Encoding an On-Line Electronic Scholarly Edition and Implementing an XML Prototype

The project aimed to program an on-line scholarly edition and implement an XML prototype meeting MLA’s guidelines for the electronic scholarly edition, and presenting full-text versions of all renditions to show evolution of a text to final states and devolution to original states. The first stage was to prepare a scholarly edition of William Wells Brown’s novel Clotel which provides the full text of all extant versions (those of 1853, 1860, 1864, and 1867) with explanatory annotation, textual-variant notes, and a scholarly apparatus. The second stage was to identify and develop software programs which will make this body of text operate on-line as a fully-functional electronic scholarly edition (an ESE). The project has made readily available in scholarly form a novel of considerable significance. Further research questions are arising from the opportunities offered by the particular text chosen to edit as an ESE. Few African American texts have been prepared as scholarly editions in print and none on-line. As a result, work on Clotel has raised questions not always raised by the preparation of texts by mainstream white authors for whom there are usually well-preserved records and a rich scholarship of practices. At the same time, unlike most nineteenth-century African American novels normally available in one version only, there are four authored versions of Clotel of equal textual standing, all independently published.


Principal investigator
Professor Christopher Mulvey
Principal project staff
Professor Christopher Mulvey
Start date
Saturday, January 1, 2000
Completion date
Monday, November 1, 2004
Source material
The source of the electronic scholarly edition is the full extant text (both in page image and encoded form) of the four versions of the first African American novel, the work by William Wells Brown which appeared as: Clotel; or the President’s Daughter: a Narrative of Slave Life in the United States. London: Partridge & Oakey, 1853. Miralda; or, The Beautiful Quadroon. A Romance of American Slavery, Founded on Fact, published in sixteen installments of the New York Weekly Anglo African between December 1, 1860 and March 16, 1861. Clotelle: A Tale of the Southern States. Boston: J. Redpath, 1864. Clotelle; or The Colored Heroine, A Tale of the Southern States. Boston: Lee & Shepard, 1867. [The text of Miralda is very rare and has never been republished before. The American Antiquarian Society gave permission for its copy to be imaged and keyed. Installments 1 and 2 are not extant. In addition to reproducing the serial version of Brown’s novel, the website reproduces the full text of each number in which the installments appeared, giving readers access to an African American abolitionist journal for the four months preceding the American Civil War. The 1853, 1864, and 1867 versions of Brown’s novel were reproduced with permission from copies held by the New York Public Library and the University if Virginia Library] The texts have a 75,000-word introductory commentary and line-by-line annotations.

William Wells Brown’s Clotel (London, 1853): An Electronic Scholarly Edition. Edited with Introduction, Commentary and Annotations by Christopher Mulvey. Marlborough: Adam Matthew Publications, 2005. http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/clotel.

‘Freeing the Voice, Creating the Self: The Novel and Slavery.’ The Cambridge Companion to the African American Novel. Ed. Maryemma Graham. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. 58-93. ISBN 0-521-01637-1.

‘Liberating an African American Text: Editing Clotel for an Electronic Century.’ Critical Voicings of Black Liberation: Resistance and Representations in the Americas. Eds. Kimberley L. Phillips, and others. Munster: LIT Press, 2003. 163-176. ISBN 3-8258-6739-0.

‘Creating an Online Scholarly Edition: The Problems Posed by Clotel, the First African American Novel.’ Histoire(s) de livres: Le Livre et l’édition dans le monde anglophone. Ed. Marie-Francoise Cachin and Claire Parfait. Cahier Charles V 32 (December 2002). 133-146. ISBN 2-90-2937-32-

‘Giving the Past a Future: The Summa Electronica as Universal Memory.’ Sites of Memory in American Literatures and Cultures. Ed. Udo Hebel. Heidelberg: Heidelberg University Press, 2002. 327-339. ISBN 3-8253-1436-7.

‘Encoding for Canonization: the Problematics, Access and Markup for The African American Research Library’, pp. 39-52 in Digital Demotic, edited by Lou Burnard, Marilyn Deegan, and Harold Short. Oxford: OHC Publication 10, 1999.