Open Book Publishers logo Open Access logo
  • button
  • button
  • button
GO TO...
book cover


8. Building A Social Edition of the Devonshire Manuscript

Ray Siemens, Constance Crompton, Daniel Powell and Alyssa Arbuckle, with Maggie Shirley and the Devonshire Manuscript Editorial Group

© Ray Siemens et al., CC BY 4.0

The multivalent text of the Devonshire Manuscript

A Social Edition of the Devonshire Manuscript is an unconventional text: it blends traditional scholarly editing practices and standards with comparatively recent digital social media environments. In doing so, the edition aims to reflect both contemporary editorial theory, which recognises the inherently social form and formation of texts, as well as the writerly and readerly practices that shaped the original production of the Devonshire Manuscript (London, British Library, MS Add. 17492). Dating from the 1530s–1540s, the Devonshire Manuscript is a multi-authored verse miscellany compiled by a number of sixteenth-century contributors.1 As an inherently collaborative document, the manuscript calls for a social investigation of its production. In this chapter, we detail the content, context, process and implications of A Social Edition of the Devonshire Manuscript.2 We will begin with an exploration of the textual, paratextual and non-textual content of the Devonshire Manuscript. In section 2, we will focus on the process of building a social edition of the manuscript. To conclude, we will ruminate on the affordances of digital editing. Overall, we will consider how publishing in Wikibooks emphasises the collaborative, social ethos of the Devonshire Manuscript itself, and how in doing so we attempt to model the social scholarly edition.3

The Devonshire Manuscript, acquired in 1848 by the British Museum, contains approximately 200 items (the total sum of complete lyrics, verse fragments, excerpts from longer works, anagrams and other ephemeral jottings) bound in a handwritten volume and inscribed in over a dozen hands by a coterie of men and women gathered around the court of Queen Anne Boleyn.4 Despite growing scholarly interest in the Devonshire Manuscript, no critical editions existed during the production of A Social Edition of the Devonshire Manuscript.5 The manuscript has long been valued as a source of Sir Thomas Wyatt’s poetry; 129 of the 200 items in the manuscript were composed (although not copied) by him. These verses, in turn, have been transcribed and published by Agnes K. Foxwell, Kenneth Muir and Patricia Thomson in their respective editions of Wyatt’s poetry.6 As scholar Arthur F. Marotti argues, however, the author-centred focus of these editions distorts the character of the Devonshire Manuscript in two ways: ‘first, it unjustifiably draws the work of other writers into the Wyatt canon, and, second, it prevents an appreciation of the collection as a document illustrating some of the uses of lyric verse within an actual social environment’.7 The Devonshire Manuscript is much more than an important witness in the Wyatt canon; it is also a snapshot into the scribal practices of male and female lyricists, scribes and compilers in the Henrician court.

A Social Edition of the Devonshire Manuscript seeks to publish the contents of the original manuscript in their entirety, move beyond the limitations of an author-centred focus on Wyatt’s contributions and concentrate on the social, literary and historical contexts in which the volume is situated as a unified whole. In doing so, we remain mindful of the editorial theories championed by D. F. McKenzie and Jerome McGann (among others) that expand the notion of textual production beyond a simple consideration of authorial intention. For McGann, these ‘nonauthorial textual determinants’ should be considered alongside authorial presence to include in our critical gaze ‘other persons or groups involved in the initial process of production’, as well as the phases, stages, means, modes and materials of this initial production process.8 D. F. McKenzie’s call for a ‘sociology of texts’ further extends this concept of textual production by arguing for the significance of the material form of a text and its ability to affect the text’s meaning.9 These theories have prompted critics to reevaluate the notion of authorship in order to account for nonauthorial (but nevertheless deeply significant) organisers, contributors and collaborators. Marotti’s assertion, that ‘literary production, reproduction and reception are all socially mediated, the resulting texts demanding attention in their own right and not just as legitimate or illegitimate variants from authorial archetypes’, also reflects the changing landscape of editorial theory.10 In keeping with McGann, McKenzie and Marotti, A Social Edition of the Devonshire Manuscript aims to preserve the socially mediated textual and extra-textual elements of the manuscript that have been elided or ignored in previous work. These ostensible ‘paratexts’ make significant contributions to the meaning and appreciation of the manuscript miscellany and its constituent parts: annotations, glosses, names, ciphers and various jottings. The telling proximity of one work to another, significant gatherings of materials, illustrations entered into the manuscript alongside the text and so forth all shape the way we understand the manuscript, but are often ignored when preparing scholarly editions.11 To accomplish this goal, we have prepared a diplomatic transcription of the complete Devonshire Manuscript with extensive scholarly apparatus.

The manuscript collection consists of short courtly verses by Sir Thomas Wyatt (129 items, sixty-six unique to the manuscript) and Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (one item); verses attributed to Lady Margaret Douglas (two items), Richard Hattfield (two items), Mary Fitzroy (née Howard) (one item), Lord Thomas Howard (three items), Sir Edmund Knyvett (two items), Sir Anthony Lee (one item; ‘A. I’. has three items) and Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley (one item); transcribed portions of medieval verse by Geoffrey Chaucer (eleven items), Thomas Hoccleve (three items) and Richard Roos (two items); transcriptions of the work of others or original works by prominent court figures such as Mary Shelton, Lady Margaret Douglas, Mary (Howard) Fitzroy, Lord Thomas Howard and possibly Queen Anne Boleyn. Alongside these are some thirty unidentified or unattributed pieces.12 These multiple contributors often comment on and evaluate each other’s work through marginal notation and drawing, in-line interjection, exchanging epistolary verse and selectively altering transcribed texts.

