Every time I work on TEI, I find something new to challenge me. I worked with TEI, and, specifically, James Merrill Linn two years ago during my first year at Bucknell. As a beginner in all aspects of the digital world, I was scared by the concept of TEI. What is it? What does it do? Honestly, until now I have realized the importance of transcription and text analysis. Over two hundred years ago, there was a man from Lewisburg, Pennsylvania writing from a ship in the Atlantic back to his hometown. James Merrill Linn fought for this country, so I feel a great need respect and honor him and his work through my dedication to this project. In order to do a successful job on an assignment like this, one needs to learn correct transcription skills and semantic markup.
There are multiple reasons that make Linn’s letters hard to read. The first is that these letters were written in the 1860s; the language and style of writing is not so prevalent today. The second is that after over 150 years, the ink and quality of the papers starts to deteriorate. While the Bucknell archives do a great job conserving these artifacts, it naturally happens. On my particular letter, on March 5, from Linn to his father, or Papa as he calls him, there was a large section that had smudged. It was on the bottom right corner of the letter, and it was illegible to read some of the handwriting. Another thing to note is that Linn tends to use patterns in his writing, i.e., the ampersand, but I could not justify what these words were.
Something else that was very useful to us was the use of the Bucknell archives. I was able to see much more clearly his handwriting when it was in front of my own eyes rather than a computer screen. I actually loved using the magnifying glass to see his handwriting. It is amazing how Linn actually had written and touched those letters during the civil war!
After the original transcription, we marked up the text using TEI. This gives the letter some semantic meaning. People, places, events, etc. are categorized according to the critical judgments of the specific TEI editor. For example, is a ship a placeName or a objectType? I will always argue that it is a place Name, because Linn writes from it. The letters will be cited from the Cossack, which is a ship that Linn occupied during the war. He resided in this ship; therefore, I think it is a p
lace. Others may not feel the same way, and they may want to mark this as a objectType; this is why TEI can create some lively discussions. It is somewhat subjective. Also, when Linn writes to his family, he tends to write differently than if he is writing for himself or the Lewisburg chronicle. If he is writing to his father, he will talk about his well-being, while, if he is writing to his brother, he will talk about sending home guns. If Linn is writing for himself or the Lewisburg chronicle, he seems to write more formally about events; he knows there may be a bigger audience, which may be why his writings become more objective.
Once the TEI markup was completed, we transformed it into an HTML format to be able to publish it digitally. This is a part where I struggled, because I am not as familiar with HTML as I would have liked. It was confusing to me how this worked and why it had to be done the way it was. Ultimately, I am satisfied with the end results of Module 3, because I know, or hope, James Merrill Linn would be proud.