Editorial Principles
Editorial Principles and Practice

Centred on The Yellow Book (1894-97), The Yellow Nineties Online publishes facsimile editions of a select collection of aesthetic periodicals, together with paratexts of production and reception such as cover designs, advertising materials, and reviews. This historical material is enhanced by two kinds of peer-reviewed scholarly commentary: biographies of the periodicals’ contributors and associates and critical essays on the material by experts in the field. Both primary and secondary materials, including all visual materials, are marked up in TEI- (Textual-Encoding Initiative) compliant XML (Extensible Markup Language).

Our editorial horizon encompasses the long 1890s and the international community of authors, artists, editors, publishers, photo engravers, readers, and reviewers who contributed to the production and reception of the period’s aesthetic periodicals.

We have decided to produce editions of selected 1890s periodicals in digitized form for the following reasons: 1) their crumbling paper makes digital preservation a matter of urgency 2) their location in rare book libraries and private collections makes access difficult 3) the size and material complexities of these periodicals prohibit print editions in codex form 4) digitization allows us to situate the facsimiles of these periodicals within an enriched historical archive and peer-reviewed scholarly environment 5) computer technology empowers new ways of reading, viewing, and understanding these influential cultural artifacts and 6) mark-up language facilitates the complex searches these aesthetic objects demand, not only within The Yellow Nineties Online, but across federated sites within the NINES consortium.

Our editorial method is informed by social-text editing principles. By “text” we mean visual and verbal printed material, including non-referential physical elements such as bindings, page layouts, and ornaments. We view any text as the outcome of collaborative processes that have specific manifestations at precise historical moments.

Editorial Decisions

We have chosen the thirteen-volume Yellow Book (1894-1897) as our initial focus because it is a defining cultural document of the period. We have included the single-volume Pagan Review (1892) in this initial phase of development because of its many connections to The Yellow Book its extreme rarity (only two copies are known to us) and its expansion of the publishing context from urban London to rural Sussex. The publication of these two periodicals and their respective paratextual materials allows users to juxtapose key print documents of the aesthetic/decadent movement and the Celtic Revival and neo-paganism.

Our intention for the next stage of site development is to produce facsimile editions of The Spirit Lamp (four volumes, 1892-1893), The Evergreen (four volumes, 1895), The Dial (five volumes, published occasionally between 1889-1897), and The Savoy (two quarterly and six monthly issues, 1896).

Our theory of text as socially and collaboratively produced is made explicit in the Biographies section of the site. We aim to publish a peer-reviewed scholarly biography for every contributor—not only author and artist, but also editor, publisher, and engraver—to The Yellow Book and all other facsimile editions we publish. In order to ensure a supportive historical context of people associated in various ways with the period, we also include biographies of individuals who made significant contributions to the 1890s in the areas of culture, literature, visual art, book-design, publishing, and technological innovation.

With a view to our mixed audience of scholars, students, and the general public, we aim to provide editorial introductions and scholarly commentary for each facsimile edition we publish. Currently there is an editorial introduction for The Pagan Review and for the first six volumes of The Yellow Book, as well as more general scholarly commentary for each periodical.

Future site developments will include visualization tools that facilitate new ways of viewing objects and relationships on the site, and thus new ways to approach fin-de-siècle cultural studies.

All scholarly material on the site is vetted by the editors and peer-reviewed by them and an international board of advisors the site as a whole is peer-reviewed by NINES (Networked Interface for Nineteenth-Century Electronic Scholarship). Contributors to the site retain personal copyright in their material. The site is licensed with a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 license.

Technical Decisions

Sponsored by the English Department’s Centre for Digital Humanities, The Yellow Nineties Online is housed on Ryerson University’s MS SQL server. The site combines PHP and ASP (for generating dynamic page content) with HTML.

The verbal texts of all periodicals are scanned by OCR (Optical-Character Recognition) software and checked against copy text as part of the mark-up process. Where possible, we use first-edition issues of the periodical as copy text. All visual images (including cover designs, decorated title pages, and illustrations) are photographed in 600 DPI for archival storage as tiff files, and (because of size considerations) displayed on the site as jpegs in 120 DPI. Visual images have been minimally edited using Photoshop only in cases where serious obfuscation occurred through fading or foxing.

The TEI (Textual Encoding Initiative) mark-up of our documents is available to all users. We have chosen to encode in the Textual Encoding Initiative’s XML to facilitate interoperability within the wider digital humanities community. All TEI-encoded materials are transformed into HTML using XSLT (Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations) prepared by The Yellow Nineties Online team.

Searching The Yellow Nineties Online is achieved through either a general or advanced full-text search. Both query methods take advantage of Microsoft SQL Server’s full-text search algorithm in order to rank search results from most relevant to least through the use of predefined full-text indices. The general search queries the database for records that match the meaning, rather than the exact wording, of a user-defined search string. The advanced full-text search returns records that more precisely match the words/phrases within a user-defined search string while also accounting for the proximity of words. The advanced search can also be further refined with the use of structured filters.

In order to return visual texts along with verbal texts in all searches, we have developed an iconographic proforma that expands on this pre-fabricated search algorithm by adding metadata that is specifically relevant to scholars. As this is something computer programmes cannot do for us yet, The Yellow Nineties Online research team is developing new methodologies for scholarly, contextual image search. In addition to bibliographic and iconographic metadata, our proforma include prose descriptions that are not only marked-up for searching but are also available as descriptors of images for the visually impaired. The mark-up draws on a restricted vocabulary list established by an iconographic index we developed for the site, using the following broad categories: period geography setting people objects and transcription. This dual mark-up system for images ensures that image searches return, for example, pictures of “swan” and “peacock” when the keyword “bird” is entered.

To ensure maximum flexibility for users, textual materials are available on the site as virtual objects (facsimiles) in FlipBook form in HTML for online reading in PDF for downloading and collecting and in XML for those who wish to review our tag sets.

The Ryerson University server that houses our site backs up changed files on a daily incremental basis, with full backups every week. In addition, we have stored all of the site’s documents on two external hard drives (one reserved for image files) new files are backed up weekly.