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How to Do Things with 1.65 Billion Words

Spenser and Big Stylometrics

Loewenstein and Basu are the creators of “Early Modern Print: Text Mining Early Printed English,” which offers a range of tools for the computational exploration and analysis of English print culture before 1700. The site was designed to help scholars make sense of the incomparable textual archive produced by the EEBO Text Creation Partnership, consisting of a set of transcriptions of the first two centuries of English print. While EEBO-TCP provides access to a massive collection of texts that promises to transform the way scholars approach this period, it also presents significant technical and conceptual challenges. The relative accuracy (given its scale) of the EEBO-TCP corpus that makes it such a valuable resource for scholars also makes it complex for computational analysis. The corpus faithfully reproduces the evolving and irregular orthographic and syntactic conventions of the early modern period, and retains much of the necessarily incomplete and irregular metadata drawn from the original title pages. Any computational approach to the EEBO-TCP corpus, therefore, needs to not only encounter the digital surrogates of early modern texts, but must take into account the material and ideological conditions that underlie this first information revolution.


Joseph Loewenstein, Professor, Department of English, Director Of the Humanities Digital Workshop and the Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities, Washington University. Professor Loewenstein’s two most recent books - The Author’s Due (2002) and Jonson and Possessive Authorship (2002) - are studies of Early Modern intellectual property, the prehistory of copyright, and he is currently working on the Complete Works of Edmund Spenser for Oxford University Press. Loewenstein directs the Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities as well as the Humanities Digital Workshop.

Anupam Basu, Mark Steinberg Weil Early Career Fellow in Digital Humanities, Washington University. Before joining Washington University and building the Early Modern Print suite of tools, Basu completed his dissertation at the University of Wisconsin in 2011. ‘Rabblement of rascals’: Representing crime and social change in early modern England traces how an emerging discourse of criminality entered and shaped the social imaginary of early modern England.

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