[NTG-context] Critical Editions?

Pablo Rodriguez oinos at gmx.es
Thu Jan 6 17:57:30 CET 2022

On 1/5/22 12:52 PM, hanneder--- via ntg-context wrote:
> Dear critical edition experts,
> the examples given in ConTeXt_Test_Footnote-ComplexMedieval.pdf and
>  the other posts are really answering my questions. Everything seems
> to be already there and if there were a Wiki on critical editions I
> would perhaps have not even asked.

The wiki is a cooperative effort. Nothing prevents you from starting a
new article on critical editions at the ConTeXt Garden

If you put some samples, other users may extend you article (again, this
is a cooperative effort).

> As far as I see, no ConTeXt input format for critical editions is
> needed, but since the topic is being discussed -

This should be no big surprise: Knuth developed TeX as a typesetting
programming language, not mainly as an input format.

Once you get used to it, TeX (or ConTeXt) may be easier for you as input
format. But it makes sense that as input format, ConTeXt cannot be
future–proof in that way, if it is in development.

>> I don’t see any future in developing a ConTeXt input format for
>> critical editions, for the following reasons:
>> 1. Producing a print-only version (i.e. printed book) makes no sense
>> in 2022. This is not sustainable because
>> no-one will be able to take your edition and continue to work on it.
>> You have to provide a digital edition as research data.
>> 2. This digital edition has to be in a standard format that is
>> sustainable at least for some time so it can be processed with
>> various types of software. TEI xml has become the de facto standard.
> I must disagree. There is no print only version any more, so the
> first question is: Is a pdf more sustainable, or an online edition
> (based on html etc.)? Time will tell, I guess. The same applies to
> TEI based online editions by the way. No larger texts have been
> edited by that method yet (in my field), many projects are being
> worked on, but they tend not to be finished, when the project ends.
> Some of the people actually working with both TeX and XML-based say
> that the latter significantly slows down the collation process.

Research (Maryanne Wolf) shows that people read way better on paper. We
tend to forget way faster what we read on e–ink screens. Just in case
anyone is interested

PDF is way easier to maintain. Once you generate it, this is all to it.
XML sources need more work to get and display data (oversimplifying the

In my experience, having XML sources requires learning how to generate
PDF output from them (and how to display them online). I use Markdown
and if I had to share my document, this would be way easier than to
share ConTeXt source files containing text. That way, I could focus on
the typesetting and the team could focus on the pure content (text or

TEI may be a pain to learn and to write, but it makes sense to use it as
input format. Or the alternative would be a light–weight markup
language, not TeX.

> At least in Indology books and scans are still being used. Everyone
> is talking about online editions, data repositories etc., but the
> reality as I experience it is not up to these expectations. One of
> our great paleographical online tools was almost lost, since there is
> no institutional funding for updating those systems. Even finding a
> host for an online edition can be (and is in our case) a nightmare.

Don’t universites host online archives for research projects?

> In short, my solution is: printed version as in the last centuries,
> possibly additional online edition with a shorter life span and
> online publication of research data. This sounds great, but actually
> we are talking mainly about the collation file, that is, the
> TeX-input file. Not a big deal, since now this can be turned into xml
> by ekdosis, and that's it. The mss scans are prohibited from online
> publication by German copyright (no Indian institution will grant
> any rights).

I’m interested in the copyright issue.

All I knew about German copyright law is that it protects critical
editions (I mean, not the apparatus, but the text itself.)

What is actually protected by German copyright in manuscript scans? The
photograph itself? In that case, for manuscripts and works that are in
the public domain, who is supposed to be the copyright holder?

> Let me emphasize that I am not at all against these new
> possibilities. I was part of an online dictionary project
> (nws.uzi.uni-halle.de) that worked with TEI and everything else, but
> after the threat to close down Indology in Halle (the location of the
> dictionary), I have to finance occasional updates from our normal
> budget (the DFG had decreed that no further funding for this project
> was possible) and after my retirement - I have no great hopes for a
> continuation of my post - it might become quickly useless. As long
> as we have enough nerds who can and will do the necessary work
> privately, we are safe.

Maybe the wrong approach is that studies in humanities don’t need a
strong background in computer science (programming).

In that case, it is really hard to use computers to achieve rich and
complex goals.

>> 4. However, ConTeXt is wonderful for processing xml.
>> Hence: keep the input source and the processing separate. Code in
>> TEI xml (or a subset of it) and develop a ConTeXt stylesheet to
>> process it.
> I am used to TeX-code, and so I'd rather stick to that and let
> ekdosis do the conversion, if necessary.

A light–weight markup language for critical editions would be something
to consider, in that case. (But it is something to be developed, if it
makes sense at all.)

> But in publication practice in my field, most of this is just for
> private entertainment. Almost all publishers still expect a Word
> file, so the tool of choice is pandoc to downgrade from TeX to docx.
> Sorry to end on this depressing note.

Word documents for critical editions? In that case, publishers will have
to typeset the book themselves, won’t they?

Many thanks for your insightful comments,


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