Samuel Beckett
Digital Manuscript Project

Manual for the Beckett Digital Library

[navigating: browsing] · [book view] · [navigating: searching] · [student library]
The Beckett Digital Library is a corpus of 815 extant book volumes and 247 virtual entries. The module contains scans of book covers, title pages, all pages that contain reading traces, flyleaves, colophons, tables of contents and indexes.
The role of the BDL module is first and foremost to present the volumes that are still extant in Beckett's apartment in Paris, in archives (Beckett International Foundation) and private collections (James and Elizabeth Knowlson Collection, Anne Atik, Noga Arikha, Terence Killeen,...). For books in archives and private collections, a "Current Location" entry is added to the bibliographical details. The majority of book volumes have no "Current Location" entry, since they are preserved in Beckett's apartment.

Navigating the website: browsing

The module can be used either by browsing or by searching through it. The upper horizontal bar serves as a browsing tool that can sort alphabetically among authors, titles and places of publication. The number of items retrieved is shown under each letter to give an idea of how relevant or representative a specific search query is.
It is also possible to sort the library chronologically according to the date of publication. In this case, the browsing bar allows users to view the results grouped by century (the 1700s and 1800s) for old books and by decade for books published in the 1900s. Entries that do not mention a date of publication are listed under 'n.d.'
If one of these first four fields (Author - Title - Place - Date) is selected in combination with a letter or a specific period, the query will be summarized in a "breadcrumb trail" that is located by default between the search bar and the list of results. This trail indicates the various steps taken to reach the current search result.
The last three fields in the browsing bar may be used to reduce the corpus according to the presence of specific attributes in the book volumes: "Inscription", "Reading Traces" and "Student library".
Clicking the tab "All Reading Traces" will generate a list of books that contain reading traces of any kind, sorted by author's name. The "Marginalia only" tab will further limit the corpus to books with annotations in the margins.

The following information is provided for each book volume:
  • Bibliographical data: author's surname, name, title, place of publication, publishing house, year (additionally, if different, year of first edition) and editor or translator.
  • The inscription field signals the presence of Beckett's signature or initials (at times accompanied by the place and date of acquisition), as well as dedications in the author's hand or that of a previous owner.
  • If there are reading traces in the book, a list of the page numbers on which they occur is given. The page numbers appear in red to help identify books with reading traces more easily.
  • The Notes refer to Beckett's copy of the edition and its distinctive features, such as the state of the book, the presence of a bookseller's stamp, pages that have been folded over or a piece of paper inserted between pages. They also provide additional information on the reading traces if these appear not to be in Beckett's hand.
  • Manuscript Link: if a book in the BDL can be connected to a passage in Beckett's manuscripts, a link will direct the user to the relevant document.

Extant book view

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All books in the index for which scans are available can be clicked to enter the "book view". In this view the screen is split in two, with facsimiles on the left side and a description on the right.
By default the cover of the book will be the opening facsimile on the left. In the case of multiple scans, users can navigate through the facsimiles using the "previous" and "next" buttons in the top corners of the images or by clicking the page numbers in the "Available scans" drop-down menu.
In the book view, some parts of the bibliographical information above the facsimile can be clicked to produce a list of volumes that share the same author, place or date of publication.

Reading traces

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Reading traces may consist of underlined or marked passages, dog-eared pages, and "marginalia", i.e. words or drawings in the margins or on separate pieces of paper, written by Beckett or by a previous owner of the book.
If a page contains reading traces, zone numbers appear in the left margin of the image, at the same level as their corresponding trace.
Clicking on a zone number will activate two pop-up windows on the right side of the screen. The first window is a cropped picture of the reading trace in question, while the second is a text box with a transcription of the reading trace. Clicking the zone image will magnify it, clicking again will undo the magnification. To hide the zone popups, click the 'close' button in the top-right corner of the text box or anywhere on the left-hand facsimile.
If a passage is marked or underlined and that passage is an independent sentence spanning no more than two lines, the image will only zoom in on the line or lines which make up that sentence. Similarly, the text box will display the full transcription of the marked or underlined passage.
In cases where a passage runs on to the next line, the transcription will reproduce the line breaks.
If a marked or underlined passage consists of three or more lines and consists of a full independent sentence, the text box will only show the transcription of the beginning and the end of the passage (generally three to four words at each end). This way of visualizing the transcription is economical as it saves space and avoids information overload. However, the option to visualize a full transcription of longer passages is also available by clicking "full extract". Although it may seem redundant to transcribe passages which are clearly legible on the facsimile, such a transcription does make it possible to perform a search in the reading traces. In every case the writing tool used to mark the passage is indicated.
If the marked or underlined passage is part of a sentence, the snippet will zoom in on the full sentence, while the text box will only give the transcription of the highlighted passage.
When the reading trace also consists of a marginal annotation, the image will include both the annotation and the marked passage.
If the annotation is written in the margin from top to bottom or vice versa, the image fragment is rotated to enhance readability. The accompanying marked passsage is excluded from the image, but it is included in the transcription of the zone.
In the case of an annotated underlined passage, the image shows the underlined words in the context of the full sentence together with the marginal remark, while the text box offers a transcription of the annotation and the underlined passage. In order to respect the line breaks of the facsimile, the transcription follows the order in which the two elements appear on the page. Exceptionally, if the annotation is made on the same level as the underlined passage, the two will be separated by a slash in the text box transcription.
When browsing through a marked book, it is possible to look for keywords among its reading traces by entering terms into the 'Search' box at the top of the webpage and setting the filter to "This book (reading traces)".
When searching through a book's reading traces, you can always type in "marginalia" to bring up all the marginal annotations contained in that book.

Navigating the website: searching

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The search function of the module extends to the various fields of the bibliographical entry (author, title, place, date) or to the transcriptions of the reading traces.

Searching the bibliography

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Once a search has been performed for the occurrences of a specific word in the bibliography, the result page lists the entries that contain the word and highlights the occurrences using yellow background.

Searching the reading traces

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The search result for reading traces are listed per zone. Each instance is illustrated by a cropped image of the reading trace within the surrounding context on the page, alongside a text box with the transcription of the reading trace or of the full sentence in which it appears. The transcriptions observe the line breaks of the original text for an easier and faster comparison. The keyword may appear either as part of a marked or underlined passage or in the marginalia.

Student library

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The student library is a subset of books within the Beckett Digital Library. It features both extant and virtual titles that Beckett read or may have read during his student years at Trinity College Dublin (1923-1927), but also later when he was still engaged with academia as a lecturer at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris and TCD (1928-1931). The extant student library consists of the books dating from this period that have been preserved in the aforementioned collections. The virtual student library features books of which no physical copy has been found, either because it was lost, given to someone else or never personally owned by Beckett.

Student library titles are part of the BDL but they can also be separated by clicking the 'Student Library' tab in the top navigation bar. For each book, at least the name of the author and the title of the work is mentioned. Additionally, all entries contain two distinctive attributes: the supposed date of reading and the source that supports the inclusion of the book in the student library. This information is displayed in a green 'Student Library Info' box in the top right corner when an extant title is clicked. The virtual titles can be identified by their lack of thumbnail cover and the turquoise banner that reads 'VIRTUAL'. Users cannot click to view these items in detail on a separate page, since all available information is already provided in the index list.
When viewing the student library separately from the BDL, users have the option to either include or exclude books from the virtual library in the list. When taken together, a chronological view is also available for these titles, with the option to browse a specific year.