The Middle English Texts Series is a long-running academic publishing project based out of the University of Rochester’s Robbins Library. The staff is composed of the general editor, Professor Emeritus Russell Peck, the staff editor, Pam Yee, and 4 other graduate students who work part-time formatting, copy-editing and producing books for publication. Typically, we send 3-4 books to the press per year, as well as creating the digital editions. These digital versions are at the heart of the work we do at METS. The goal of this project is to make relatively unknown or unread medieval texts available to scholars, teachers, and students who may otherwise struggle to find them in the commercial market. Our digital editions, which are free for anyone to view and print, embody this ideal of making ‘fringe’ medieval literature accessible to as many people as possible.
The actual work involved in the digitalization of these texts differs from text to text, as they all have different features which can make one more challenging than another. A volume which includes images of musical staves, for example, requires us to use image mapping in order to set coordinates for the academic footnotes that correspond to the individual bars. A vertical prose translation (where the translation is placed beneath the original text on every page) is simple enough to format in print, but requires extra attention when you have the broader canvas of a webpage that changes dimensions on a smaller screen, like on a laptop or a phone, and we have to find ways to lock the text in the correct position. For some of the more popular texts, we’ve also begun to incorporate audio recordings of scholars reciting certain lines, which have to be edited for sound quality and error-fixing, before being linked to the requisite places in the text.
Very little of the process of making the digital editions is standard — we adapt to new volumes as they come up, and try to anticipate future needs, but it’s a constantly changing environment, and always creating new challenges for staff members.