The Digital South English Legendary (Digital SEL) is a web-based, interactive application that allows users to view multiple versions of individual texts from the South English Legendary at the same time.

The South English Legendary and Textual Variation

The South English Legendary is a large collection of Middle English verse saints’ lives and related religious literature, originally composed in the late thirteenth century. The legendary was later revised and augmented, and its various forms enjoyed widespread readership, being copied until the fifteenth century. Today, the SEL survives in part or whole in more than 60 manuscripts. The legendary’s popularity and the readiness of later poets and scribes to revise and supplement the collection mean that there is a large degree of textual variation between individual witnesses of the SEL. Despite a great deal of work by earlier scholars, the SEL has never been edited in whole and the editions that have appeared are typical of printed editions in that they present a base text with variations noted in a critical apparatus.

The Digital SEL and Developing a New Critical Edition

The intent of the Digital SEL is to use a web-based application to create a kind of digital variorum edition of the text, which will allow users to view multiple versions of different SEL texts at the same time. The ultimate goal of the project is to provide a model of digital publishing that destabilizes the kind of editorial practice that imagines a “base” or “best” version of a text with variations noted in an apparatus.

Recent advances in web-based programing have made designing this type of edition possible. The advent of AJAX (asynchronous JavaScript + XML), popularized by Google Maps, makes it possible to load multiple different text files into the DOM at any time, without refreshing the browser. This allows users of the Digital SEL to pick various versions of a text and display them at will. JQuery UI’s resizable and sortable plugins enable users to manipulate objects on the page and view the texts in whatever order they please.

The Digital SEL is ongoing and will be updated as different aspects of the site are completed. As of this stage of the project’s development, I have designed and programed an application for viewing a sample set of texts: the previously un-published SEL life of Saint Botulf.

The Digital South English Legendary was conceived, edited, and developed by William E. Bolton. The Digital SEL is an open source project and all of the source code is available at GitHub. Please feel free to email me at wbolton@asu[dot]edu or find my contact information via my CV at my personal website

Creative Commons License
The Digital South English Legendary by William E. Bolton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.