A Social Edition of the Devonshire Manuscript follows Helen Baron’s attribution of hands in the Devonshire Manuscript.13 Of the roughly twenty hands, some are even and regular while others are idiosyncratic and variable. Historically, the exceptional difficulty of transcribing the Devonshire Manuscript has impeded widespread research on the text. Approximately 140 entries are copies of extant or contemporary works and bear the signs of copying. The majority of the pieces may reflect the work of local amanuenses and secretaries with little professional regard for the expected standards of a presentation-copy manuscript. A full half of the manuscript’s scribes (Hands 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11 and Mary Howard Fitzroy) dedicate themselves to copying extant pieces; another five (Hands 1.1, 2, 7, Thomas Howard 2 and Margaret Douglas) enter a mix of extant material and material that appear unique to the manuscript. The remaining five (Hands 12, 13, Henry Stuart, Mary Shelton and Thomas Howard 1) enter solely original materials. The work of the ten hands entering potentially original material to the manuscript amounts to forty-five pieces (fifteen identified and/or attributed). The many layers and authors render the Devonshire Manuscript an ideal text for experimentation in social editing.

The manuscript itself bears traces of the original contributors’ editorial processes. Besides writing epistolary verse, contributors to the manuscript interacted with one another through annotation. Occasionally, these marginal responses appear quite personal in nature. They include responses that evaluate the quality of certain lines or cross out one word and insert another. In doing so, the annotations reveal the compilers’ social engagement and editorial collaboration. For example, the text of the poem ‘Suffryng in sorow in hope to attayn’ (fols 6v–7r; see Figure 8.1) is annotated in the left margin. A hand identified as Lady Margaret Douglas’ writes ‘fforget thys’, to which a hand identified as Mary Shelton’s responds, ‘yt ys wor[t]hy’ (fol. 6v). The poem is written in a male voice appealing for the love of a lady. ‘Suffryng in sorow’ and ‘desyryng in fere’, the poet pleads for his unnamed addressee to’ease me off my payn’ (fol. 6v, ll. 1–2, 4).

Fig. 8.1 ‘Suffryng in sorow in hope to attayn’ (fol. 6v) in the Wikibook edition.

While its authorship remains debated, the acrostic of the verse suggests that Shelton is the intended recipient—the first letter of its seven stanzas spells out ‘SHELTVN’.14 The scribal annotations, which may only refer to the quality of the verse, might therefore take on a more profound and personal meaning, as Douglas recommends rejecting the poem and its suit (‘fforget thys’), but Shelton contradicts this advice with ‘yt ys wor[t]hy’. At the end of the poem, Shelton adds a comment that has been variously transcribed as ‘ondesyard sarwes/reqwer no hyar’, ‘ondesyrid favours/deserv no hyer’, or perhaps ‘ondesyard fansies/requier no hyar’.15 The transcription poses an interesting editorial crux: ‘sarwes’ might be read as ‘service’ or ‘sorrows’.16 Likewise, ‘hyar’ may be read as ‘hire’ or ‘ear’.17 Although the precise intentions behind Shelton’s annotations and commentary remain obscure, their potential importance to the meaning and interpretation of the verse cannot be disputed.

The Devonshire Manuscript embodies its compositional origins and circulation within the early Tudor court of Henry VIII, a body that was profoundly concerned with public and private performances of political loyalty and submission.18 As Marotti notes, courtly manuscript miscellanies and poetic anthologies ‘represent the meeting ground of literary production and social practices’.19 The Devonshire Manuscript contains numerous examples of Marotti’s assertion, especially in the form of epistolary verse and scribal annotation. Proximity and placement of poems often bear further significance. The poem ‘My ferefull hope from me ys fledd’ (fol. 7v), signed ‘fynys quod n[o]b[od]y’, is answered by the poem immediately following on the facing leaf, ‘Yowre ferefull hope cannot prevayle’ (fol. 8r), in turn signed ‘fynys quod s[omebody]’. While this kind of playful imitation and formal echoing does not strictly rely on the relative proximity of the poems in the manuscript, the effect is more immediately apparent and more visually striking when the poems are placed, as they are, on facing leaves.20 Poetry became yet another venue for the performance of public and private roles within the royal court, and the Devonshire Manuscript reflects this oscillation between public and private, personal and communal: within it, the private became public, the public was treated as private and all was deeply political. In addition to examining the volume as ‘a medium of social intercourse’,21 other aspects of the Devonshire Manuscript—its multi-layered and multi-authored composition, its early history and transmission, the ways in which its contents engage with and comment directly on contemporary political and social issues—invite further investigation and demand consideration when making critical assessments.

Like any of the other ‘nonauthorial’ textual determinants described above, compilation is an act of mediation. The selection of verses to be recorded, the manner in which they were entered and their position relative to one another all contribute to the meaning of the texts both individually and as a collection. Verses entered into the manuscript may have been selected on the basis of their popularity at court—perhaps accounting for the disproportionate number of Wyatt poems represented—or for more personal reasons; other verses were not simply selected and copied, but adapted and altered to suit specific purposes. The work of feminist literary critics and historians to rediscover texts by women and revise the canon of Western literature has further exposed the role of gender in the material and institutional conditions of textual production.22

To investigate the role of women in the production and circulation of literary works effectively, and building on the work of McGann and McKenzie, Margaret J. M. Ezell has persuasively proposed that the definition of ‘authorship’ needs to be re-examined and broadened.23 Ezell’s study of women’s miscellanies demonstrates that these acts of preservation and compilation often serve to reinforce religious and political loyalties and to ‘cement social bonds during times of duress’ within female literary circles.24 In a similar vein, Elizabeth Clarke notes that ‘compilation, rather than authorship of the writing in a document’, was the ‘dominant literary activity among women who could read and write’ in the early modern period.25 This is certainly true in the case of the Devonshire Manuscript, where women were, for the most part, directly responsible for the compilation and copying of the predominantly male-authored contents of the anthology. Some of the lyrics demonstrate close female friendship—Mary Shelton and Margaret Douglas kept close company, evidenced by the fact that Shelton’s hand often immediately follows Douglas’s—and these lyrics are now understood to have a definite subversive meaning for a select group of individuals.26

The Devonshire Manuscript is a rich, complex document. With its collection of courtly lyrics, pastiche of medieval and contemporary poetry, density of textual voices and often-uncertain authorship and attribution, the manuscript demonstrates how textual production and interpretation were foundational to those living within the Tudor court. By paying heed to the various texts in and around the document—the annotations, order of leaves and social context—one may obtain a fuller understanding of the source text and its various actors. We believe that the physical and social elements of the Devonshire Manuscript lend themselves to digital editing and publication processes that more readily represent these aspects than a print environment can. A Social Edition of the Devonshire Manuscript focuses on the editorial and scribal practices that inform the context and production of the Devonshire Manuscript. By shifting our own editorial process into an environment representative of the inherent sociality of texts, A Social Edition of the Devonshire Manuscript hearkens back to the multi-author roots of the text itself. In the following section, we focus on the specifics of A Social Edition of the Devonshire Manuscript, exploring the benefits (and drawbacks) of building a scholarly edition on the Wikibooks platform.

