own file) into two “master” spreadsheets with all pages combined: one “master” for the acquisitions side of the catalog (Stainforth’s holdings) and another one for the “Wants” catalog, or wish-list in the back of the catalog, which was transcribed during the same initial phase. At this stage, we needed to further edit our data in preparation for parsing it. This involved assigning an Entry Type (such as “AuthorOnly,” “Title Only,” “Blank”) to each line of data. For example, most of Stainforth’s catalog entries include an author and a title, and these lines would therefore be labeled with an “AuthorTitle” entry type. We also located entries that contained multiple editions of a work and added rows so that each individual work and edition was represented by its own line of data. For instance, Fisher’s Drawing Room Scrapbook was a literary annual for which Stainforth had acquired a complete run of editions. He originally listed this collection in one row, as “F8 Fisher’s Drawing Room Scrap Book 1832-49.” To account for each edition, we split this title up so that each year had its own row reflecting a single publication date, though of course we did not alter the transcription itself. The parser separated the data in each transcription into distinct columns. These include shelfmark, author, title, publication place, publication year, and book format.

Once the parser sorted our data into the necessary columns that would ultimately form the basis for our database, we needed to edit it once again to eliminate parser errors. For example, where lines of data were irregular, the parser added, subtracted, or otherwise misrepresented information from some columns. We also had to ensure that data was represented consistently throughout. For instance, Stainforth’s primary method of listing authors is by last name then first name or initials in parenthesis–e.g., “Bronte (Charlotte)”. If an irregular line had brackets around a name instead of a parenthesis, or if Stainforth listed the surname last instead of first, we changed it manually in the AuthorText column but left the transcription so that it accurately reflects the manuscript.


Finally, we developed a custom MySQL database with back-end user interfaces for project editors and administrators. We assigned each field in the database a TEI tag set. From the editors’ console or the public interface, users will be able to export a well-formed XML document containing all of the transcription data as well as person and title authority records. The Team is currently at work on completing person and title Authority records.

To create these records, editors use the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF.org), The Orlando Project, The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and WorldCat.org as resources. Our team began the process of verifying the identity of each person listed in the catalog and creating “person records” or authority records for each author in our database. Each record contains the person’s name, as verified by two of the sources listed above if possible, role (e.g., editor, author, typesetter, co-editor), birth and death year, and nationality, for example. We also include links to their authority file in VIAF, their Wikipedia page, and their ODNB page, if available. As in our previous stages, we pose any questions or points of confusion to the entire team for discussion and resolution via email or Slack, a real-time messaging app that our team has come to rely on as our primary method of communication. We also created guidelines for our authority record process which are saved in Google Drive. Each member has editorial privileges in our guidelines document and we update this document as new editorial situations arise. Authorities research will take quite some time to complete given the extent of the data and the obscurity of many of the writers and titles listed.

As part of our authority work, we are also keeping a list of authors who have little to no Internet presence with the intent to edit or create a Wikipedia page for each. This list is available on our blog to encourage other scholars and enthusiasts to join our efforts. The Stainforth Library project is an ever expanding and ever evolving project, and our hope is to expand the membership in “Team Stainforth” and involve scholars and students alike in the process of discussing and recovering the work of the authors, editors, printers, and translators featured in the library.


Part III: Editorial Principles


Our overall editorial goals are (a) to faithfully represent and share the bibliographical data that Stainforth cataloged in his manuscript, and (b) to make these data understandable to those not familiar with Stainforth’s abbreviations and cataloging style. This project is not a detailed study of the manuscript itself, thus we have not transcribed and encoded every mark in the manuscript. If you suspect we made an error in our transcription, please send us suggested corrections. We are grateful for your input.

We transcribed the manuscript one page at a time into a shared Google Sheet and, concurrently, lightly encoded our transcriptions according to our style guide. We preserved blank lines and blank pages. In order to represent the structure of the manuscript and its data in its original form, and to make it useful for scholars, we encoded our transcription in XML according to the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) P5 Guidelines, version 3.0.0. We transcribed each line from left to right across the page, preserving Stainforth’s spelling, punctuation, style, abbreviations, spaces, and other marks that pertain to the catalog’s content. For example, where Stainforth uses “Xtn” to indicate “Christian,” we transcribed the abbreviation as is. We separated entities where necessary by a single space. For accented letters and nonstandard characters, we use the actual character rather than a character entity reference, where possible; nonstandard characters, like checkmarks, are represented as HTML character entity references.

TEI Tagging of Transcriptions 

[Note: CKEditor will not publish any elements I type in this textbox if enclosed in angle brackets, so I temporarily substitute { and } brackets for < and >. I am working on configuring the editor to allow me to write code in it with angle brackets that will display when published. Thanks for your patience with this!]

