Online scholarship

Russon Wooldridge

University of Toronto

© 2001 R. Wooldridge

[Text prepared for the Consortium for Computers in the Humanities / Consortium pour ordinateurs en science humaines (COCH/COSH) session of the annual congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences Federation of Canada, Toronto, May 2002. It is an English version of "L'érudition en ligne", published in December 2001.]


The following is intended to demonstrate, using as examples some of the documents published on the World Wide Web by the present writer, a few of the advantages of the medium of the Internet, compared to paper and the CD-ROM, for, on the one hand, the expression and the dissemination of scholarship, and, on the other hand, its reception and use. In short, it's a question of the increased power of the author and of the equally increased power of the reader.

The advantages of the Internet compared to paper are different from those of the Internet compared to the CD-ROM. The former will be illustrated throughout the examples that follow. The latter are concerned above all with the complete mastery exercised by the researcher over his or her subject and over the resulting circulated object without the intervention of extrinsic commercial or political considerations ; at the same time, the reader has free access to scholarship and direct access to the author, thus allowing for a dynamic and even creative dialogue.

The scholarly value of what is put on line is not at issue here : the medium is virtual, just like the blank page of paper. Suffice it then to say that the author of the materials discussed here received his training in the schools of Manchester, Besançon, Paris, Nancy, Strasbourg and Toronto.

The paper does not end with a conclusion : it is up to the reader to draw his or her own conclusion. Syntheses of the present writer's online publications are given in "Synthèse des travaux de R. Wooldridge" and "Summary of electronic publications".

1. Databases of the Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

The Dictionnaire de l'Académie française (Dictionary of the French Academy) is present on my Web site in several forms : 1) as a Base Échantillon (sample database), created in 1994 for a colloquium held at the Institut de France ; 2) as a component of a Base Échantillon des Dictionnaires Français Anciens (sample database of early French dictionaries) ; 3) the editions of 1694 and 1835 can be queried in a global interactive database under TACTweb. A selection of dictionary articles, the same ones taken from each of the eight complete editions and representing 1 % of the complete text, as well as the prefaces of the eight editions, are offered in three forms : a) scans of the original pages ; b) an HTML transcription ; and c) a global interactive database.

In a paper on some of the aspects of the computerized database of the Dictionnaire de l'Académie françoise of 1694 presented in 1998 (Wooldridge 1998), I illustrated the enrichment of the treatment of the word vin, a study made possible by full-text access to the digitized dictionary. The interactive database of the combined editions of 1694 (DAF 1694) and 1835 (DAF 1835) allows one to go further. I present here, in the form of a comparative table, the principal usages of vin in which it is a question of the virtues of wine.

One notices that the occurrences are spread throughout the dictionary text except under the entry VIN itself, although DAF 1835 picks up two or three. The reader who observes the cooccurrence in several examples of vin and cerveau can do a search in the interactive database on all the contexts of the latter word, just as on the former. The database user is not limited to what is offered in the way of examples in a given study.

2. The sample database of early French dictionaries

The Base Échantillon des Dictionnaires Français Anciens offers, among other things, the prefaces of over twenty dictionaries : Estienne 1539 and 1549 (E1539, E1549); Thierry 1564 (T); Dupuys 1573 (D); Stoer 1593, 1599 and 1603 (S1593, S1599, S1603); Nicot 1606 (N); Marquis 1609 (M); Voultier 1612 (V); Richelet 1680 (R); Furetière 1690 (Fu); Académie 1694, 1718, 1740, 1762, 1798, 1835, 1878 and 1932-5 (A1694, etc.); Trévoux 1721 and 1771 (T1721, T1771); Richelet portatif 1784 (Rp); Féraud 1787 (Fé). These documents are presented in three forms : original pages, HTML transcriptions and a global interactive database. I will illustrate the last through queries on the contexts of the word usage: No commentary is offered here ; the user-reader can construct his or her own, based on the original, and with the help of the searchable transcriptions and interactive database, as well, of course, as with that of online, library or bookshop reading.

