CURIOUS TRAVELLERS: THOMAS PENNANT AND THE WELSH AND SCOTTISH TOUR, 1760-1820
The Correspondence of Thomas Pennant: Methodology
Curious Travellers editions provides an online edition of selections from the
correspondence of Thomas Pennant. Scattered among various archives and libraries and
hitherto largely inaccessible to readers, the letters offer crucial insights into
the creation of Pennant's Scottish and Welsh tours. In a reflection of the scope of
the tours, they bring together correspondents within the British Isles and beyond to
discuss subjects as diverse as natural history, the book trade, antiquarianism,
visual culture and topography. At the same time, the letters offer us a window onto
the excitements and practicalities encountered by Pennant and his fellow ‘curious
The following editorial guidelines were produced by Dr Alex Deans (Research
Associate), with input from Dr Mary-Ann Constantine (PI), Dr Nigel Leask (Co-I), Dr
Luca Guariento (Web Developer) and Dr Ffion Mair Jones (Research Associate).
Letters between Thomas Pennant and his correspondents are distributed across
approximately 20 individual repositories, and occur in a variety of manifestations,
although the majority take the form of holograph letters.
Curious Travellers editions displays annotated transcriptions of over five hundred
letters both to and from Pennant, with a range of search facilities and supporting
editorial material. The focus of the selection is on letters that have some bearing
on Pennant’s tours, or related matters concerning natural history, antiquarianism,
or visual documentation.
Each document has its own individual record in the project database, containing
metadata (information such as its author and recipient and their locations, date,
and source). XML tagging records particular areas of interest, such as people and
place names, books, manuscripts and art works mentioned. Our policy on this is
explained in more detail later in this document.
Basis of Textual Policy
While recognizing the importance of reflecting the state of the copy-texts, we also
aim to produce an edition in which fidelity to the sources is reconciled with
clarity for modern readers, including the general public, students and specialist
Our textual/editorial policy is based, with some adaptation and variations, on that
devised by Dr David Shuttleton for the AHRC-funded project The Consultation Letters
of Dr William Cullen (1710-1790) at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.
This was influenced by Thomas Keymer and Peter Sabor’s Cambridge Edition of the
Correspondence of Samuel Richardson (2014), Lars Troide’s The Early Journals and
Letters of Fanny Burney (6 vols., Oxford University Press, 1988–), and Bruce
Redford’s edition of The Letters of Samuel Johnson (5 vols., Princeton University
Press, 1992–4); and David Fairer’s edition of The Correspondence of Thomas Warton
(University of Georgia Press, 1995). We have also referred to the methodology of the
The Collected Letters of Robert Southey, published by Romantic Circles.
The XML schema used for our transcriptions is derived from current Textual Encoding
Initiative (TEI) guidelines. Our general policy
is to reproduce all of the original letter text, including the original
paragraphing, punctuation, neologisms, authorial punctuation, contractions,
abbreviations, superscripts, underlinings, deletions, numberings, symbols,
marginalia and endorsements. Wherever practicable, this extends to any later
additions in the form of headings or early cross-referencing notes. Period
spellings, misspellings, and grammatical solecisms are retained; however, TEI
<sic></sic> tags are used where apparent authorial slips or slips could
be mistaken for transcription or editorial errors, e.g. in the case of needlessly
repeated words. Postal addresses and details of franks and stamps are also marked
up, but enclosures and images are treated at the editors' discretion.
We do not always reproduce the precise visual appearance of the original manuscripts
in terms of layout. If any text continues down the side of a page, for example, we
have treated it as part of a continuous paragraph. While we preserve existing
paragraph breaks and do not impose paragraphing on a document that lacks it, our
paragraphs themselves are standardised in being separated by line breaks and lacking
indentation. We do not retain line or page breaks, as these in general reflect the
physical dimensions of the original letters and carry little meaning in the context
of the typed transcriptions. For this reason, words split over multiple lines or
pages in the original letters have been represented as spelled in the manuscript,
but with spaces and hyphenation removed. Similarly, ‘catch words’ occurring at the
bottom of pages where the letter continues to the next side have been omitted. In
the case of poems or songs, the lineation of the manuscript has been retained. Where
necessary, editorial notes have been inserted in footnotes at the end of the
documents, in order to distinguish them from authorial notes.
