Tours of Wales and Scotland, 1760-1820: Methodology


Thomas Pennant’s Welsh and Scottish tours were a major catalyst for the hundreds of tours that followed in their wake over the next half century. While some of these texts were published in the period, and became important works in their own right, many more remain in manuscript in libraries and record offices the length and breadth of Britain. The Curious Travellers project aims to chart the influence of Pennant on subsequent travellers to Wales and Scotland by creating a searchable online collection of these unpublished tours. Our edition of manuscripts texts from the period will enable us to explain in much more detail the role of home tourism in the construction of national histories and identities, both at a ‘four nations’ level, and in wider contexts. In considering how the selected tours represent contemporary and historical Britain, the project will also examine travellers’ engagement with vernacular Celtic cultures, including language, poetry and song, and ask how far their perceptions were influenced by contemporary ideas from science, landscape aesthetics and topography.

The following editorial guidelines were produced by Dr Alex Deans and Dr Elizabeth Edwards (Research Associates), with input from Dr Mary-Ann Constantine (PI), Dr Nigel Leask (Co-I) and Dr Luca Guariento (Web Developer).

Edition Contents

The Curious Travellers website presents transcriptions of some twenty-five (and counting) previously unpublished tours, with a range of search facilities and supporting introductory and editorial material. Manuscript home tours can be found in research libraries and record offices all over Britain, and the final selection draws on material held in geographically-scattered institutions (e.g., the British Library, the University of Manchester John Rylands Library, a range of local record offices). Substantial collections of Welsh and Scottish tours exist particularly in the National Library of Wales and National Library of Scotland, and items from these repositories form the backbone of our edition. Budget constraints did not allow for fully reproducing original images of the manuscripts online, though our introductions are illustrated with contemporary images where possible. Each document has its own individual record in the project database, containing metadata (information such as its author, date of composition, source repository). 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 scholars. Our textual/editorial policy reflects that of ‘The Letters of Thomas Pennant’ in order to standardise the presentation of texts across the project as a whole as far as possible. It is therefore based, with some adaptation and variations, on that devised by Dr David Shuttleton for the AHRC funded project ‘Consultation Letters of Dr William Cullen (1710-1790) at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh’. There are fewer examples of modern editions of unpublished travel writing, but we have also consulted Marie E. McAllister’s edition of Ann Flaxman’s manuscript continental tour, An Uninteresting Detail of a Journey to Rome (1787-9) , published by Romantic Circles Electronic Editions, and Alastair J. Durie’s edited selection of unpublished Scottish tours, Travels in Scotland 1788-1881 A Selection From Contemporary Tourist Journals (Boydell Press, 2012).

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 text of the tour, including the original paragraphing, punctuation, period spellings, misspellings, grammatical solecisms, neologisms, authorial punctuation, contractions, abbreviations, superscripts, underlinings, italics, deletions, numberings, symbols, marginalia, etc. Wherever practicable, this extends to any later additions in the form of headings, marginal notes etc. Original spelling and grammar is silently retained, however TEI <sic></sic> tags are used where apparent authorial slips or solecisms could be mistaken for transcription or editorial errors, e.g. in the case of needlessly repeated words.

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 original line breaks, but, following McAllister, have indicated page breaks in the original manuscript by means of superscripts in the right-hand margin. In the case of poems or songs, the lineation of the manuscript has been retained. Where necessary editorial notes have been inserted in the form of clickable links, in order to distinguish them from authorial notes, which appear at the end of the text.

Our more detailed policy on particular matters of transcription follows below:

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’ – are retained.

Some different rules apply for specific issues:

XML content markup

In addition to encoding each document’s structure (e.g. paragraph breaks – although not line breaks, in contrast with the Letters) a TEI P5 XML schema adapted to the aims of the project has been used to mark up content features of each tour: 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:

Document information in the database record

The record for each document, each person, and each place, contains information in specific fields.


Scholarly editions in book-form

Scholarly editions (electronic)

Miscellaneous reference