What is The Pulter Project?

This digital collaboration aims at allowing readers to engage with multiple, different representations and readings of Hester Pulter’s striking verse. The distinctive nature of the project is that it does not adopt an editorial process that strives to establish a single, ideal edited form for these works, but instead endorses multiple, equally authorized versions as a way to foreground the complexity of Pulter’s poetics and the affordances of scholarly editing in the digital age. The Pulter Project seeks to pull back the editorial curtain to reveal to readers the often invisible decisions underwriting the making of poetry and poets.

The Making of The Pulter Project
Produced by the Media and Design Studio at Northwestern University. Footage of Brotherton Library at Leeds University courtesy of Ken Kajoranta, Xiaoping Lu, Sam Higgs, Jodie Double, and David Burns. Original Music Composed and Performed by Stephen Katz. Special thanks to Faith Irvine, Leah Knight, and Wendy Wall.

At the core of our site is a tool, powered by the Versioning Machine, featuring side-by-side versions of each poem. These versions include:

  • high-resolution, zoomable photographic facsimiles of manuscript pages;
  • transcriptions of the poems that capture changes by the main scribe, Pulter (probably), and the manuscript’s first readers;
  • elemental editions: deliberately pared-down modernizations with minimal notes;
  • amplified editions: commissioned from experts to foreground different aspects of Pulter’s verse.

For those who wish to cite line numbers in the poems, see the Compare Editions view of the poems. These contrasting versions draw out and develop different aspects of each poem, while the side-by-side display enhances opportunities for comparison. Readers can find these side-by-side displays by clicking on “Compare Editions” beneath the headnote to each individual poem or through the “Discoveries” section of the home page.

The site also features an open-ended and growing array of contextualizing materials, educational tools, and curated virtual exhibits inspired by the poems. Readers can find contextual materials for specific poems in “Curations.” In “Explorations,” readers will find materials relevant to Pulter’s life, her manuscript, and her verse in general.

Who is The Pulter Project for? Students and teachers at all levels, specialist scholars, and a larger reading and writing public will value different aspects of the project. Those encountering Pulter for the first time might start with the elemental editions, with their modernized text and relatively simple annotations. Those ready for more will enjoy the amplified editions, each governed by its own principles and more extensive annotation. In our comparison view, advanced students and scholars will benefit from seeing these versions side-by-side along with transcriptions and high-resolution manuscript images. Instructors may include material from “Curations” and “Explorations” as companion readings for the poems in courses on poetry, literature and science, religion and literature, early modern literature, and women’s writing. We urge readers who rely on the project to cite the material, as a courtesy to those who made it, and to consider proposing contributions of their own. This is a work-in-progress, with an ever-expanding community of collaborators and users.

The Pulter Project is committed to open access and distribution of the contents and code behind our project. If you are interested in emulating our approach for your own research, we would be happy to advise. Please contact us with questions.

Why did we build this?

  1. The Pulter Project serves as a tool for testing how a digital format can materialize innovative principles of editing. We are interested in experimenting with the processes by which writers today might reach readers and take on multiple “identities” in the literary canon. Owing to the relatively recent discovery of Pulter’s work after centuries of silence upon it, Pulter’s manuscript affords scholars of literary history the rare opportunity to reflect on the creation of a writer’s profile in the making. The Pulter Project is therefore designed to encourage the process of scholarly reception to unfold mindfully and abundantly, in part by generating a space in which competing models for curating and editing her work are made available for future students and scholars. Instead of a single authorized edition, we present a set of possible texts and interpretations, enfolded within a framework that transparently exposes what is at stake in making editorial choices. The project is thus in part an exploration of how we rethink ways to make a writer newly legible and available in the digital age. Working with opportunities afforded by an ever-expanding digital landscape, The Pulter Project makes Pulter’s poetry public while publicizing the making of Pulter as a poet: a creative process being carried out on an ongoing basis by a collaborative crew of contributors, editors, advisors, and readers.
  2. Our broadest interest in the project is to discern how Pulter’s poems might refine understandings of seventeenth-century thought and writing. The Pulter Project thus reflects debates about how to treat these poems by, for instance, contextualizing them alongside scientific, theological, political, or other materials; punctuating them in ways that change forms of address or voice; and glossing them in reference to various other texts and authors. This web site provides the occasion for enhancing emergent scholarly accounts of Pulter and her poetry in relation to literature, history, science, religion, and politics.
  3. We think Pulter’s work deserves to be better known. The sole volume in which it is found appears to have been unread or at least unremarked upon for several centuries in private hands. Sometime after it was bought by the University of Leeds in the 1970s, a few scholars began to take note of this unusually full record of a seventeenth-century female poet. Even so, Pulter’s poems remained unpublished, and thus known only to a handful of librarians and scholars, until Alice Eardley’s 2014 printed edition. Generally speaking, the unreliability of continuity and short print runs of academic presses, as well as their high prices, limit the impact such editions have on even a scholarly public, let alone a broader one. Challenges associated, especially today, with traditional modes of publication thus partly inspired the digital form of our own edition.

