Samuel Beckett
Digital Manuscript Project


This is the Manual as it was published on 24/06/2011. The document has since been updated for the publication of the second module: L'Innommable / The Unnamable (September 2013). Click here to go back to the updated version.
This manual is organized according to the items in the main menu of the first module of the Beckett Digital Manuscript Project, the electronic edition of Stirrings Still / Soubresauts. Some of the functions of the menu are also accessible via quicklinks on the right hand side. The quicklinks remain directly accessible whenever you scroll down.

1. Documents

In the menu, the heading 'documents' contains the following options:
  • a catalogue: a survey (and short description) of the documents (each MS number is clickable and linked to the corresponding transcript);
  • a pageflip reconstruction of notebooks (MS 2934 for Stirrings Still / Soubresauts and MS 3316/1 for Comment dire / what is the word).
  • facsimiles: scanned images of the documents;
  • topographic transcriptions: a graphic representation of the documents (respecting the layout of the pages);
  • linear transcriptions: a textual representation of the documents (always linked to the relevant facsimile by means of a thumbnail).

2. Chronology

The intricate composition process of Stirrings Still / Soubresauts is charted in a genetic map. The transcriptions of the documents can be accessed by clicking on the corresponding archive numbers. Although the catalogue numbers reflect the chronology of versions,[1] some documents (notably the 'Super Conquérant' Notebook, UoR MS 2934) contain more than one version of a particular passage. The versions in this document are not successive, since Beckett made alternate use of this notebook and loose sheets of paper. In the case of Beckett's penultimate text, the writing of the three sections that eventually became Stirrings Still (sections 1, 2, and 3) was preceded by three abandoned sections. To distinguish them, the abandoned sections are identified by a zero preceding the number ('before Stirrings Still', sections 01, 02, and 03).

3. Compare versions

The versions of those parts of the genesis that made it into the base text can be arranged in chronological order and compared in three different sizes, as the example of Stirrings Still illustrates: Large (the section); Medium (the paragraph); Small (the sentence).

3.1. Sentences/Segments (Small)

All the versions of each sentence or segment can be presented in vertical juxtaposition, starting from any version of the text: each sentence or segment that made it into the base text is preceded by an icon (a grey bullet); by clicking on the icon preceding a particular sentence or segment its composition history can be viewed in vertical juxtaposition. If a document only contains sentences that did not make it into the base text, this is made explicit at the top of the page.
Every version is preceded by two buttons. Two versions can be compared in parallel presentation by means of the buttons corresponding to the texts of your choice: the left-hand button will place the corresponding text in a left-hand frame, the right-hand button in the right-hand frame.
By choosing e.g. the left button next to the first version, and the right button next to the last version the textual evolution of this one sentence can be viewed at a glance by clicking on the 'parallel version comparison' button at the bottom of the page (which will show both versions in parallel presentation).

3.2. Paragraphs (Medium)

For the synoptic paragraph view, a similar procedure can be followed, starting from any version of the text: each paragraph is preceded by an icon (a grey bullet); by clicking on the icon preceding a particular paragraph, its complete composition history can be viewed.

3.3. Sections (Large)

The same procedure can be followed to compare versions of a whole section.

4. Language

This option facilitates examination of either
(a) all French drafts or
(b) all English drafts exclusively. Some French versions are originally written in French, whereas others are translations.
(c) Early translations can be visualized separately, facing the version on which they are based (in parallel presentation).
(d) Bilingual comparison: this option highlights mismatches between the English and French versions. Translation variants are marked in blue. The absence of a word or phrase vis-à-vis the text in the other language is visualized by means of a vertical bar |.

5. Tools

The 'Tools' section in the main menu presents four different visualizations of the internal composition history of each document:

5.1. Default transcription

This default visualization indicates cancellations with strike-through; additions in superscript; additions on the facing leaf in green.

5.2. Place indications

This more detailed visualization explicitly mentions the place of an addition (e.g. place = supralinear, when a word is added above the line).

5.3. Writing tools

This option explicitly mentions the writing tools Beckett used for cancellations and additions. Aditions and deletions are presented in the colour of the writing tools with which Samuel Beckett has made them: e.g. black ink, pencil, red ink.

5.4. Top layer

A reading text of the undeleted parts of the draft.

5.5. Metamarks On/Off

The manuscript pages contain a number of features that are not part of the text itself. These so-called metamarks are introduced by the author to indicate how the text will have to be pieced together when it is copied in the next version. For instance, two corresponding instances of the letter 'A' indicate where an addition is to be inserted.

5.6. XML Encoding

The XML encoding can be viewed at any point in the edition.

5.7. Notes On/Off

Notes are indicated by means of an icon with a boxed N. Clicking on the icon makes the note appear in a pop-up box. This option can be switched off in the 'Tools' section of the menu.

6. Search

The search engine offers full-text searches of all the transcriptions and notes. The results appear within the context of the sentence in which the search string was found, with the search string highlighted. Searches can also be finetuned to include only occurrences within the two most prominent features of manuscripts: additions and deletions. The search engine makes use of the eXist XML retrieval engine (
As an extra, a number of potentially interesting searches are suggested, such as 'intertextual references', 'instant corrections', or 'transpositions'. They can be run by selecting them from the dropdown menu under 'Suggested searches'. The search for 'Intertextual references', for instance, calls up allusions to passages by such authors as Shakespeare and Dante (and corresponding annotations).

7. Stable URL's for documents

The Beckett Digital Manuscript Project has at its essence a collection of facsimiles and transcriptions of existing physical documents that can be found in archives. They have been digitized and named on the basis of their catalogue numbers. Every such document has a stable and unique URL that you can use in quotations or bibliographies, as well as type in directly in your browser to access that document.
is the stable URL for the 'Super Conquérant' notebook, which was catalogued in the University of Reading as number '2934'. This webaddress leads to a facsimile of the first available page from that document.,10v
is the stable URL for the page that we have numbered as 10v in the document MS-UoR-2934.
Habitual visitors of Beckett archives can also try typing in just the catalogue numbers without any prefix. The site will cross-reference this string against the available documents, and redirect the user if it finds a match.


[1] Only the chronology of UoR MSS 2935/3/11, 2935/3/12, 2935/3/10 and 2935/3/9 differs slightly from the order suggested by the archive numbers.