English Poetry Full-Text Database
The University of Minnesota Libraries subscribes and provides access to
Poetry Full-Text Database (EPFTD), which includes the nondramatic
verse of some 1,350 poets who wrote between 600 A.D. and 1900 A.D.mostly
those identified by The New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature,
5 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969-1972), supplemented
by some materials ignored by the NCBEL.
English Verse Drama
The entire database, or any section of it, can be searched electronically
for any word or phrase. The texts include structural information (volume
divisions, stanza divisions, lineation) coded in the Standard Generalized
Markup Language (SGML).
internet access to the contents of the database (as mounted on a file
server at the University of Michigan) is available to users who have University
of Minnesota e-mail accounts; access is password-restricted.
A similar arrangement has been made for the database English
Verse Drama, which contains "more than 2,000 works by around 450 named
authors [including Shakespeare, in early editions] and approximately 230
anonymous works, from the Shrewsbury Fragments of the late thirteenth century
to the end of the nineteenth century."
Published reviews and other accounts of the first and revised editions
of English Poetry Full-Text Database include, in chronological order:
Potts, R. TLS 30 Apr. 1993: 7. (Not seen.)
"Read Only Memory." Poetry Review 83 (1993): 85. A brief review
based on a demonstration disc (abridged). "There are no variant readings
and no notes. So although there is much you can do with these files, you
can't do everything you might want to do." Objects to "the ballast of dud
Roberts, R. L., and R. Franklin. "The English Poetry Full-Text Database."
33 (1994): 543. (Not seen.)
Sutherland, John. "When in Rom." London Review of Books 9 June 1994:
78. As a "commercially driven project" the Database has had to
cut corners, but it gives value for money. Basing this electronic corpus
on "the obsolescent NCBEL (196972)" was a pragmatic decision; it
would have been better, though more expensive, to draw on the revision
of the NCBEL now being prepared. Resorting to uncritical, "out-of-copyright
editions" is a dubious practice for canonical authors, but virtually the
only option for the many noncanonical authors that are included. Double-keyboarding
of the data, with inconsistencies flagged for resolution, "is a system
which is far from foolproof." Omitting the twentieth century for copyright
reasons slights the most popular period of literary study. Nonetheless,
in an economy of scarcity (no institutional funding is available for such
work in the U.K.), this commercial project is efficient, financially self-sustaining,
and powerfully informative: it is likely to redirect literary scholarship
Lays of Ancient ROM." Economist 27 Aug. 1994, 7172. Reviews
several large-scale text-database projects; this one is "poised to become
an indispensable research tool."
Lane, Anthony. "Annals of Software: Byte Verse." New Yorker Feb.
2027, 1995: 102+. Chadwyck-Healey's literal keyboarding of old-spelling
texts accumulated a variety of spellings that makes it difficult to find
a particular passage. The database is especially useful for "random, impromptu
excursions into the history of the language." The omission of verse drama,
including Shakespeare, is unfortunate; it will be repaired in a later project
[i.e., English Verse Drama].The
lavish inclusion of so much (bad) noncanonical verse is a backhanded reminder
that the canon has its uses. (See also abstract by Mary Mallory, ETEXTCTR
Review 2 .)
Willett, Perry. The
Chadwyck-Healey English Poetry Full-Text Database. Initiatives in
Digital Information: A Quarterly Communication from the University of Michigan
Oct. 1995. Brief favorable notice, emphasizing search capability.
Reimer, Stephen. "The
English Poetry Full-Text Database." Computers and Texts
11 (1996). Points to various editorial and functional deficiencies, especially
in the representation of poetry from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
Prompted a detailed response from Stephen Pocock (Managing Editor and Head
of Data Conversion, Chadwyck-Healey, Ltd.), "A
Response to Dr Reimer's review of The English Poetry Full-Text Database,"
Computers and Texts 11 (1996).
Baker, Nicholson. The Size of Thoughts: Essays and Other Lumber.
New York: Random House; London: Chatto and Windus, 1996. Includes, in
the long essay "Lumber," an account of some weaknesses in the EPFTD,
especially the systematic omission of poems written by authors who were
classified by the NCBEL as novelists or prose writers (for example,
Scott, Thackeray, Newman, Meredith).
Korn, Eric. "A Clippings Job." Review of Nicholson Baker, The Size of
Thoughts: Essays and Other Lumber. TLS 5 Apr. 1996: 22. Incidentally
criticizes omissions in the EPFTD: "no poems by those classified
as prose-writers, hence no Johnson, no Scott, no Charlotte or Anne Brontë";
verses by Francis Newman but nothing by his brother, John Henry Newman.
Chadwyck-Healey, Charles. Letter to the editor, TLS 26 Apr. 1996:
19 Defends omissions in the EPFTD by blaming limitations of the
available bibliography, the NCBEL, rather than electronic technology
as such (as Korn had suggested); notes that omissions can be made good
in later editions of the EPFTD, including even twentieth-century
poetry now avoided because of copyright considerations.
Jackson, Ian. Letter to the editor, TLS 17 May 1996: 17. Holds
the NCBEL to be innocent of the faults of the EPFTD, claiming
rather that Chadwyck-Healey has made "uncritical use of its sources"; objects
to the "slave-labour" used to construct the database.
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Department of English, University of Minnesota
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Created 29 April 1995
Last revised 5 July 2002