SourceLab in the Rare Books and Manuscript Library

SourceLab students at Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Class led by RBML director Valerie Hotchkiss.

As historians, we know we need to follow the past into the future. Last fall, the SourceLab students visited the Rare Books and Manuscript Library. Dr. Valerie Hotchkiss, the director of the RBML, took the students on a journey through the history of publishing and editing.

She introduced students to a variety of rare books, showing students marginalia in medieval bibles, velum scraped and written over by early modern writers, images of Egyptian hieroglyphics transcribed before they could be translated, a recently published critical edition, and much more.

RMBL director Dr. Valerie Hotchkiss points out differences between early-modern and contemporary editions of the same text.

Dr. Hotchkiss described the choices editors make, the values they take into account, and their options to best illuminate a text. Then it was the students’ turn. In teams they began transcribing original documents and confronting the challenges of documentary editing.

The work of SourceLab students in the digital humanities is informed by the long tradition of documentary editing and draws on the expertise of people at the top of the field. At Illinois, we are lucky to have all these resources at our fingertips!

-Wendy Mathewson