A Note To Readers of The Beta Edition
This text is the beta version of a participatory critical edition of Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White. By “beta version,” we mean “text in progress.” In the coming months, we’ll be composing and publishing additional supplemental content to accompany the novel.
At present, the primary text that appears in this edition reflects what Wilkie Collins published in his original serial installments of the novel between November 1859 and September 1860.
- Each serial installment of the novel includes edition-comparison footnotes that mark some of the changes Collins made to the novel between its first release and its first publication in volume form. The hyperlinks embedded in these footnotes link directly to a Hathi Trust scan of the volume edition so that you can see for yourself what these changes looked like in the text.
- Each chapter also includes an annotation layer that you can use to take private notes or reflect on the text in public with other readers.
- We live in an exciting time for the digital humanities, and for those of you who enjoy viewing your text using digital analysis tools to see which words pop up the most frequently, we’ve included a Voyant Visualizer word cloud and link in an annotation attached to each chapter heading. (Here’s an example of a Voyant annotation link. Note that the annotation may take a few moments to load on your screen.)
- This book also includes supplemental essays and interactive elements by students and scholars that reflect on print culture of the nineteenth century and the present day. Some of these essays are already published, while some will be published during the course of the year.
Why circulate this project as a beta version?
First and most importantly, we envision this work as a living text.
We welcome contributions to this project in the form of footnotes, essays, and more. Whether you’re a student, professor, scholar, print culture enthusiast, or some combination of all of these, you have something to offer this project. While this text will continue to grow over time, this beta run is a uniquely active point in this project’s development, so to take part now is to play a pivotal role in what The Woman in White: Grangerized will become.
Second, the text of Wilkie Collins’s novel as it appears in this project is an openly-available, downloadable, and citeable resource tied to a specific edition of the text. This is valuable even before all of the supplemental essays fall into place.
Here’s why. A large proportion of Victorian literature is in the public domain, meaning that it’s free to reproduce, recirculate, and adapt it. In some ways, this evens the playing field for students and scholars who don’t have a large disposable income to discuss primary texts with others who have a great deal of access to archives and databases.
But literary studies also prizes close-reading skills, and to carefully analyze a text with Victorian readers in mind typically requires us to know which version of the text we’re looking at. This can be difficult in the digital age. (I can certainly remember moments when I confidently raised my hand to make a point in a graduate seminar only to realize that the online transcription I was working with varied significantly from the version of the text my professor had required!)
While public domain curation sites like Project Gutenberg are excellent tools, not every text in their collection comes with a publication date, and there’s no easy way to determine how closely any given text matches a nineteenth-century publication. For instance, as we verified the initial serial release text of The Woman in White for this project, we learned that some aspects of the Project Gutenberg edition of The Woman in White match the first volume release of the novel in 1860, but there are also some lines that instead match a reissue that Collins made in the 1870s. Because there’s no reference to source edition, it’s hard to place which Victorian audience (if any) experienced the Gutenberg version of the novel.
In contrast, this edition includes direct links not only to the original serial scans we drew from Dickens Journals Online to generate this text, but also includes edition comparison footnotes. If you identify a line that differs from what your peers see in their editions of the novel, you’ve found a cool Victorian variation to think with!
Third and finally, publishing this project in stages harkens back to the Victorian tradition of releasing texts in serial installments.
One of the intriguing features of nineteenth-century print was the way that novel writers would often publish their work in installments as they wrote. The supplementary texts in this edition invite you to think about what is unique about this mode of publication.
Publishing the critical discussions of this serial novel in sequential installments of their own is a meta-referential way of reflecting serial publication as a practice in the present day.
You’re welcome to join us and to track new additions to this project at the 19th-Century Open Pedagogy Project’s Twitter account (@OPP19C)