Our more detailed policy on particular matters of transcription follows below:
- Upper and Lower Cases: For letter-headings and words appearing mid-sentence, we
reproduce the original use of lower-case and capitals whenever decidable.
Pennant and many other eighteenth-century writers use enlarged letters at the
start of sentences that are not actually capitals (in particular an enlarged
lower-case version of ‘a’ is often employed). For the transcriptions, we render
these as full-capitals (i.e. wherever the start of a new sentence is clearly
indicated in the text by the use of a full-stop or a dash, then we start the
first word with a capital letter). Alternatively, in a number of hands the
lower-case letters ‘c’ and ‘s’ in particular tend to appear more enlarged.
Unless found at the start of the sentence, these are generally treated as
lower-case, but because decisions over whether a letter is a capital or not was
left to the discretion of the transcriber there may inevitably be some minor
variation of treatment over this matter.
- Disguised Names: Where a name is indicated by a number of dashes (e.g. ‘Mr.
F-------’), the exact number of dashes is transcribed.
- Dashes: Dashes are standardised as either short ( - ), medium ( – ) or long (
–––– ) and transcribed, according to normal usage, with a single space both
before and after the dash. Where obvious, we distinguish between straight and
- Brackets: Where obvious, we preserve any original distinction between square and
curved brackets, as well as the use of forward-slashes to serve as brackets.
- Postmarks, handstamps and franks: Postmarks and franks are provided at the foot
of the transcribed letters, alongside handstamps, given in the form of an ink
stamp near the handwritten address indicating the place of posting, e.g.
- Superscript and subscript letters: These are preserved in the transcription.
- Full stops in abbreviations: These are standardised to some degree, to put the
full stop (if one exists) at the end of the abbreviated word – i.e. ‘Wm.’ rather
than ‘W.m’ for ‘William’, regardless of the precise placement of the full stop
on the page.
- Long s (ſ): These are standardised as lower-case ‘s’.
- Salutations, colophons and signatures: Salutations (e.g. ‘Dear Sir’), colophons
(e.g. ‘I am Dear Sir’), and signatures maintain their place as in the original
documents. The original lineation has been preserved both when they appear
in-line with the following or preceding paragraph, and where they are separated
from the letter body in the manuscript.
Expansions and contractions
As David Fairer observes in his edition of Warton, ‘obsolete abbreviations are by
far the largest obstacle to the readability of a text’. The naturalised
transcriptions therefore expand or normalise all abbreviations not in standard use
today: for example, ‘ye’ and ‘yt’ (where the ‘y’ is strictly speaking a thorn) are
expanded to ‘the’ and ‘that’. Abbreviations that are self-explanatory, clear from
the context in which they appear, or occur very frequently – e.g. ‘yr’ for ‘your’ –
Some different rules apply for specific issues:
- Abbreviated signatures: These are relatively common, especially for first names
(i.e. ‘Wm.’ and ‘Jno.’ for ‘William’ and ‘John’). We do not expand these; the
person record for each person mentioned is linked to the document’s database
record, including the full version of their name.
- Contracted surnames: These – e.g. ‘Lady S.’, ‘Lord F.’, 'F.D.' – are not
expanded. Usages of this kind indicate informality and occasionally generate
ambiguity, and for both these reasons they are preserved. Where the person can
be identified, the name has been given an XML ID attribute and can be clicked by
the user to reveal biographical information.
- Contracted book titles: These – e.g ‘Br. Zool’ for British Zoology – have been
retained but tagged using an XML ID attribute that corresponds to the relevant
bibliographical record in the database.
