MEL’s scholarly edition of Billy Budd, titled Versions of Billy Budd, is generated through MEL’s digital editing tool TextLab and is further edited and formatted in MEL’s instance of the Juxta Editions platform, adapted by and managed through Performant Software Solutions. The following Introduction includes directions on how to navigate the edition. To enter the edition, use the link to the right. To return to this or other MEL pages, click the MEL tab on your browser.
When you enter Versions of Billy Budd, you will find a Table of Contents to the left, listing each chapter of Billy Budd. Click on a chapter to bring that chapter’s Reading Text into the center column. Down the right margin are thumbnail images of the individual manuscript leaves for the selected chapter. Clicking on the thumbnails will give you access to the edition’s revision annotations, as described below. To return to the edition’s Reading Text, use your browser’s back arrow. To return to these navigational instructions, select the MEL tab in your browser.
Transcription, Base Version, and Reading Text
MEL editors use TextLab to transcribe all text found in the Billy Budd manuscript. This new transcription is derived from the direct inspection of digital images of each manuscript leaf, and its unrevised inscription and revision texts have been coded in compliance with the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI). For more on our coding of the transcription, see Transcription Coding. TextLab automatically generates a “base version” of the manuscript revisions, which is a “final” reading that results when we delete Melville’s deletions and insert his additions. This resultant “base version”—which is generated automatically by TextLab—represents Melville’s last recorded effort at revising Billy Budd, but this text is not fully readable and requires further editing.
The base version does not offer a consistent reading experience: it contains dropped words, textual gaps, unintended repetitions, punctuation problems, solecisms, unfinished revisions, and, in some cases, irresolvable “oscillating” revisions. For more on these problems, see Emending the Reading Text. In order to address or repair these inadvertencies and inconsistencies, we upload the base version into Juxta Editions, where it is then lightly edited and formatted to become MEL’s Reading Text of Billy Budd. MEL’s specific emendations of the manuscript base version may be viewed by clicking any underlined word or phrase in the reading text. In the coming year, MEL editors will be adding contextual annotations for Billy Budd as well. Associated with the Reading Text, via thumbnails, are a range of annotations that track Melville’s revisions. For more on editing with TextLab and Juxta Editions, see Modes of Digital Editing.
When you mouse over the thumbnail of a leaf, the corresponding text of that leaf is highlighted in the Reading Text. By clicking the thumbnail, you are taken to a set of TextLab displays that enable you to inspect revisions on that leaf and navigate revision sequences step-by-step.
Leaf and Diplomatic Transcription. The first TextLab screen is a side-by-side display of the full image of the leaf and a diplomatic transcription of that leaf. To magnify the leaf image on a Mac, use the plus (+) and minus (-) keys (with or without shifting) to zoom in and out. Use the up, down, left, and right arrow keys to position the image. These manipulations can also be performed on a laptop’s touchpad. To magnify the leaf image on Windows, you'll need to first click on the image to set the focus and trigger the initial zoom in. At this point, hold down the shift key and press the up and down arrow keys to zoom in and out. Hold down the shift key and use the left and right arrow keys to position the image. Both Mac and PC users can access the previous or next leaf in the chapter by clicking on the appropriate link above the leaf image frame.
The Diplomatic Transcription in the right frame is a typographical simulation of the leaf’s inscription. It is generated “on the fly.” That is, TextLab’s XSLT program transforms the TEI codes in our transcription, positioning the inscribed elements with reasonable accuracy in their proper places. While this machine-generated approach is remarkably effective, it cannot reproduce certain idiosyncratic features, such as the sinuous strokes that Melville drew between words and lines to connect, say, a bubbled insertion text in a margin to its insertion caret in a sentence. Nevertheless, MEL’s diplomatic transcription is “good enough” to enable readers to decipher Melville’s handwriting and deletions obscured by muddy cancellations and erasure.
Mousing over an addition or deletion in the transcription will highlight its corresponding Revision Site in the leaf image to the left. Transcribed revisions are minimally color-coded, with black as the default, indicating ink inscription. Other color and markings are
Words resulting from overwriting are highlighted in light brown, and the former, altered word pops up when you mouse over the new, highlighted word. Text appearing in the top, bottom, or side margins, either in an insertion bubble or not, can be accessed by mousing over the orange “bubbled ellipsis” at the insertion site; the marginal text will appear close to the place on the leaf where the actual inscription is located. Transposed texts—that is, text moved from one place in a sentence or line to another—are treated as a combined, deletion-and-insertion revision act. In this instance, the transposed text appears twice in the transcription, each in a bubble: once where it was originally inscribed, and again where the insertion device indicates the text is meant to be read.
In transcribing Melville’s sometimes problematic inscription, MEL preserves Melville’s bad spelling (such as “recieve” and “surprize") and some of his inadvertent miswriting (“in accudance with”) but does not attempt to render Melville’s characteristic scribal tics, such as the combined “ng” squiggle to be found at the end of many of his “-ing” words written in haste or declining health. We render undeciphered words by supplying as many recognizable letters as possible and x’s representing what we take to be the remaining, illegible letters. Unclear words or words with multiple possible readings are coded as such, and alternative readings appear when the word is moused over.
By clicking the Base tab at the top of the Diplomatic Transcription frame, you can view the “base version” text of the leaf, also generated on the fly by the automatic deletion of Melville’s deletions and insertion of his additions, restorations, and transpositions.
Revision Sequences and Narratives. This form of revision annotation displays the steps Melville took in revising a set of revision sites in the Billy Budd manuscript and a step-by-step narrative explaining and arguing for each step. MEL editors have composed revision sequence / narratives for selected revision sites and will continue to add more. Given the speculative nature of revision analysis, TextLab permits the creation and storage of multiple sequences, and multiple narratives for the same sequence. With this feature, scholars, critics, students, and general readers can compare alternate revision sequences and, in our Projects workspaces, derive revision sequences / narratives of their own.
If Revision Sequences and Narratives exist for revisions sites on a leaf, they are listed beneath the leaf image frame on the left. Clicking on a listed item displays the step and narrative lay-out of the selected sequence / narrative beneath the side-by-side leaf and diplomatic transcription display. The reader can view one step and its narrative at a time, or all of the steps at once. In the single-step option, each step’s revision site is illuminated in both the leaf image and diplomatic transcription.