How did we do it?

The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making was spearheaded by two scholars of early modern literature, Wendy Wall (Northwestern University) and Leah Knight (Brock University), whose collaboration on Pulter began in 2015 in a workshop held at the annual meeting of the Shakespeare Association of America. In the workshop, participants created diverse ways of editing, contextualizing, anthologizing, and digitizing some of Pulter’s poems. Delighted to discover so much interest in thinking collaboratively about how Pulter's works might be read, Wall and Knight subsequently assembled an international team of scholars from universities across the Anglophone world (US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada) to join in an experiment in humanistic collaborative research. Funded by a grant from the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern as well as by Brock University’s Humanities Research Institute and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Wall and Knight:

  • initiated a collaboration at Northwestern University with the Digital Humanities Librarian (Josh Honn) and the Director of Northwestern’s Media and Design Studio (Matthew Taylor);
  • formed a larger team to support various aspects of the project, from web design to digital storytelling, transcription-checking and TEI encoding;
  • invited the contributions of scholars with expertise in a variety of subfields, such as the study of early modern women writers; manuscript studies; editing; poetry; early modern science; seventeenth-century literature and politics; devotional poetry; gender studies; ecocriticism; and book history;
  • established an Editorial Board to provide advice and peer-review of various aspects of the project’s development and contents;
  • developed a partnership with the Brotherton Library at the University of Leeds, where Pulter’s manuscript is housed.

Wall and Knight photographed the manuscript at Leeds and transcribed the poems before beginning work on the basic editions, called Elemental Editions. Contributing editors seeded the project with Amplified Editions and advised on the contours of the developing web site and the project generally. Our project extended to include technical assistants and students from three countries who aided with proofing transcriptions and with encoding the various versions of the poems in relation to the Text Encoding Initiative’s conventions.

Knight and Wall began created their Elemental Editions using a uniform set of editorial principles and style guidelines, while Contributing Editors chose their own editorial principles to create individual Amplified Editions. Amplified Editions underwent two rounds of feedback and peer-review before being moved forth for encoding. The Brotherton Library at the University of Leeds supplied us with high-resolution zoomable images that appear on the site.

Northwestern’s Media and Design Studio provided substantial labor and creative inventiveness through the input of Matt Taylor (IT Director) who oversaw the encoding team and customized digital tools; Sergei Kalugin (Developer) who designed the site; and Chad Davis (Digital Storyteller), who shot and designed video to accompany the website.

The backbone of The Pulter Project is the poems, which have been encoded to allow easy juxtaposition of various editions while keeping intact the individual integrity of each version. To this end, we use a customized model of the Versioning Machine (VM) software from the University of Maryland. This allows us to present multiple—sometimes very different—versions of the same poem side-by-side, making it simple to compare individual lines. VM requires the XML coding language, so all of our poems are encoded according to the P5 Guidelines of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI). This is a framework for coding texts so that they are human- and machine-readable, and is commonly used by libraries and major digital humanities projects.

The main feature of our code, developed and executed by Katherine E. Poland, is its tripartite structure. In the code, each line of a poem is right next to the same line in all other editions. A single encoded line is a sort of cell, which contains the line number, the line in each edition, and the editors’ notes. By repeating this “cell,” once for every line, we can build a three-edition version of the poem. To this basic structure we add bibliographic data which places a single poem in the larger context of The Pulter Project and points readers towards further information our website.

Who is involved?