Building a social edition

A Social Edition of the Devonshire Manuscript manifests Ray Siemens’s earlier argument that social media environments might enable new editing practices.27 In order to build an edition of an early modern text on the principles of Open Access and editorial transparency (in both production and dissemination), we have integrated scholarly content with environments maintained by the social and social-editorial communities already existent on the web—most notably on Wikibooks, a cross-section of intellectual research activity and the social media practices that define Web 2.0. Early on, Web 2.0 was described as Internet technologies that allow users to be active authors rather than simply readers or consumers of web content.28 Now, the term is most frequently associated with social media platforms (e.g. Facebook and Twitter) and blog applications (e.g. WordPress and wikis). In an experimental spirit, we have extended the editorial conversation into multiple pre-existing Web 2.0 and social media platforms, including Twitter, blogs, Wikibook discussion pages, dedicated Renaissance and early modern online community spaces and Skype-enabled interviews with our advisory group. As Tim Berners-Lee (the inventor of the World Wide Web as we know it) remarks, the internet was originally developed for workers to collaborate and access source documents; with wiki and Web 2.0 technology, it is now returning to its roots.29 Wikibooks emphasises the importance of multi-authored and multi-edited endeavours. In doing so, the platform exemplifies McGann, McKenzie and Marotti’s earlier assertions that texts are created by a community of individuals. In what follows we offer a brief overview of the process and thinking that led to the Wikibook instantiation of the manuscript as A Social Edition of the Devonshire Manuscript.

Fig. 8.2 The home page of A Social Edition of the Devonshire Manuscript.

Perhaps more than any other editorial choice, the iterative publication of A Social Edition of the Devonshire Manuscript departed most clearly from traditional scholarly editing practices. In effect we have published (or are in the perpetual process of publishing) versions of the edition in multiple media: a fixed PDF version, distributed to the project’s advisory board, and a version housed on the publicly-editable Wikibooks. We are also currently working with multiple publishing partners to produce a second online edition, an e-reader edition and a print edition to meet the needs of a broad and varied readership. These versions were planned to inform and influence each other’s development, with cross-pollination of editorial input across platforms. Although they did so, each medium also engendered difficulties in communication, coordination and expectations to be overcome or accommodated—with varying results.

The Wikibook edition’s features stretch the limits of a print edition to the breaking point—especially in sheer size. Even if the manuscript facsimile pages and the XML files were excluded, A Social Edition of the Devonshire Manuscript would run to over 500 standard print pages. In addition to a general and textual introduction, the online edition includes: extensive hand sample tables that open our palaeographic attribution process to public scrutiny, witnesses that reflect the poem’s textual legacy, biographies and genealogical diagrams that clarify the relationship between the manuscript’s sixteenth century compiler-authors and an extensive bibliography of quoted and related sources. Courtesy of Adam Matthew Digital, we have also included the facsimile image of each page of the manuscript. The discussion sections on each page, a feature unique to Wikimedia projects, promote conversation on various aspects of the poem at hand. In this way, the Wikibook edition extends the social context of the Devonshire Manuscript by providing a space for ongoing discussion, collaboration and negotiation.

Editorial work on A Social Edition of the Devonshire Manuscript began long before we selected Wikibooks as a publication platform. In 2001, work on a digital edition of the manuscript began with a more recognisably traditional scholarly activity: primary source transcription. The transcription of the manuscript is based on examination of both the original document and a microfilm of the Devonshire Manuscript provided by the British Library. Members of the Devonshire Manuscript Editorial Group (or DMSEG, a team made up of up of scholars, postdoctoral fellows, graduate researchers and programmers,30 working with two publishers,31 an editorial board32 and self-selected members of the public) prepared and transcribed (in a blind process) two independent paper copies from the microfilm. The transcribers collated the two paper copies manually as they were unable to perform a collation by electronic means using standard techniques; transcription of the Devonshire Manuscript is notoriously challenging, as the manuscript was inscribed by nineteen different hands, the majority of which used non-professional secretary script. The resultant rough transcription was resolved as far as possible using expanded paper prints and enlarged images. In general, their transcriptions were in accord with one another. Remaining areas of uncertainty were resolved with manual reference to the original document itself, housed at the British Library. This final, collated transcription forms the textual basis for A Social Edition of the Devonshire Manuscript.33

Guided by two principles, the team then encoded the text in XML according to the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) Guidelines.34 The first principle was consistency: even if the team discovered one of their previous choices to be less than optimal, they continued in that pattern until the text was complete. Rather than employ varying practices, consistently encoding the entire manuscript in XML allowed for global changes that could be, and indeed were, made after the conclusion of the initial encoding.35 The second principle was accountability: as the team encoded, they maintained regular documentation to ensure that neither the original encoder nor any subsequent encoder would lack a basis from which to proceed. Another successful practice employed was to encode the manuscript by building layers of TEI in phases. The manuscript was completely encoded at a conservative level before commencing the second phase. The second layer of encoding, complete with annotations and regularisations, deepened, clarified and augmented the first. Although the project began in 2001, the particular implementation of the social edition method discussed here started with the formation of an advisory group in 2010. This provided a unique opportunity to invite potential critics to shape the process and the products associated with the social edition. As the final step before moving the edition into Wikibooks, the members of the DMSEG working in the Electronic Textual Cultures Lab (ETCL) at the University of Victoria prepared a static digital edition of the manuscript. This edition served as a base text against which our international advisory group of early modern and Renaissance scholars could compare the Wikibook edition as it evolved.36