We indicate unclear content by surrounding it with the {del} tag (see tag set below) and identify illegible letters with the @ symbol. For instance, line 4 on page 339 is difficult to read and so was transcribed as “J3 P (L. E) Here a Little {unclear}@@@{/unclear} 2d Ed [1851]”. We employ a similar method for representing content missing due to page damage, such as in the entry “J12 Adams (S. F) 6 Hymns in the Boston Book of {damage}Hymxx{/damage}”.The xx stands for characters missing due to damage, and we indicate in a note what those missing characters are if we can find a verified source. Where content is underlined, crossed out, or added between lines, we encoded it with the appropriate tag.

Here is our initial editorial tag set. To see our full tag set, download the XML/TEI-encoded version of the catalog.

Screen Shot 2016-12-08 at 8.20.17 AM

The Parsed Data

After we completed editing the transcriptions, we duplicated them and divided them into separate fields for shelfmark, author, title, publication place, publication date, and format. This is to say that the transcription data exists in two formats in our database: (1) as a replica of the data as it appears in Stainforth’s manuscript on each line, and (2) with that same data parsed into unique fields. To increase searchability, we edited some of the data after they had been parsed into multiple fields. We did not make any of these changes to the original transcriptions. In the parsed version of the data:

  • We removed the punctuation from shelfmarks.
  • For the many entries that list an unidentified text in a named collection, we reordered the title to favor the named collection. For example, where Stainforth lists the title “Hymn in Muggleton,” we reorder the title entry to read “Muggleton, Hymn in” to emphasize the part that leads to the title Divine Songs of the Muggletonians, since we cannot easily discern which hymn it is in the collection. Similarly, in the rare case that Stainforth put “The” before the rest of the title instead of after it, we moved the article. For example, “The Shrine” was edited to “Shrine, The”.
  • Edition and volume numbers are also listed in a regularized fashion in the separate Title field. For example: “Letters + Poems. 3rd Ed”, “Voices of Xtn Life. 2nd Ed”, “Posthumous Works. 2 Vols. 2nd Ed”.

“Stainforthisms”: Common Abbreviations in the Library Catalog

  • “4to.”: quarto
  • “8o.”: octavo
  • “12o.”: duodecimo
  • “+c.”: etcetera. We include this here because Stainforth’s “+c” can look like “+s” in the manuscript. His “+” also occasionally resembles “&”.
  • “✓”: Used in the shelfmark column.
  • “=”: Stainforth sometimes uses the equals sign to tell the reader a second name for an author. For example, in the entry “A8 Moodie (Mrs = Strickland) Enthusiasm 1831”, “Moodie (Mrs = Strickland)”  tells us that Moodie is the maiden name for Mrs Strickland.
  • “Com.”: Comedy
  • “Do.”: “Ditto,” which Stainforth often uses to indicate that an author, title, or other content is the same as that specified in the line above in the manuscript.
  • “ : Stainforth also uses double quotation marks to mean “ditto.”
  • “______ ____ ___”: Stainforth also occasionally uses a series of underscored lines as another way to indicate “ditto.”
  • Fol.: folio
  • “Mifs”: Stainforth often uses the long “s” when writing two s’s in a row.
  • “Pl” or “Pls” at end of entry: This abbreviation denotes “plate” or “plates” and indicates that this volume has illustrated plates, sometimes with color.
  • “Port” at end of an entry: This abbreviation denotes “portrait” and tells the reader that this volume has an author portrait or multiple portraits inside.
  • “Pr. Pr.”: Privately Printed
  • “Tr”: This usually indicates that a work is a tragedy. However, Stainforth also sometimes uses it to mean “translated.”
  • “Xtn”: Christian, e.g., page 302, “Montgomery (J) Xtn Psalmist”


Works Cited

Backscheider, Paula, and Catherine Ingrassia. British Women Poets of the Long Eighteenth Century. Johns Hopkins UP, 2009.

Beaudoin, Joan E. “Context and Role in the Digital Preservation of Cultural Objects.” D-Lib Magazine, vol. 18, no. 11/12, Nov./Dec. 2012, doi:10.1045/november2012-beaudoin1. Accessed 3 November 2016.

Caird, Eliza, and John Caird. Christian Songs and Elegies. Perth, for private circulation, 1846. 

Forman, Henry Buxton. Introduction. The Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley, by Thomas Medwin, edited by Henry Buxton Forman, Oxford UP, 1913, pp. ix-xxxii, goo.gl/4Jtjp4. Accessed 11 December 2014.