- Common abbreviations: We do not expand any contraction which is still in common
and familiar use today (such as ‘Dr.’ for ‘Doctor’, for example). XML content
markup In addition to encoding each document’s structure (e.g. line and
paragraph breaks), a TEI P5 XML schema adapted to the aims of the project has
been used to mark up content features of each letter: place-names (both
contemporary and modern forms), people (referring to our biographical data
base), published works and their authors, and art works. These elements are
tagged using the <placeName>, <persName>, <bibl>, and
<art> tags respectively. The significant benefit of using XML in this way
is that we can apply the same numeric ID attribute to these elements regardless
of how a particular feature is spelled or expressed, especially useful given the
non-standardized nature of eighteenth-century toponyms, especially in Welsh or
Gaelic. Structural and orthographical elements are treated as follows:
- Letter header: Each document has a TEI header which includes a unique numerical
ID, an indicative title, the name of the original author and recipient, the date
and place of writing, the destination and the shelf-mark or bibliographical
details of the source letter.
- Textual divisions: Corresponding TEI tags are applied to the letter body,
salutation, closer, dateline, postscript and individual paragraphs. Elements
such as datelines are reproduced in the order that they appear in the original
letter, meaning that the structure of the XML documents varies slightly to
reflect the form of the source documents.
- Abbreviations and expansions: Where abbreviations in the original letter present
an obstacle to readablility, a normalised version is provided through the use of
XML encoding (e.g. <choice><abbr>abbreviated
- Highlighted text and characters: Superscript, subscript, underlines and
italicised text are preserved in the transcription through the use of the
corresponding ‘<hi rend=</hi>’ XML encoding.
- Marginalia and annotations: Authorial footnotes and endnotes are retained but
standardised so that any authorial notes appear below the letter body and
postscript, with the point or span of attachment indicated through the ‘target’
attribute, and the location of the note in the source text through the ‘place’
attribute. Where possible, the symbol used to mark the note in the manuscript
has been reproduced or approximated, e.g. x. Marginal notes are placed at the
end of the paragraph to which they refer. Where the author of a note or
annotation differs from that of the main letter this is indicated through the
TEI <resp> (responsibility) element and the author identified if possible.
The <handshift> element is used to indicate the beginning of text written
in a new hand, whether in a note or elsewhere in the document. Both marginal
notes and authorial footnotes and endnotes are rendered distinctly from
editorial footnotes, the former attached to the text by Roman numerals, the
latter by Arabic numerals and appearing at the very end of the documents.
- Substitutions and additions: Authorial additions (where distinct from notes) and
substitutions of words and characters into a line or sequence are tagged in XML
and the position of the inserted text is given, e.g. above, below, margin.
- Deletions and illegible or unclear text: These are marked using XML elements.
Where legible, both strikethroughs and the words beneath them are reproduced; if
the deleted text is illegible but the number of deleted characters or words can
be determined, this quantity is provided. Gaps where text is illegible or
destroyed are indicated in the mark-up, with the number of missing characters or
words given where available. Text which has been transcribed but which is
unclear in the original document is also tagged accordingly. Reasons are given
for unclear or missing text, e.g. damaged or torn manuscripts.
- Lists and tables: These are common due to Pennant’s interest in natural history
and antiquarianism, and are reproduced as accurately as possible, inclusive of
lineation and alignment, with an approximate number of dotted lines or dashes
given to represent the original design where applicable – through priority has
been given to preserving the general layout of tables rather than reproducing
the precise quantity of characters used to form rows and borders. These features
are encoded as list or table elements in TEI XML.
Document information in the database record The record for each document, person,
place, books or manuscript, and art work contains information in specific fields. These
reflect categories used in the correspondence database Early Modern Letters Online
(EMLO) and signal the compatibility of Curious Travellers editions with EMLO for
purposes of further research across multiple fields of interest.
- ID: This is the unique numerical identifier, assigned by the database.
- Date: There are three fields for each date (year, month and day). Where the date
of the letter is not clear from explicit dating on the document itself, or where
that dating is unclear due to damage or authorial error, there are three levels
of certainty: date inferred, date uncertain and date approximate. Our policy is
to use ‘inferred’ only if we can be certain, due to internal or surrounding
evidence, of a document’s date of writing, but there is no explicit dating on
the document itself.
