Archive, Edition, Project: Mapping Melville and Networks of Correspondence


  • John Bryant



digital humanities, mapping, archives


Mapping is a critical process of plotting data, images, and textual objects, in space over time, as a way of representing textuality as a kind of continuously evolving landscape of human interaction. A tool for mapping cultural phenomena, like literary coteries and networks, should include ways for users to interact with what is being mapped. It should allow us to make arguments. Digital solutions to these challenges require placing the problem in the context of collaborative and open source technologies and creating a web design that encompasses three areas of development: Archive, Edition, and Projects. In drawing from the experience of working on the Melville Electronic Library (MEL), this essay discusses the potentials and challenges of “mapping Herman Melville.” Both social and geographic mapping can advance scholarship and interpretation, but if they are to work at all and together, they require a digital infrastructure that enables interoperability. The kind of mapping planned for the Melville Electronic Library (MEL) is sustained by a three-part platform: Archive, Edition, and Project. By exploring limits and anxieties related to critical archiving, this essay discusses the inevitability of digital scholarly editing, and strategies for scholarly interaction with archived and edited materials in projects that generate new data (such as biographical and contextual annotation) and return that scholarship to the archive database. Along the way, the essay examines current technologies such as MEL’s editing and transcription tool TextLab, Hofstra DRC’s mapping and annotation tool Itinerary, IIIF image formatting, and Blacklight / Spotlight metadata and content managers.


Melville, Herman. “Aurora-Borealis.” Published Poems, Eds. Robert C. Ryan, Harrison Hayford, Alma MacDougal Reising, and G. Thomas Tanselle. Evanston and Chicago: Northwestern University Press
and The Newberry Library, 2009.

---. Moby-Dick. 1851. Eds. John Bryant and Haskell Spring. New York: Longman, 2007.