GENERAL CAUTION

by

Robert Schweik

1998


ABOUT HARDY E-TEXTS, PICTURES, AND MAPS
 
Because many Web pages provide links to Hardy e-texts made available by "Project Gutenberg," "Bibliomania," "Poets' Corner," "The Poetry Archives," "The Oxford Text Archive," and by other similar sources, a general caution about the use of such e-texts may be made here. "Project Gutenberg" texts are among those most frequently linked to Hardy-related web sites. The names and e-mail addresses of transcribers, preparers, and proofreaders of Project Gutenberg e-texts are usually supplied; not always provided, however, are bibliographic identifications of the printed texts upon which the transcriptions are based, and these are often editions not suitable for scholarly citation. In the case of "Poets' Corner" texts, a list of print anthologies used is provided, but the specific print sources for particular e-texts are not spelled out. For Hardy texts provided by "The Poetry Archives" and "Bibliomania," the print or e-text sources are completely unidentified. Even with an e-text collection like "The Oxford Text Archive," where print sources may be indentified, texts vary greatly in accuracy and in the formats in which they have been encoded. For a helpful discussion of criteria for evaluation of e-texts, see "Plain and Encoded Electronic Texts: a Taxonomy and Guidelines for Evaluation" (http://www.ceth.rutgers.edu/IntroductoryMaterial/E-TEXTS.htm#auth) by the the Princeton/Rutgers Center for Electronic Texts in Humanities. At present, scholars using existing e-texts available on the WWW or other sources on the Internet will almost always find it necessary to compare any citations they make from such texts against an authoritative print edition.
 
Of concern, too, is that e-texts or images may be reproduced on the Internet in violation of copyright, or with legal permission but with possible unstated copyright restrictions. For a useful survey of the issues involved, see James Fieser's excellent summary (http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/pubdomai.htm). The "Oxford Text Archives" provides information about the copyright status of the texts it offers, but other collections usually supply no such information, or make only some general claim that the texts and images they reproduce are out of copyright--often without identifying what specifically was reproduced. Obviously, before using such materials, it is important to ascertain their copyright status.

Finally, with respect to the reproduction on the Internet of photographs, maps, and other images related to Hardy's life and work, not only is it important to ascertain their copyright status but, also, to be wary of how they are identified. It is not uncommon to find images on the Web whose captions are simply erroneous: a picture of the Sheldonian Theatre has been identified as the Bodleian Library; a Tolpuddle scene has been linked with Hardy's Talbothays; and a photo of a building not known to have influenced Hardy's Tess has been labeled "Tess's Cottage." Even the well-known map of the whole of Hardy's Wessex has been mistakenly labeled "Outer Wessex." But although images are sometimes provided on Web sites with erroneous captions, a far more common problem is that although there may be some possible connection between a picture and an element in Hardy's writings, the image will be labeled in such a simplistic way--"Lucetta's House" or "Henchard's Seed Shop"--as to be potentially misleading. Ideally, pictures will be identified by their real subject--e.g., "Barclays Bank, South Street, Dorchester"--and preferrably accompanied by the date of the picture and the name of the artist or photographer. Further indications of the relationship of the subject of a picture to a fictional element in Hardy's writings--for example, of the picture of a Dorset tithe barn to Hardy's description of the great barn in Far from the Madding Crowd--will be most helpfully accurate if made with appropriate qualifications and reservations supported by quotations and other relevant documentation.


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