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Image from Spectator, Volume I

The Spectator Project:
A Hypermedia Research Archive
of Eighteenth-Century Periodicals

The Spectator Project is an interactive hypermedia environment for the study of The Tatler (1709-1711), The Spectator (1711-14), and the eighteenth-century periodical in general. The most innovative feature of the project developed out of the object of study itself. The format, style, and even the content of The Tatler and the Spectator were immediately and closely imitated in hundreds of periodicals in Europe and the Americas. The Spectator Project will allow users to compare imitated and imitating formats and passages of text through the means of hyperlinks. A footnote will appear, for example, in the text of Marivaux's Le Spectateur français or Eliza Haywood's The Female Spectator, and the user will click on it to bring up the passage in the Spectator that it derives from. While there are editions of eighteenth-century periodicals on-line and in CD-ROM format, none have linked multiple periodicals together for the purpose of studying their complex interrelation. While many scholarly web projects simply make their material more widely available--in itself, a laudable goal--this feature makes our project an interpretive editorial apparatus, and one which is based on the special capabilities of the digital environment.

The limits imposed on the study of periodicals through reprint editions and even through primary documents are extensive. Reprint editions, including the definitive edition of The Spectator (ed., D.F. Bond, 5 volumes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1965)), are generally hardcover, multi-volume series, and are often out-of-print, so they are rarely owned by scholars. (Versions of The Tatler and The Spectator currently in print are selected editions, and include less than one-fifth of the entire series.) Consequently, simply making The Spectator accessible in its entirety will provide a useful resource.

The obstacles to scholarly study of the eighteenth-century periodical in book form, however, extend far beyond their availability. Book editions of periodicals are limited in precisely those ways that inhibit the most innovative aspects of the scholarly work that is currently being done on them. Since very few are facsimile editions, they do not reproduce the periodicals' format or typography, and they exclude elements of the originals (such as advertisements) regarded as extra-textual. Most importantly, the kind of editorial apparatus that is possible in a book cannot demonstrate the level of imitation and appropriation that takes place between the periodicals of Addison and Steele and those periodicals that follow. Scholars studying original documents or microfilms of eighteenth-century periodicals (and particularly those working in languages other than English) may not be aware, for example, that a given passage imitates and alters a passage from the Spectator, and, of course, will not have the guidance of an editorial apparatus. This last point is particularly important, as the reprinting of periodical essays in modern editions lags far behind scholarly interest in the periodical. Even in scholarly editions, footnotes are limited in their capacity to document the passages imitating Addison and Steele beyond reproducing a few lines of the Tatler or the Spectator.

While the Spectator Project will assuage all of these difficulties, it will also allow the user to manipulate the texts. Users can conduct complex structured searches of this large corpus and to access critical materials that elucidate both the periodicals and the contexts of their production and reception. Researchers working on topics ranging from the history of literary criticism to the consumption of snuff and caffeine in the Augustan era can search hundreds of issues of The Spectator in a matter of seconds, producing a ranked survey of every mention of their topic of study. Soon, users will be able to consult maps of Queen Anne's London (with special sections on both the London book trade and the haunts of Addison and Steele's persona, "Mr. Spectator," glossaries of terms from eighteenth-century dictionaries, formats of both the original periodicals and bound volumes through the nineteenth century, and other ancillary materials.

SPECTATOR PROJECT ADVISORY BOARD

  • Joseph Chaves (English, Wesleyan University)
  • François Cornilliat (French, CLL Faculty Chair)
  • Jared Gardner (English, Ohio State University)
  • Mark G. Spencer (St. Michael's College, University of Toronto)
  • John McCarthy (German, Vanderbilt University)
  • Charles E. Clark (Emeritus, History, University of New Hampshire)
  • Jack Lynch (English Rutgers Newark)
  • Michael McKeon (English Rutgers)
  • Meredith McGill (English Rutgers)
  • Pierre Morère (English, University of Grenoble)
  • Kathleen Kemmerer (English, Penn State Hazelton)
  • Nicholas Rennie (German Rutgers)
  • English Showalter (Emeritus, French, Rutgers University, Camden)
  • James Swenson (French Rutgers)
  • James Tierney (University of Missouri - St. Louis)
  • Jack Undank (Emeritus, French)
  • Michael Warner (English Rutgers)
  • Myra Jehlen (English Rutgers)
  • Lorraine Piroux (French Rutgers)
  • Kevin Mulcahy (Bibliographer for English, Alexander Library)
  • Joe Consoli (Bibliographer for Italian, Art Library)
  • Brian Hancock (Systems Librarian, Montclair State University)
  • Jeffery Triggs (SCC, Alexander Library)

2006-02-19