Common Readers

A Database of Annotations in Early Modern Playbooks

Common Readers is a digital initiative dedicated to gathering and analyzing annotations in early modern play texts through a custom-designed relational database. The pilot phase examining drama printed between 1550 and 1660 and the goal is to foster a community of researchers to contribute to a growing dataset of annotations that will, ultimately, be part of a front-facing, publicly-accessible website.

Common Readers aims to develop a searchable online database of annotations in playbooks from libraries from around the globe. The database will consist of two modules, one for bibliographic data and one for annotations data with the potential to add later modules (e.g., one for performance information). Later scholars will then be able to explore the relationships among annotation characteristics and bibliographic characteristics. They might, for example, ask whether modes of reading (indicated by types of annotation) varied by publication year, book format, author, or publisher. Additionally, when relevant, annotations are recoded as being linked to an "anchor text," the line or lines that are the site of the reader’s interaction. This expands the possibilities of analysis to invite questions like: Which lines in a given text drew the heaviest interaction? Do they vary by speaker? By scene? Are there characteristic modes of interaction associated with particular lines or characters?

The Common Readers database will allow the exploration of these relationships on a scale not possible for even the most industrious lone scholar. Computational methods provide a second side to the coin of traditional literary approaches by substantiating (or challenging) received impressions, which will create a solid foundation for inquiry and analysis through close textual analysis. If you are interested in joining the initiative, please contact the Project Director, Rebecca Munson (rmunson@princeton.edu).