SGML: The HTI American Verse Project

The American Verse Project (Announcement from John Price-Wilkin)

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From: John Price-Wilkin <>
Subject:      American Verse project; TEILink
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UM HTI American Verse:

This is a preliminary announcement and a request for comments on a new (TEI-encoded) textual resource. The University of Michigan Humanities Text Initiative, along with the University of Michigan Press, is releasing a new textual resource, American Verse. American Verse is a growing collection of texts encoded in SGML using the TEI Guidelines. The collection is made accessible in SGML, dynamically rendered HTML, and as a searchable database. As with all of the other Humanities Text Initiative resources, simple word and phrase searches are supported, as well as proximity searches, and searches for verses or paragraphs containing two or three phrases. The project uses an unusual model for rights for a project involving a University Press: most uses are without practical restrictions and cost, but the texts are available for sale to other publishers and agencies who wish to provide access to the texts from their own system. We will continue to expand the collection as time and resources allow.

We are particularly interested in comments from readers of this list on one particular feature of the collection. In addition to the modes of searching noted above, we have implemented a mode we have called (pardon our audacity) TEILink. Based on the extended pointer syntax as implemented with xptr and xref (p. 406 of the Guidelines), the mechanism takes DOC, FROM, and TO parameters, and returns the area defined by the span between the FROM and TO in the DOC containing a given ID. What is especially unusual here is that we're implementing the feature through CGI on the Web, where these parameters are encoded in one long URL or POST block. Despite the fact that the roughly twenty volumes in the collection are in single file, it is possible to point to and retrieve a single poem, stanza, line, or range of lines. To demonstrate this, we have included Harriet Monroe's essay on Millay's Renascence, marking up the essay first in SGML, and then in HTML with embedded URLs. A brief description of the mechanism, along with our rationale, is included in the project. Briefly, though, the notion is that it would be possible for us to assemble a collection which we would guarantee would be permanent and relatively fixed (changes would be noted in the teiHeader), and that individuals could cite and substantiate notions using this independently maintained collection.

A brief note about the HTI ( The HTI has its beginnings in 1989, when the University of Michigan began working with networked access to collections in SGML through a project called UMLibText. The project has pioneered mechanisms for sophisticated access to SGML-encoded collections through the web and has assisted many institutions with establishing these mechanisms. Under the auspices of the HTI, several text encoding projects are underway, including a Middle English prose project, several editorial projects, a planning project for the electronic Middle English Dictionary, a Mellon-funded journal conversion project, as well as the American Verse project. The HTI is responsible for online collections in SGML at the University of Michigan, and provides research and deployment support for SGML in the University's NSF/NASA/ARPA-funded Digital Library Initiative. In conjunction with this latter effort, the HTI is working with publishers such as McGraw-Hill, Grolier, and Elsevier to build prototype systems for access to reference works and journals in SGML.

John Price-Wilkin, University of Michigan