Technical Description of The Stainforth Library of Women’s Writing

The heart of The Stainforth Library of Women’s Writing is the searchable scholarly digital edition of his library catalog published on our website. Beginning in 2013, editors transcribed each page of the 746-page catalog in shared Google Sheets, edited transcriptions, and lightly encoded them in XML following TEI P5 guidelines. Because nearly all catalog entries follow a regular pattern of author, title, edition, publication place, and date, we parsed the transcribed lines into separate tables of a MySQL database. We have 25 tables of data in total. They include transcribed entries, book formats, genres, line counts, transcribed names (of authors), titles, titles_pubyears, person records (editors created these), transcribed names_entries, transcribed names_person records, cross references in the catalog, shelfmarks, a TEI change log, and more. You can conduct simple and advanced searches on the data in the catalog here: Our website uses the WordPress CMS to host the public-facing portion of the project.

A user can also browse the manuscript catalog to see what the pages look like in Stainforth’s hand by going here: The site offers two browsing views of the manuscript. The first is an image of the manuscript page adjacent to its transcription to help a reader interpret Stainforth’s hand. Below this, there is a “flippable” full-page spread view of the manuscript in LUNA. This view is important to include because Stainforth used recto and verso pages differently, and their contents relate to one another. In general, recto pages are his main catalog entry pages and the versos beside them (on the left) contain entries for later acquisitions that there was no room to add on the recto page. There is also a field to enter a page number to turn to. To improve this page, I would like to add the ability to easily turn to the start of a section of the catalog rather than manually flip to it or use the page number to get there. The adjacent manuscript and transcription view also reveals transcription errors, so in 2019 we added a centrally located button (just below the page view) for users to submit errors or questions they encounter to the editors while browsing the catalog.

Under a Creative Commons Attribution -Non-Commercial-Share Alike 4.0 license, anyone can request and receive a copy of our TEI encoded XML data at any point. We have already donated our data to projects including the Women’s Print History Project (ed. Michelle Levy). Forthcoming is a form published on our site to allow users to directly request data downloads.

Editors access the data in two ways: (1) through a separate “data tools” password-protected user interface of the CMS (WordPress site) designed specifically for editing person and title data, and (2) through phpMyAdmin, where an editor can query the full database in SQL. Only administrators have access to the full database, which is hosted on the DH server at SCU. The site is compliant with HTML5 and CSS3 standards and uses UTF-8 character encoding for textual data storage and presentation.

Supplemental Components of The Stainforth DH Project

There are several components of the project that supplement the searchable digital library catalog and support analysis of the catalog. These include:

  • Over 1,000 person records (like this one for Martha Yeardley) that describe the names Stainforth recorded in his catalog and link those we can identify to Name Authority records in the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF). For authors in the catalog who do not have a Name Authority record, we collaborate with NACO-certified librarians to create such a record in the Library of Congress, which also adds it to VIAF. Name Authority records are important because they make authors findable in library catalogs. These records are especially helpful for increasing the findability of those who published under married names, maiden names, and pseudonyms, as most women writers between the 16th and 19th centuries did. Person record data includes transcribed name and name variants, role (author, editor, translator, etc.), birth and death years, nationality, sex/gender, permalink to VIAF record, link to Wikipedia page, link to image, link to Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry, and general notes including the authoritative source for the person record.
  • Google Map of 300 of Stainforth’s original books found around the world, identifiable by their bookplate. See what we’ve found here: Librarians, bookdealers, and collectors continue to contact our project to tell us about their Stainforth books, and Stainforth project editors continue to locate books we haven’t mapped yet. Many are at the British Library. Only +7,000 more to go …
  • Leaflet map of all publication cities in Stainforth’s library catalog. Users can tailor the date range to a literary era or a custom range. The map is helpful for identifying regional clusters of publishers who produced women’s writing. Note that publishers in the same city that have different street addresses share the same marker location in this draft of the map. See to explore the map.
  • Project editors and students have been publishing on The Stainforth Library’s blog since 2014. It is a record of the project’s development and an outlet for publishing findings and updates that are important to share quickly. The blog includes a growing collection of student essays called “Emerging Voices,” which contains undergraduates’ recovery scholarship on women writers in Stainforth’s library catalog. To read our blog, go to
  • The Stainforth Library lends itself to pedagogy in multiple disciplines. We have published a collection of lesson plans for a range of assignments from short classroom activities to term-long projects. They are free to adapt as needed. See for more information.
  • Editors published documentation of our editorial processes. These are in the process of being significantly updated to submit for peer review. We have also published a short biography of the collector, Francis Stainforth.
  • Our “See Also” page refers visitors to DH projects that are related to The Stainforth

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