Samuel Beckett Digital Manuscript Archive

The Samuel Beckett Digital Manuscript Archive is an initiative that comes from several partnering institutions, namely the Centre for Manuscript Genetics (University of Antwerp), the Beckett International Foundation (University of Reading), and the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (University of Texas at Austin), with the permission of the Estate of Samuel Beckett.

The key goal of this project is to “is to reunite the manuscripts of Samuel Beckett’s works in a digital way, and to facilitate genetic research.” More specifically, this platform “brings together digital facsimiles of documents” which are housed in different archives, libraries, and special collections. The project also offers transcriptions of Beckett’s manuscripts, tools for bilingual and genetic version comparison, an analysis of the textual genesis of Beckett’s works, and a search engine.

The resource aims to help researchers and scholars to require immediate access to the manuscripts and typescripts produced by Samuel Beckett. The website, as of now, hosts eight major works: “Endgame,” ‘Waiting for Godot,” “Malone Dies,” Molloy,” Krapp’s Last Tape,” “the Unnamable,” “Stirrings Still,” and “what is the word.” However, only one work is not being password protected and, therefore, accessible. That means that in order to work with all other manuscripts, you should get an individual or institutional subscription.  

If its primary goal, or the first goal, is to make the texts available, the second goal of the project is to build a platform that would serve as an active laboratory studying the “variants” of SB’s works—often produced in both languages, English and French. This is a place dealing with such matters as genetic criticism and textual scholarship relying on different editorial and philological traditions offered by scholars. Of special interest is an introductory essay entitled: “Editorial Principles and Practice.” In it, the editors show their philosophy and practices as they approach the Beckett manuscripts; in particular, dealing with facsimiles and transcriptions (using an encoding in XML [eXtensible Markup Language]), transcription methods (relying, in part, on suggestions by the TEI Special Interest Group), transcription conventions (such as deletion, deletion within a deletion, addition, script, unclear reading, addition on the facing leaf, illegible character, transportation, etc.), collation and relative collaboration.

Manuscripts aside, the project also hosts the Beckett Digital Library—again, available only to subscribers, so it’s hard to say what’s inside. From the description, you can find out that the BDL is a digital reconstruction of SB’s personal library. At the moment it houses 762 extant volumes and 247 virtual entries with no physical copy. The whole project is an example that attempts and succeeds in the “reconstruction of dynamics of the composition process.” By looking and comparing various variants of the same work which versions are held at different places, the project demonstrates the unique opportunities the digital scholarly editions may offer in the future.