Before deciding on Wikibooks as a platform, the team had considered hosting the edition on a stand-alone site. In response to public interest in the project, coupled with the team’s investment in emerging public knowledge communities, we devised an editorial experiment: as a control we produced a static PDF version of the edition, and as a variable we moved the same content onto a Wikimedia platform. Most famous for Wikipedia, Wikimedia is a small non-profit foundation, with less than one hundred and fifty employees responsible for management, fundraising and technological development. Volunteer editors contribute and moderate the content of the projects. We considered Wikisource, Wikibooks and Wikipedia as platforms, eventually deciding to mount our edition in Wikibooks. Acknowledging the dedicated community already engaged in Wikimedia, we sought to discover Wikibooks’ affordances for the scholar. Even though Wikipedia has more editors, Wikibooks is purposefully structured to support the book-like form. And although Wikisource appears as a more appropriate environment for a scholarly edition, publishing A Social Edition of the Devonshire Manuscript on Wikisource would have prevented the inclusion of any and all scholarly material outside the transcription itself—including palaeographic expansions and bibliographies. With a book-like research environment as our end goal, we produced an edition in Wikibooks that is scholarly and peer reviewed in a traditional sense, but also enables citizen scholars to access, contribute and annotate material. Crucially, Wikibooks also archives each change in content, allowing us to track reversions and revisions to the text.

In order to keep the editorial and encoding process transparent, the Wikibook edition includes links to the baseline XML-encoded transcription.37 Thus, in addition to being able to use the XML for their own projects, readers can see the encoder’s TEI-based editorial choices. Others are able to download this XML and continue working with the document, potentially allowing the project to evolve in unanticipated ways. With the firm foundation of documented encoding, all those working with the document can refer to, build on or adapt the project’s foundation. The markup did not simply help the team keep track of the process; it also facilitated an ongoing scholarly conversation about the text. Readers can compare our transcriptions to the facsimiles included on each page of the Wikibooks edition and are free to contest (and even alter) our regularisations or corrections.

In November 2011, ETCL-based members of the DMSEG began converting the TEI-encoded text into Wikimarkup, the Wikitext language. The team then moved the text, appendices, glosses, commentary and textual notes into Wikibooks, thereby providing a flexible collaboration environment for stakeholders inside and outside the lab. Wikibooks, like Wikimedia and institutional scholarship at large, has its own self-governing editorial culture, and A Social Edition of the Devonshire Manuscript received promising attention from Wikibooks’ existing editorial community. Since then, the ETCL team has amplified the Wikibook with additional images of the manuscript, witness transcriptions, an extensive bibliography and the XML files containing the encoded transcription of the manuscript. Consequently, the Wikibook became an edition as well as a research environment for both early modern scholars and Tudor enthusiasts. Various authors have written on the value of employing wikis as collaborative research or authoring platforms. Best practice standards and protocols have developed as an increasing number of practitioners become versed in Wikipedia, and we have consciously developed A Social Edition of the Devonshire Manuscript, a scholarly Wikibook edition, with these priorities and standards in mind.38

The Wikibook form gives us the opportunity to recognise and assign credit for important editorial work that extends beyond the creation of original content. Activities like discussion and feedback are central to scholarly revision and authorship, but can be difficult to monitor and quantify within a large project. A print edition often only acknowledges these forms of labour with a line or two on the acknowledgments page. Originally, we considered the discussion pages ideal for this type of scholarly discussion and editorial record keeping. Like a private wiki community, however, Wikibooks bears its own social conventions. Through conversation with an established Wikibooks editor we realised that the Wikibooks discussion pages are more often used for personal commentary and disputes than editorial suggestions. Reminiscent of Douglas’ note in the margin of ‘Suffryng in sorrow in hope to attyn’ (fols 6v–7r) to ‘fforget thys’, and Shelton’s contradiction ‘yt ys wor[t]hy’, the Wikibooks discussion pages are predominantly venues for editors to offer one another personal support (or criticism) rather than to discuss content analytically.

Thus, rather than relying on the discussion pages for editorial decisions, we made the most substantive changes in Wikibooks based on Skype and Iter interactions with our advisory group. Although our hope had been to have the advisors edit directly in Wikibooks, some found the technological threshold for contributing too high, and it became more practical to have the ETCL team make the proposed changes in the Wikibook. We responded to the advisors’ recommendations in near-real time, adding (among other suggestions) navigation menus and images requested through our ongoing consultation. Many avenues for editorial conversation are necessary in order to foster the sense of a community that, as one of our advisors noted, is ‘virtually there, as if everyone is crowded around a page, putting their two cents in on matters great and small’. Even when those giving editorial direction do not undertake the technical implementation, multiple social media platforms can facilitate social editing. Relying solely on one single communications platform could potentially impede the success of an evolving social edition.

Each social media platform attracts and enables specific types of interaction. Using social media allows us to integrate a new step into the editorial process—a step that fills the gap between an edition’s initial planning stages and its concluding peer review. Producing an edition ‘live’ in consultation with various groups across multiple media allows for a publication that can quickly and productively meet the needs of its readers. Employing and participating in various platforms alerted us to different priorities across platforms, as well as forcing us to think through how we might create a multispatial experience for safe, productive and equitable interactions. In addition to producing an edition that allows for multiple editorial perspectives, the DMSEG gathered responses to the social edition-building methodology. In the interest of refining the process and expounding on its utility for collaborative editors in the Web 2.0 environment, the ETCL team used a combination of methods to gather data on the social edition building process. We conducted qualitative interviews with members of our advisory group to solicit their perspectives on the content of the evolving and fixed editions, as well as on issues of credit, peer review and collaborative editing. We also enumerated interaction in Wikibooks. Furthermore, we invited feedback via Twitter, guest blog posts and Iter’s social media space. Rather than soliciting anonymous reader reports from our advisors, we brought them into conversation with one another over the fixed edition and the evolving Wikibooks edition. We facilitated this conversation in a social media space housed by Iter, which serves a broad community of early modern and Renaissance associations and scholars. In many cases, their suggestions have already been incorporated into the Wikibooks publication; those that have not will be integrated into a final, socially mediated edition of the Devonshire Manuscript for print and e-publication with Iter and Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies (MRTS).