- Languages: Languages used in the letter, e.g. English, Welsh, Latin
- Notes on Letter: Free-text notes on the letter – e.g if the manifestation is
unusual in some way, is evidently incomplete or if the letter originally
- Repository: Name of the institution in which the original document is held – e.g
National Library of Scotland
- Shelfmark: Shelfmark assigned to the original document by its repository.
- MS Manifestation: The form of the original document, e.g. manuscript letter,
draft, scribal copy.
- People connected to a document are linked to that document with a specific role,
which is always one of the following:
- Author – The person who has written, and typically signed, the letter.
Where there is ambiguity this field can be marked as Uncertain or
- Recipient – The person to whom the letter is sent. Where there is
ambiguity this field can be marked as Uncertain or Inferred.
- People Mentioned – Any people mentioned in the letter, who do not fit in
the above categories.
Each person included in the archive has their own database record, with
particular types of information recorded about them, namely an ID, title,
first, middle names or initials, maiden or birth name, other names by which
they are known (also known as), occupation, and gender.
- Places connected to a document also have specific roles, along with levels of
certainty (inferred, uncertain) for each role:
- 'Place of writing' – The place where a letter was written; this may be
distinct from the place of its postage.
- 'Place of origin' – The place from which the letter was sent. If this is
not explicit from the document itself this is given as the place of
writing specified by the author and marked as uncertain, or otherwise
left empty and marked as uncertain.
- 'Destination of letter' – Self-explanatory.
- Placers mentioned – All place names mentioned, including names relating
to tours or information requested.
- Place of handstamp – Used for all letters which have an ink stamp on the
wrapper giving the name of the postal town.
‘Coordinates’ – that allow it to be located on a map.
- Publications mentioned by Pennant and his correspondents and bibliographical
information are assigned the following information:
- ID – This is the unique numerical identifier, assigned by the database.
- Title – The full title of the work.
- Author – The named author or authors of the work.
- Year of publication – Self-explanatory.
- Place of Publication – Self-explanatory.
- Publisher – Self-explanatory.
- Edition – The specific edition of the work referred to in the letter, if
this is given.
- Language – The language in which the work is printed, e.g. English,
- Type – The type of publication, e.g. book, pamphlet, periodical.
Scholarly editions in book-form
- Battestin, Martin C., and Clive T. Probyn, eds., The Correspondence of Henry
and Sarah Fielding (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993).
- Kahrl, George M., and David M. Little, eds., The Letters of David
Garrick. 3 vols. (London: Oxford University Press, 1963).
- Pettit, Henry, ed., The Correspondence of Edward Young (Oxford: Clarendon
- Redford, Bruce, ed., The Letters of Samuel Johnson. 5 vols. (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1991-93).
Scholarly editions (electronic)
- Textual Encoding
Initiative P5 Guidelines
- Alcock, R. C., and F. C. Holland, The Postmarks of Great Britain and Ireland,
Being a Survey of British Postmarks from 1660 to 1940 (Cheltenham: R. C.
Alcock, 1940), and later supplements; see also their British
Postmarks: A Short History and Guide, 2nd edn. (1968).
- Fitch, Henry, The Perfect Calendar for Every Year of the Christian Era
(New York: Funk and Wagnells, 1928). An on-line search on ‘perpetual calendar’
brings up several useful sites for calculating days of the week in any given
month and year; see also here.
- Hunter, Joseph, ed. J. C. Clay, Familiae minorum gentium. 4 vols. The
Harleian Society. Vols. 37-40 (London: Harleian Society, 1894-96).
- Hyde, Ralph, ed., The A to Z of Georgian London (London: London
Topographical Society, 1982). This work reprints, with index, John Rocque’s map
- Salmon, Vivian, “Orthography and Punctuation”, in The Cambridge History of
the English Language, Volume III: 1476-1776, ed. Roger Lass (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 13-55.
- Zurcher, Andrew, et al., “English Handwriting 1500-1700: An Online Course,”. This
is a Renaissance resource, but some of the later examples are relevant and