Gray, Christian, Ed. A New Selection of Miscellaneous Pieces in Verse. Perth, [publisher not identified], 1821, alexanderstreet.com/products/scottish-women-poets-romantic-period. Accessed 3 November 2016.

—. Tales, Letters, and Other Pieces in Verse. Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1808, goo.gl/HYrzGA. Accessed 3 November 2016.

Harris, Katherine D. “Forget Me Not: A Hypertextual Archive of Ackermann’s 19th-Century Literary Annual.” 18 January 2007 Edition, Poetess Archive, General Editor Laura Mandell, www.orgs.miamioh.edu/anthologies/fmn/Frame_1.htm. Accessed 3 November 2016.

—. Forget Me Not: The Rise of the British Literary Annual, 1823–1835. Ohio UP, 2015.

Hermann, Frank. Sotheby’s: Portrait of an Auction House. W. W. Norton, 1984.

H., T. W. “The Stainforth Library.” The Woman’s Journal, 22 September 1883, pp. 297, Nineteenth Century Collections Online, tinyurl.galegroup.com/tinyurl/3vvnw6. Accessed 11 August 2016.

Jackson, James Robert de J. Romantic Poetry by Women: A Bibliography 1770-1835. Oxford UP, 1993.

Mandell, Laura. “Gendering Digital Literary History: What Counts for Digital Humanities.” A New Companion to Digital Humanities, edited by Susan Schreibman et al., Wiley Blackwell, 2016, pp. 511-523, doi 10.1111/b.9781118680643.2016.x. Accessed 11 August 2016.

“Newly Issued or Inedited Stamps.” The Stamp-Collector’s Magazine: Illustrated, vol.12, 1874, pp. 8-11, goo.gl/nBe24U. Accessed 3 November 2016.

Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginning to the Present. Edited by Susan Brown et al., Cambridge UP, Orlando.cambridge.org. Accessed 3 November 2016.

Potter, Mary. The Poetry of Nature. J. P. Cooke, 1789, archive.org/details/poetryofnatureco00pott. Accessed 11 August 2016.

Rooney, Ellen. “Introduction.” The Cambridge Companion to Feminist Literary Theory, edited by Ellen Rooney, Cambridge UP, 2006, pp. 1-10.

Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge. Catalogue of the extraordinary library, unique of its kind, formed by the late Rev. F.J. Stainforth. J. Davy & Sons, 1867, goo.gl/rTBOcR. Accessed 3 November 2016.

Sowernam, Ester. Ester hath hang’d Haman: or An answere to a lewd pamphlet, entitled, The arraignment of women. Printed by Thomas Snodham for Nicholas Bourne, 1617, luna.folger.edu/luna/servlet/detail/FOLGERCM1~6~6~21998~101632:Ester-hath-hang-d-Haman–or-An-ansv#. Accessed 3 November 2016.

Stainforth, Francis John. Catalogue. [In a later hand:] of the library of female authors of the Rev. J. Fr. Stainforth. [Before 1866]. MS WPRP 290, University Libraries, University of Colorado, Boulder, CU Digital Library, cudl.colorado.edu/luna/servlet/s/233epf. Accessed 3 November 2016.

Swetnam, Joseph. The arraignment of lewd, idle, froward, and unconstant women: or, The vanity of them; chuse you wheter. London: Thomas Archer, 1615, digital.library.lse.ac.uk/objects/lse:sim568qag. Accessed 3 November 2016.

“Tête-bêche.” The Oxford Companion to the Book. Edited by Michael F. Suarez et al, Oxford UP, 2010, doi:10.1093/acref/9780198606536.001.0001. Accessed 3 November 2016.

Van Vugt, William E. “The Hidden English Diaspora in Nineteenth-Century America.” Locating the English Diaspora, edited by Tanja Bueltmann et al., Liverpool UP, 2012, pp. 67-83. 

Wadsworth, Sarah, and Wayne A. Wiegand. Right Here I See My Own Books. UMass P, 2012.

Wernimont, Jacqueline. “Whence Feminism? Assessing Feminist Interventions in Digital Literary Archives.” DHQ, vol. 7, no.1, 2013, www.digitalhumanities.org/dhq/vol/7/1/000156/000156.html. Accessed 3 November 2016.

Women Writers Online. Women Writers Project, Northeastern University, 1999-2016, www.wwp.northeastern.edu/wwo. Accessed 3 November 2016.



[1] The next-most expensive lot in this auction was Mary Countess of Pembroke’s Tragedie of Antoine (1594 and 1595), which sold for 39£10s.