Considered as a whole, A Social Edition of the Devonshire Manuscript suggests that social media technologies can be harnessed for productive interaction and discussion by those scholars invested in a content area or project, but that they do require comprehensive oversight by dedicated staff to develop and maintain participation in knowledge construction and dissemination. Regardless, social scholarly editions represent a step toward diversifying and democratising knowledge, and the Wikimedia suite of platforms is an established environment for this sort of work. Todd Presner reiterates this concept by considering Wikipedia as a model for the future of humanities research. Presner deems Wikipedia ‘a truly innovative, global, multilingual, collaborative knowledge-generating community and platform for authoring, editing, distributing and versioning knowledge’.39 Larger than a mere technological innovation, wikis represent a change in the philosophy and practice of knowledge creation. With this end in mind, we have published scholarly content in Wikibooks, an editable environment that allows for multithreaded conversation maintained by lay knowledge communities on the web. We hope that A Social Edition of the Devonshire Manuscript continues to serve all of the varying communities currently involved in the project: academic and non-academic alike.

Conclusion: Digital affordances for academic and non-academic editing

The Devonshire Manuscript’s historically social structure and content informed our choice of Wikibooks as a publication venue. Recently emerged social media environments, including the Wikimedia suite, shape the way academic and citizen scholars work by providing new tools and platforms to perform scholarly activities. These technological innovations encourage academic researchers to open up scholarship and ask questions not previously possible. The intersection of social media and the scholarly edition has a destabilising effect, as it facilitates a model of textual interaction and intervention that represents the scholarly text as a process rather than a product. Moreover, these significant conceptual shifts in research, writing and editorial practices have provoked various reconsiderations of the ethos and methods inherent to academic scholarship in particular, and knowledge creation in general. For instance, the open source movement has morphed through its open scholarship instantiation to develop a new breed of academic: the open scholar.40 According to Terry Anderson, open scholars

create; use and contribute open educational resources; self archive; apply their research; do open research; filter and share with others; support emerging open learning alternatives; publish in open access journals; comment openly on the works of others; build networks.41

True openness requires adopting values that the nature and scale of the electronic medium necessitates (i.e. collaboration and innovation across backgrounds, skill levels and disciplines).42 These concepts vary considerably from the closed publication and professional cultures that have previously pervaded the university as an institution.

Technological advances potently shape how individuals and communities create new knowledge. As such, it behoves scholars to think through the affordances and implications of any collaborative publishing platform, space for social knowledge creation or multi-authored environment. Incorporating social media allowances and Web 2.0 practices into a scholarly edition recasts the primary editor as a facilitator, rather than progenitor, of textual knowledge creation. Conventionally, a single-authority editor determines and shapes what is important to the reader, focuses the editorial and analytical lens and ultimately exerts immense control over reader experience. A social media framework for the electronic scholarly edition pushes the boundaries of authority, shifting power from a single editor to a community of readers. As Kathleen Fitzpatrick writes, introducing different modes of reading and interpreting that take advantage of the capabilities of digital networks allows for new knowledge to develop:

Scholars operate in a range of conversations, from classroom conversations with students to conference conversations with colleagues; scholars need to have available to them not simply the library model of texts circulating amongst individual readers but also the coffee house model of public reading and debate. This interconnection of individual nodes into a collective fabric is, of course, the strength of the network, which not only physically binds individual machines but also has the ability to bring together the users of those machines, at their separate workstations, into one communal whole.43

The social edition models a new kind of scholarly discourse network that hopes to eschew traditional, institutionally reinforced, hierarchical structures and relies, instead, upon those that are community-generated.

A Social Edition of the Devonshire Manuscript brings communities together to engage in conversation around a text formed and reformed through an ongoing, iterative, public editorial process. A central aim of the project was to facilitate knowledge transfer and creation between multiple editorial communities with varying values and priorities. Ray Siemens has called for scholars ‘to extend our understanding of the scholarly edition in light of new models of edition production that embrace social networking and its commensurate tools’, and to develop ‘the social edition as an extension of the traditions in which it is situated and which it has the potential to inform productively’.44 Bringing practice to theory, we have modelled the social scholarly edition. We have worked as a team to extend scholarly best practice and Open Access methodology to collaborative editing in Web 2.0 environments. We have chosen to build an edition on Wikibooks, alongside (and with help from) the dedicated Wikibooks community. Our goal, manifested by community engagement via Wikibooks, Twitter, blogs and an Iter Drupal-based social media space, is to use existing social media tools to change the role of the scholarly editor from the sole authority on the text to a facilitator who brings traditional and citizen scholars into collaboration through ongoing editorial conversation. By privileging process of product, the DMSEG aims to render transparent the production of an online edition of the Devonshire Manuscript.

The edition-building process situated our text at the intersection of academic and wiki culture. As we traversed this admittedly new and multidisciplinary ground, we sought advice and feedback from a variety of sources. We developed the public editing process to encourage communication between editorial communities while at the same time preserving the peer review process. Such open communication notwithstanding, conflicts in editorial norms exist, as standards and expectations concerning tone, feedback and content vary widely across our multiple communities. A Social Edition of the Devonshire Manuscript brings overlapping groups of partners and stakeholders together in a way that a traditional print edition cannot. The first group (the partners) consists of scholars and publishers invested in the shifting landscape of scholarly collaboration and dissemination: project advisors, publishing partners at Iter and Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies (MRTS), digital content partners at Adam Matthew Digital and members of the Digital Humanities community at the University of Alberta, who provided us with a tool to visualise Wikibooks contributions. The second group (the stakeholders) consists of individuals invested in early modern studies: project advisors, Wikimedia stakeholders, bloggers and traditional and citizen scholars on Twitter. Trusting the content contributed by partners and stakeholders means not only trusting both groups, but, perhaps more importantly, trusting our exploration of editable publication venues. In light of our experience with the iterative production of the social edition, we would argue for the importance of incorporating various social platforms and venues that enable conversation across previously divergent lines of knowledge production.