General Editors, Project Founders, and Directors
  • Wendy Wall, Northwestern University
  • Leah Knight, Brock University
Technical Editors and Web Developers
  • Sergei Kalugin, Northwestern University
  • Matthew Taylor, Northwestern University
Lead Encoder
  • Katherine Poland, Independent Scholar
Social Media and Public Outreach Manager
  • Samantha Snively, Independent Scholar
Digital Humanities Liaison
  • Josh Honn, Northwestern University
Technical and Editorial Assistants
  • Emily Andrey, Northwestern University
  • Elisabeth Chou, Northwestern University
  • Stacey Duncan, Brock University
  • Whitney Taylor, Northwestern University
Digital Storyteller
  • Chad Austin Davis, Northwestern University
Contributing Editors
  • Victoria E. Burke, University of Ottawa
  • Lara Dodds, Mississippi State University
  • Frances E. Dolan, University of California, Davis
  • Elizabeth Zeman Kolkovich, Ohio State University
  • Tara Lyons, Illinois State University
  • Sarah C. E. Ross, Victoria University of Wellington
  • Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, King’s College London
  • Helen Smith, University of York
  • Samantha Snively, University of California, Davis
  • Rachel Zhang, Columbia University
Advisory Board
  • Victoria E. Burke, University of Ottawa
  • Lara Dodds, Mississippi State University
  • Frances E. Dolan, University of California, Davis
  • Elizabeth Kolkovich, The Ohio State University, Mansfield
  • Sarah C. E. Ross, Victoria University of Wellington
  • Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, King’s College London
  • Helen Smith, University of York
Advisory Board members group photo
The Pulter Project Co-creators and Advisory Board Members, gathered at Poet in the Making: A Symposium on Hester Pulter’s Poems and The Pulter Project, Northwestern University, July, 2018. From the left: Leah Knight, Lara Dodds, Frances Dolan, Victoria Burke, Elizabeth Kolkovich, Sarah Ross, Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, and Wendy Wall.
Editorial Board
  • Rebecca Bushnell, University of Pennsylvania
  • Joseph Campana, Rice University
  • Kate Chedgzoy, Newcastle University
  • Danielle Clarke, University College, Dublin
  • Elizabeth Clarke, Warwick University
  • Marie-Louise Coolahan, National University of Ireland, Galway
  • Julie Crawford, Columbia University
  • Katherine Eggert, University of Colorado
  • Margaret Ferguson, University of California, Davis
  • Patricia Fumerton, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Jonathan Gibson, University of London
  • Mary Ellen Lamb, Southern Illinois University
  • Rick Rambuss, Brown University
  • Paul Salzman, La Trobe University
  • Rosalind Smith, The University of Newcastle
  • Alan Stewart, Columbia University
  • Mihoko Suzuki, University of Miami
Acknowledgments
  • Jonathan Ainsworth,
  • Peter Auger,
  • Liza Blake,
  • William Bowen,
  • John Bresland,
  • Regina Buccola,
  • Dympna Callaghan,
  • Kimberly Coles,
  • Kathy Daniels,
  • Laura DeFurio,
  • Jodie Double,
  • Heather Dubrow,
  • Paul Dyck,
  • Alice Eardley,
  • Joanne Fitton,
  • Ken Graham,
  • Pamela Hammons,
  • Myriah Harris,
  • Megan Heffernan,
  • Nicole A. Jacobs,
  • Ken Kajoranta,
  • Y. Pearl Kim,
  • Christina Luckyj,
  • Jill Mannor,
  • Jeffrey Masten,
  • Katherine Maus,
  • Nathan Mead,
  • Martin Mueller,
  • Maureen Mulvihill,
  • Vin Nardizzi,
  • David Norbrook,
  • Lena Cowen Orlin,
  • Patricia Pender,
  • Susie Phillips,
  • Oliver Pickering,
  • Tripthi Pillai,
  • Stephanie Pietros,
  • Kerry Plunkett,
  • Sarah Prescott,
  • Johanna Schmitz,
  • Michael Schoenfeldt,
  • Raymond Siemens,
  • Nigel Smith,
  • Leah Wall,
  • Janet Wright Starner,
  • Helen Wilcox,
  • Rachel Zhang,
  • Georgianna Ziegler
Institutional Partners
  • Northwestern University
  • Brock University
  • University of Leeds

The Site

About

The Pulter Project site brings together a variety of content, including expository materials as well as two avenues for encountering Pulter’s poems, which themselves are presented in multiple versions. The first avenue for encountering the poems is made possible by a comparison tool that allows for simultaneously comparing editions, transcriptions, and facsimiles of the manuscript; the second avenue offers a reading tool for concentrating on a single edition of a poem as well as its annotations and curations.

To realize the greatest possible efficiencies, the project team adopted a production workflow centered around XML and, following this, a set of transformations and procedures to convert TEI-XML-encoded source data into the various representations of the poems and their editions needed to populate both parts of the site. Supporting material for curations and explorations has been encoded in static HTML that rigorously follows consistent styles.

The comparison tool is powered by the Versioning Machine 5.0 by Susan Schreibman and others. Starting from its original codebase, the project team applied numerous adjustments and modifications to support the demands of the project. These changes are released under the same GNU General Public License under which the original software was obtained.

The reading tool is developed at the Media and Design Studio with the help of numerous open-source tools and libraries. This reading tool is and its source code are released under a Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA license.

Contributions

The Pulter Project seeks contributions to its expanding body of materials, including:

  • further amplified editions (edited versions of any of the poems): these might include translations, modernizations, old-spelling editions, experimentally annotated editions, and sound and video recordings;
  • “Curations” for individual poems;
  • “Explorations” for groups of poems, gathered in order to articulate and exhibit their relations with each other and possibly with other materials (textual and otherwise).

To submit a proposal, please contact Wendy Wall and Leah Knight with a brief description and/or a short sample of the material you propose and your rationale for its inclusion in The Pulter Project.

Corrections

In the spirit of early modern publishing—in which printers would often request readers to contact them with their observations of errors, so they might be corrected in subsequent editions—we invite readers to contact us about any typographical or factual errors so that we might correct them. Please do not hesitate to bring your observations to our attention.