3. RenDico, RenTexte

In RenDico and RenTexte, I have put on line several Renaissance dictionaries and texts, including Robert Estienne's Dictionarium latinogallicum (1552), Jean Nicot's Thresor de la langue françoyse (1606), the Grand Dictionaire françois-latin (1593-1628), Vitruvius' treatise on architecture (trans. Martin, 1547), a triumphal entry of Henri II into Rouen (1551), Du Fouilloux' treatise on hunting (1561), Vigenere's Traicté des chiffres (1586), and Plutarch's OEuvres morales (trans. Amyot, 1587).

3.1. Database of Renaissance botanical terminology

Starting from a search in the Dictionarium latinogallicum and the Thresor of key-words such as arbor, arbre, fleur, flos, fructus, fruict, fruit, frutex, herba, herbe, noix, nux, plante, etc., and of their thematic cooccurrents, one can gather together in short order the majority of the dictionary articles to do with botanical vocabulary (about a thousand articles and three thousand terms). It is interesting, for example, to compare the data of the Latin-French dictionary (DLG) with that of the French-Latin (Thresor).

A simple example : AEGILOPS:

In the Thresor, one finds : The French word coquiole is not in the French-Latin dictionary.

3.2. Database of Renaissance nautical terms

Jacques Dupuys speaks, in the preface of the Dictionaire françois-latin of 1573, of a treatise on navigation compiled by Jean Nicot. This treatise exists solely in the pages of the DFL of 1573 and those of the Thresor of 1606. A search on key-words makes it possible to reconstruct it, at least in its dictionary manifestation.

The dictionary-compiler Dupuys and the writer-lexicographer Nicot typically write entries that are different in nature, those of the former being compact, those of the latter extended. An example of each type :

This vocabulary is enriched in the Grand Dictionaire françois-latin, notably in the editions of Marquis (1609) and Poille (1609). Among the source texts used to illustrate nautical vocabulary, I shall mention the Amadis de Gaule, the triumphal entry of Henri II into Rouen, La Popeliniere and Vigenere's Traicté des chiffres. One notices especially in writers like Vigenere and Amyot, cited at the end of the century as models of good written French, the privileged place occupied by nautical expressions in metaphorical language. I shall quote from the end of the dedicatory epistle contained in Vigenere's treatise. This type of interactive-database-assisted data retrieval made it possible to compile a lexicon of the nautical vocabulary contained in French Renaissance dictionaries and texts. Here is one of the articles from the lexicon (the conventions are explained on the site):

4. Collaborations

4.1. Langue du XIXe siècle

In collaboration with Jacques-Philippe Saint-Gérand, of the Université Blaise Pascal Clermont-Ferrand II, I have created a site on French language of the 19th century, original texts and analyses. The sections include : dictionaries; grammar; style, rhetoric and poetics; semantics; orthography; oral language; history, philology and comparativism; painting; music; general documentation.

4.2. LexoTor

In collaboration with Olivier Bogros, chief librarian of the Lisieux municipal library, I have created an interactive database of the holdings of the Bibliothèque électronique de Lisieux (Lisieux Electronic Library).

4.3. Tout Maupassant

In collaboration with Thierry Selva, author of the Web site "Maupassant par les textes", I have created an interactive database of the complete works of Guy de Maupassant : short stories, novels, chronicals, correspondence, poetry, travel accounts, theatre.

4.4. Theatre

In collaboration with David Trott, a specialist of Ancien Régime theatre, I have created an interactive and critical database of the complete dramatic works of Corneille, Molière, Racine, Marivaux and Beaumarchais.

4.5. Mirror sites

Since September 2001, several Toronto sites have been mirrored at the École normale supérieure in Paris, thanks to the kind assistance of Eric Guichard and Emilie Devriendt. There are three sites : the Net des Études françaises, Langue du XIXe siècle and the research sections of the Web site of the present writer.


Sample database of the Dictionnaire de l'Académie française: and

Interactive database of the Dictionnaire de l'Académie française, eds. of 1694 and 1835:

Sample database of early French dictionaries: and

RenDico, RenTexte: and

Renaissance botanical vocabulary: and

Renaissance nautical terms: and

Langue du XIXe siècle: and

LexoTor: and

Maupassant, complete works: and

Theatre, complete works: and

Wooldridge 1998 = "Aspects de la base informatisée du Dictionnaire de l'Académie françoise de 1694", paper given at a GEHLF seminar, 15 May 1998: and