A Social Edition of the Devonshire Manuscript is designed to fill the void that Ezell notes has been left by the lack of effort made to ‘Catalogue and reconstruct patterns in women’s manuscript texts to provide an inclusive overview of literary activities rather than isolated, individual authors’.45 Concurrently, the DMSEG planned the form of the social edition in response to Greg Crane and others’ exhortation of the ‘need to shift from lone editorials and monumental editions to editors [...] who coordinate contributions from many sources and oversee living editions’.46 The editorial communities that have grown up around social media sites like Wikibooks indicate a public desire to expand knowledge communities using accessible social technologies. Using the Devonshire Manuscript as a prototype, we have devised a method that addresses the questions that a social edition raises. Namely, how do we effectively integrate multiple communities with varying cultures and editorial standards while pushing the boundaries of editorial authority? How do we employ multiple social media platforms with varying degrees of openness to ensure a safe space for multiple individuals and opinions? And, how do we shift the power from a single editor, who shapes the reading of any given text, to a group of readers whose interactions and interpretations form a new method of making meaning out of the source material? It is our hope that this model of the social scholarly edition successfully straddles various communities of scholars and modes of creating and disseminating knowledge. A Social Edition of the Devonshire Manuscript represents the range of possibilities for social scholarly editing across contemporary editorial communities—communities who need not be limited by social, geographic or institutional boundaries.47

1 Following Peter Beal’s definition of a verse miscellany as ‘a manuscript, a compilation of predominantly verse texts, or extracts from verse texts, by different authors and usually gleaned from different sources’ in A Dictionary of English Manuscript Terminology, 1450–2000 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 429. Beal lists the Devonshire Manuscript as a pertinent example of a verse miscellany (Beal, Dictionary, p. 430).

3 Wikibooks is a Wikimedia project that continues the aim of Wikipedia; namely, to encourage, develop and disseminate knowledge in the public sphere. Wikibooks differs from other Wikimedia projects in that it is primarily designed for facilitating collaborative open-content textbook building.

4 On the origins, early history and enumeration of the Devonshire Manuscript, see especially Richard C. Harrier, The Canon of Sir Thomas Wyatt’s Poetry (Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press, 1975), pp. 23–54; Raymond Southall, ‘The Devonshire Manuscript Collection of Early Tudor Poetry, 1532–41’, Review of English Studies, 15 (1964), 142–43; Paul Remley, ‘Mary Shelton and Her Tudor Literary Milieu’, in Rethinking the Henrician Era: Essays on Early Tudor Texts and Contexts, ed. by Peter C. Herman (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994), pp. 40–77 (p. 41, pp. 47–48). See also Helen Baron, ‘Mary (Howard) Fitzroy’s Hand in the Devonshire Manuscript’, Review of English Studies, 45 (1994), 318–35, and Elizabeth Heale, ‘Women and the Courtly Love Lyric: The Devonshire MS (BL Additional 17492)’, Modern Language Review 90.2 (1995), 297–301.

5 Elizabeth Heale’s edition, The Devonshire Manuscript: A Women’s Book of Courtly Poetry (Toronto: Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2012), is based on a regularised version of the Devonshire Manuscript Editorial Group transcriptions of the manuscript and was published in October 2012.

6 The Poems of Sir Thomas Wiat, ed. by Agnes K. Foxwell (London: University of London Press, 1913); Collected Poems of Sir Thomas Wyatt, ed. by Kenneth Muir (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1949); Collected Poems of Sir Thomas Wyatt, ed. by Kenneth Muir and Patricia Thomson (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1969). Many of the remaining poems, unattributed to Wyatt, have been transcribed and published in Kenneth Muir, ‘Unpublished Poems in the Devonshire Manuscript’, Proceedings of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society, 6 (1947), 253–82. George Frederick Nott’s important early two-volume edition, The Works of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, and of Sir Thomas Wyatt, the Elder (London: T. Bensley, 1815), does not include diplomatic transcriptions of verses.

7 Arthur F. Marotti, Manuscript, Print, and the English Renaissance Lyric (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995), p. 40. Nott’s misguided statement, that the manuscript ‘contains Wyatt’s pieces almost exclusively’ (Works, p. vii), or Muir’s comment, ‘it is not always easy to decide whether a poem is written by a successful imitator or by Wyatt himself in an uninspired mood’ (Poems, p. 253), are characteristic of the sort of dismissive author-centric views taken to task by Marotti.

8 Jerome McGann, ‘The Monks and the Giants: Textual and Bibliographical Studies and the Interpretation of Literary Works’, in The Beauty of Inflections: Literary Investigations in Historical Method and Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), pp. 79, 82. See also McGann’s earlier study, A Critique of Modern Textual Criticism (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1983).

9 D. F. McKenzie, Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts (London: British Library, 1986).

10 Marotti, Manuscript, Print, and the English Renaissance Lyric, p. 212.

11 We have interpreted ‘paratext’ broadly, as articulated in Gérard Genette, Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation, trans. by Jane E. Lewin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

12 Scholars have only cautiously asserted an approximate number of items preserved in the Devonshire Manuscript: ‘the number of poems in the manuscript can only be given as approximately 184’ (Southall, ‘The Devonshire Manuscript’, p. 143); ‘the manuscript preserves about 185 items of verse, but it is impossible to obtain an exact figure as many of these are fragments, medieval extracts or the like, and others are divided up differently by various editors’ (Remley, ‘Mary Shelton’, p. 47). Ethel Seaton identified the medieval origin of the Richard Roos texts in ‘The Devonshire Manuscript and its Medieval Fragments’, Review of English Studies, 7 (1956), 55–56. Richard Harrier first noted the use of William Thynne’s 1532 edition of Chaucer as the source for that poet’s verse in the Devonshire Manuscript in ‘A Printed Source for the “Devonshire Manuscript”’, Review of English Studies, 11 (1960), 54.

