The Mary Hamilton Papers at the John Rylands Library
This project presents letters and other material from the Mary Hamilton Papers (archive GB 133 HAM) in the University of Manchester Library’s Special Collections, containing 2474 pieces of correspondence, 16 diaries and 6 manuscript volumes, and housed at the John Rylands Library on Deansgate. But see now Future developments below!
From 2013-14 to 2017-18, students on the course unit ‘Modern English Language (1500-present)’ each transliterated two letters from the Hamilton collection and wrote a linguistic commentary. They were asked to reproduce the spelling and punctuation exactly, and to mark up their transliterations according to a subset of the copious TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) and XML (eXtensible Markup Language) guidelines. From 2014-15 they were joined by students from the University of Vigo, and from 2017, MA students from Uppsala University.
After discussion among three project members, carefully edited letters are made available via the project’s table of Letters – 403 so far. The transliterations are presented on-screen in a form that allows easy comparison with the corresponding digitised image or with a normalised text. However, the full XML text and TEI header may be more suitable for further research, or an original-spelling or normalised plain-text version. The two TXT archives are freely available for non-profit use on completion of our simple online form, available here. Information on corpus and project can also be found in the Corpus Resource Database (CoRD).
Other Hamilton papers have been transliterated in a separate project at the University of Zurich under the direction of Professor Marianne Hundt; find out more on the University of Zurich website.
Since summer 2016, with the encouragement of the Library, we have been planning a significant expansion of the project, and in November 2016 we were awarded a seedcorn grant by the John Rylands Research Institute, allowing us to add to the corpus and improve the annotation and markup of existing files. Revision of markup continues, and presentation of letters on the website has been overhauled. A wide-ranging literary-linguistic research project, ‘Unlocking the Mary Hamilton Papers’, for which Dr Sophie Coulombeau and Professor Hannah Barker are joining us, was awarded AHRC funding in May 2019, and the new project begins in December. The research will be based on a complete edition of Hamilton material in the Rylands and ten other repositories (beta version due in 2021), with full-text search, a ‘personography’, a tagged and searchable linguistic corpus, and more.
Meanwhile we look forward to several collaborative contributions:
- Further transliterations by Dr Erik Smitterberg’s MA students at Uppsala University – 3rd batch gratefully received June 2019.
- Raw transcriptions of some of Charlotte Gunning’s letters by a student of Dr Anne Gardner’s at the University of Zurich.
- Transliterations by a dissertation student at Vigo and students on a new ‘Undergraduate Scholars’ programme at Manchester – gratefully received April-June 2019.
- Transliterations of letters in the Royal Archives by a Learning Through Research intern at Manchester.
- Upgrade of the image display to a digital image viewer.
History of the English Language at Manchester
From 2010, a number of final-year dissertation students in Linguistics and English Language edited folios of Middle English manuscripts held at the Rylands (not yet developed for online presentation), while from 2013, others transliterated letters as part of a coursework requirement. Students have worked mainly with digitised images (though many go to see the original documents too). Much of the material has never previously been edited or published, so students have the opportunity to make an original research contribution. Ideally, studying the history of English and working on ‘their’ text is a productive, two-way interaction.
Illustration from Anson & Anson (1925: frontispiece).