Thursday, 4 June 2009

Not All That It Seems

The online Guardian, via Google Reader, has just alerted me to what looks at first sight like a marvellous new resource: British Literary Manuscripts Online. The preview provided by The Guardian includes images from manuscripts by Pope, Bronte (Charlotte) and Wilde -- some of which are even readable on-screen. You can see Pope's corrections to his translation of the Odyssey, and also Wilde's redrafting of one of his more famous epigrams. I can see the latter being tremendously useful to me in the Manuscript and Print lecture I give our first-year literature students in semester 1, when I try to encourage them to see literary texts in terms of production, transmission and reception rather simply as finished, immutable and iconic.

The downside, however -- which isn't apparent until you read the small print (actually, follow the links) in the article -- is that this is a commercial resource which users will have to pay for. (The article is, in fact, closely based on a press release from the publishers, Gale.) I followed links to the 'BLMO brochure' and 'BLMO factsheet', and in neither -- admittedly, on a very quick reading -- are there any details of how much the product will cost. 'Very expensive indeed', is my guess -- probably 5 figures. Which puts it way beyond the budget for our own library, sad to say.