13 See
. The most recent examination of the hands in D is that of Helen Baron, especially Table 1 in ‘Mary (Howard) Fitzroy’s Hand’. See also the earlier findings in Edward A. Bond, ‘Wyatt’s Poems’, Athenaeum, 27 (1871), 654–55. Where the transcribers differ from Baron’s attribution, the project’s identification is noted in the underlying TEI markup,

14 The poem is entered in the Devonshire Manuscript by an unidentified hand (H2), and is also preserved in the Blage Manuscript (Trinity College, Dublin, MS 160, fol. 159r). Modern editors of Wyatt’s poems commonly attribute the poem to him (Foxwell, The Poems of Sir Thomas Wiat, pp. 257–58; Muir, Poems, pp. 96–97; Muir and Thomson, Poems, pp. 176–77; Nott, Works, p. 590). However, this attribution has not been universally accepted: Harrier argues that the poem ‘must be excluded from the Wyatt canon’ since it ‘may be by Thomas Clere’, Harrier, The Canon, pp. 41, 45, and Joost Daalder silently excludes the poem from his edition, Collected Poems (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975). Julia Boffey has argued the author is Shelton, mistaking Shelton’s signed comment at the end of the poem as an attribution in ‘Women Authors and Women’s Literacy in Fourteenth- and Fifteenth-century England’, in Women and Literature in Britain 1150–1500, ed. by Carol M. Meale (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 159–82 (p. 173).

15 The first transcription as per Baron, ‘Mary (Howard) Fitzroy’s Hand’, p. 331; Remley gives ‘ondesyerd’ in Remley, ‘Mary Shelton’, p. 50. The second as per Foxwell, The Poems of Sir Thomas Wiat, p. 258. The third as per Heale, The Devonshire Manuscript, p. 301. Heale also gives ‘ondesiard fansies/requier no hiar’ in Wyatt, Surrey and Early Tudor Poetry (London: Longman, 1998), p. 43, and ‘ondesyred fansies/require no hyar’ in ‘“Desiring Women Writing”: Female Voices and Courtly “Balets” in Some Early Tudor Manuscript Albums’, in Early Modern Women’s Manuscript Writing: Selected Papers from the Trinity/Trent Colloquium, ed. by Victoria Elizabeth Burke and Jonathan Gibson (Farnham: Ashgate, 2004), pp. 9–31 (p. 21).

16 ‘Searwes’ (device) is also possible, but unlikely. Alternatively rendering the word as ‘fansies’ or ‘favours’ is less problematic, but equally less probable.

17 S. P. Zitner argues, ‘Whether Mary Shelton was saying that undesired service (attention) required no hire or that undesired sorrows required no ear, the response is pretty much the same in tone and substance’, in ‘Truth and Mourning in a Sonnet by Surrey’, English Literary History, 50.3 (1983), 509–29 (p. 513). While this comment may be a ‘remarkable example of an overtly critical rejoinder to a courtly lyric’ written in the spirit described by Zitner, Remley argues that ‘it seems equally probable that her words are meant ironically’, that they offer a ‘private recognition of the absurd spectacle of a man determined to get his way through protestations of extreme humility’ Remley, ‘Mary Shelton’, p. 50. Similarly, Heale contends such ‘unsympathetic replies may be part of the conventional exchange of courtly verse’ and might be offered in jest, as ‘such jesting offered some opportunities for female subject positions that seem to have appealed to the women using the manuscript’, Heale, ‘Desiring Women Writing’, p. 21.

18 Alistair Fox writes, ‘One striking phenomenon about early Tudor literature is that it was almost invariably concerned with politics, either directly or indirectly, and that this political bearing had a major impact on the nature of its literary forms’ in Politics and Literature in the Reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989), p. 3.

19 Marotti, Manuscript, Print, and the English Renaissance Lyric, p. 212.

20 The teasing blend of jest and earnestness in this pair of unattributed poems points to the role of much of the content in the manuscript as participating in the courtly ‘game of love’. See John Stevens, Music & Poetry in the Early Tudor Court (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), pp. 154–202; see also Roger Boase, The Origin and Meaning of Courtly Love: A Critical Study of European Scholarship (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1977); David Burnley, Courtliness and Literature in Medieval England (New York: Longman, 1998) and Bernard O’Donoghue, The Courtly Love Tradition (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1982).

21 Harold Love and Arthur F. Marotti, ‘Manuscript Transmission and Circulation’, in The Cambridge History of Early Modern English Literature, ed. by David Loewenstein and Janel Mueller (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), pp. 55–80 (p. 63).

22 Representative studies include Elaine V. Beilin, Redeeming Eve: Women Writers of the English Renaissance (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987); Margaret J. M. Ezell, Writing Women’s Literary History (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993); Margaret J. M. Ezell, Social Authorship and the Advent of Print (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999); Barbara K. Lewalski, Writing Women in Jacobean England (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993); Kim Walker, Women Writers of the English Renaissance (New York: Twayne, 1996) and Wendy Wall, The Imprint of Gender: Authorship and Publication in the English Renaissance (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993). See also the following representative essay collections: The Renaissance Englishwoman in Print: Counterbalancing the Canon, ed. by Anne M. Haselkorn and Betty S. Travitsky (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1990); Silent but for the Word: Tudor Women as Patrons, Translators, and Writers of Religious Works, ed. by Margaret P. Hannay (Kent: Kent State University Press, 1985); Susanne Woods and Margaret P. Hannay, Teaching Tudor and Stuart Women Writers (New York: Modern Languages Association, 2000); Women and Literature in Britain, 1500–1700, ed. by Helen Wilcox (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996); Women, Writing, and the Reproduction of Culture in Tudor and Stuart Britain, ed. by Mary E. Burke, Jane Donawerth, Linda L. Dove and Karen Nelson (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2000).

23 Margaret J. M. Ezell, ‘Women and Writing’, in A Companion to Early Modern Women’s Writing, ed. by Anita Pacheco (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002), pp. 77–94 (p. 79).

24 Ezell, ‘Women and Writing’, p. 86.

25 Elizabeth Clarke, ‘Women’s Manuscript Miscellanies in Early Modern England’, in Teaching Tudor and Stuart Women Writers, pp. 52–60 (p. 53).

26 Baron, ‘Mary (Howard) Fitzroy’s Hand’, p. 328. Kathryn DeZur notes that early modern women’s participation in circulating love lyrics might also indicate ‘a possible site of resistance to the idealized cultural paradigm of women as chaste, silent, and obedient’ in ‘“Vaine Books” and Early Modern Women Readers’, in Reading and Literacy in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, ed. by Ian Frederick Moulton (Turnhout: Brepols, 2004), pp. 105–25 (p. 111). The continental trend of courtly love made it fashionable for noble ladies at Henry VIII’s court to compile miscellanies. Regardless, DeZur emphasises that the tension between Christian values and courtly expectations meant that a woman’s demeanour was always under scrutiny.

27 Ray Siemens, with Meagan Timney, Cara Leitch, Corina Koolen and Alex Garnett, and with the ETCL, INKE and PKP Research Groups, ‘Toward Modeling the Social Edition: An Approach to Understanding the Electronic Scholarly Edition in the Context of New and Emerging Social Media’, Literary and Linguistic Computing, 27.4 (2012), 445–61.

28 See Darcy DiNucci, ‘Fragmented Future’, Print (April 1999), 220–22.

29 Simon Mahony, ‘Research Communities and Open Collaboration: The Example of the Digital Classicist Wiki’, Digital Medievalist, 6 (2011),

30 Ray Siemens, Karin Armstrong, Barbara Bond, Constance Crompton, Terra Dickson, Johanne Paquette, Jonathan Podracky, Ingrid Weber, Cara Leitch, Melanie Chernyk, Brett D. Hirsch, Daniel Powell, Alyssa Anne McLeod, Alyssa Arbuckle, Jonathan Gibson, Chris Gaudet, Eric Haswell, Arianna Ciula, Daniel Starza-Smith and James Cummings, with Martin Holmes, Greg Newton, Paul Remley, Erik Kwakkel, Aimie Shirkie and the INKE research group.

31 Iter, a not-for-profit consortium dedicated to the development and distribution of scholarly Middle Age and Renaissance online resources in partnership with Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies and Adam Matthew Digital, a digital academic publisher.

32 Robert E. Bjork (Director, Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Arizona State University), William R. Bowen (Chair) (Director, Iter, University of Toronto Scarborough), Michael Ullyot (University of Calgary), Diane Jakacki (Georgia Institute of Technology), Jessica Murphy (University of Texas at Dallas), Jason Boyd (Ryerson University), Elizabeth Heale (University of Reading), Steven W. May (Georgetown College), Arthur F. Marotti (Wayne State University), Jennifer Summit (Stanford University), Jonathan Gibson (Queen Mary, University of London), John Lavagnino (King’s College London) and Katherine Rowe (Bryn Mawr College).

33 For further information on the collation process, including collation tools used, see Ray Siemens with Caroline Leitch, ‘Editing the Early Modern Miscellany: Modelling and Knowledge (Re)Presentation as a Context for the Contemporary Editor’, in New Ways of Looking at Old Texts IV, ed. by Michael Denbog (Tempe: Renaissance English Text Society, 2009), pp. 115–30.

34 TEI provides a standard for encoding electronic texts. By encoding a text in XML under TEI guidelines, one renders the text substantially more searchable, categorisable and preservable.

35 Please note that these global changes were not questions of transcription, but of encoding patterns and standards.

36 For a more in-detail description of transcription, collation and encoding practices, please see Ray Siemens, Barbara Bond and Karin Armstrong, ‘The Devil is in the Details: An Electronic Edition of the Devonshire MS (British Library Additional MS 17,492), its Encoding and Prototyping’, in New Technologies and Renaissance Studies, ed. by William R. Bowen and Ray Siemens (Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2008), pp. 261–99.

38 Bo Leuf and Ward Cunningham, authors of the first book on wikis, recognise that a wiki must fit the culture of the user community for it to be successful in The Wiki Way (Boston: Addison-Wesley Professional, 2001). Emma Tonkin advises that a collaborative authoring wiki should include the following: a page locking system to deter simultaneous editing, a versioning system to track changes and the ability to lock editing on a page in the case of an edit war, as well as an efficient search function, and navigation, categorisation and file management abilities, in ‘Making the Case for a Wiki’, Ariadne (30 January 2005),

39 Todd Presner, ‘Digital Humanities 2.0: A Report on Knowledge’, Connexions (18 April 2010),

40 Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams outline five levels of open scholarship: (1) course content exchange; (2) course content collaboration; (3) course content co-innovation; (4) knowledge co-creation and (5) collaborative learning connection, in ‘Innovating the 21st-Century University: It’s Time!’, Educause (January/February 2010), 22.

41 In Mahony, ‘Research Communities and Open Collaboration’. Fred Garnett and Nigel Ecclesfield discuss the Open Scholar philosophy further in ‘Towards a Framework for Co-Creating Open Scholarship’, Research in Learning Technology, 19 (2012), Not to be confused with the Drupal software Open Scholar. Garnett and Ecclesfield reference Academic Evolution, a blog formerly run by Gideon Burton, who states: ‘the Open Scholar is someone who makes their intellectual projects and processes digitally visible and who invites and encourages ongoing criticism of their work and secondary uses of any or all parts of it at any stage of its development’,

42 Looking further than a mere series of activities, Charles M. Vest predicts the development of a meta-university: ‘a transcendent, accessible, empowering, dynamic, communally constructed framework of open materials and platforms on which much of higher education worldwide can be constructed or enhanced’, in ‘Open Content and the Emerging Global Meta-University’, Educause (May/June 2006), 18–30 (p. 18),

43 Kathleen Fitzpatrick, ‘CommentPress: New (Social) Structures for New (Networked) Texts’, Journal of Electronic Publishing, 10.3 (2007),

44 Siemens et al., ‘Toward Modeling the Social Edition’, p. 447.

45 Ezell, Social Authorship, p. 23.

46 Greg Crane, ‘Give Us Editors! Re-inventing the Edition and Re-thinking the Humanities’, in Online Humanities Scholarship: The Shape of Things to Come, ed. by Jerome McGann (Houston: Rice University Press, 2010), pp. 81–97,

47 This piece re-prints, with permission, an article in the journal Renaissance and Reformation/Renaissance et Réforme, 30.4 (2015), 131–56.