About the Matthew Prior Project

About the Matthew Prior Project

Table of contents

1. Project Update and Outlook

The Matthew Prior Project has reached a milestone in its development. It is releasing both a prototype "mini edition" that demonstrates its long-term aims for the project and transcripts of most of the letters of 1712. The Calendar, which is the gateway to all the letters in Prior's correspondence, has been updated throughout the course of the project and now lists a total of 3,002 letters.

It has also reached a valedictory moment. With this update it is losing its director/editor and going into long-term, possibly permanent, suspension. The Miami University Libraries will, however, continue to provide technical and other support for the project. They will:
  • maintain the project's freely available web site;
  • house the materials of the project, including photographic copies of nearly every manuscript cited in the Calendar as well as the literary papers of Matthew Prior scholar and my late husband, H. Bunker Wright;
  • and make these materials available to scholars for on-site use in the Walter Havighurst Special Collections Library. (To make an appointment, please contact the Special Collections Library at 513-529-3323 or by Fax at 513-529-2136; or visit its web site at <http://spec.lib.muohio.edu/>.)

As the project's director and editor since the year 2000, I am deeply grateful for the support I have received over the years and appreciate the opportunities I have had to work with so many wonderful colleagues, not only at Miami University but also around the United States and indeed around the world. I will remain available to be called upon as an advisor to Special Collections on all things "Matthew Prior" and to scholars visiting Special Collections who wish to consult the project's materials.

Deborah Kempf Wright
June 2009
Miami University Libraries, Oxford, Ohio

2. Introduction

2.1. The Aims of This Electronic Edition1

The Matthew Prior Project was originally conceived as a phased effort to provide an electronic edition of the extant correspondence of this eighteenth-century poet and diplomat. The first phase, the Calendar, was made public in 2003. It is a stand-alone research tool for identifying and locating the manuscripts of the 3,000 letters it lists. The second phase, now also freely available, provides a "mini edition" of six letters that includes digital images of each letter together with a diplomatic transcript and a second transcript whose spelling has been standardized to facilitate searches on proper names, places, and all other words. The mini edition is being offered at this time as a prototype of the fully developed electronic edition as we presently envision it.

The third phase—the integration of diplomatic transcripts of all2 the rest of the letters into the database—is currently underway but will soon be suspended for reasons explained in the Project Update and Outlook. A fourth phase, now far less likely, would add the standardized, searchable transcripts.

While the mini edition includes annotations on the content of the letters, letters released as part of phase three usually do not; and letters or parts of letters in languages other than English are not translated. We had intended to negotiate with the individual repositories to include digital images whenever possible; but at the time the decision was made to suspend the project, arrangements had been made with only the three institutions whose letters are included in the mini edition.

2.2. History of the Matthew Prior Project

This web site had its genesis in 1967 when H. Bunker Wright of Miami University and Richard B. Kline of State University College, Fredonia, of the State University of New York decided to collaborate on a project to find and to publish all the letters written by Matthew Prior or addressed to him that were extant in manuscript or in print. Both were well acquainted with this eighteenth-century British poet and statesman, having already done biographical research on Prior for their doctoral dissertations. H. B. Wright (together with Monroe K. Spears) had also distinguished himself as editor of Prior’s Literary Works (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959; 2nd ed. 1971). Deborah Kempf Wright spent a year as H. B. Wright’s graduate assistant for research in 1971-72, lent a hand with research now and then after their marriage in 1975, and formally joined the project as third co-editor in 1982.

The original aim of the project was to produce a multi-volume scholarly edition of the letters, using the most authoritative extant texts available as the source texts and providing explanatory and bibliographical notes. To that end, by June 1983 the compilers had conducted numerous searches in the US and had made fourteen trips to Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, and Monaco, locating 3,000 letters preserved in forty different locations. (Transfer of some of the manuscripts has since reduced the number of repositories to thirty-seven). They had obtained photocopies or microfilms of virtually all of these manuscript letters, received permission to publish the edited texts, and prepared a typographic transcript for each manuscript. Work was begun on editing the early letters from 1684-1698.

In August 1983 the collaboration with Dr. Kline was dissolved. The financial difficulties of publishing a hardcover edition of such an extensive correspondence led the Wrights to decide instead to compile a one-volume research tool, a calendar and index of this correspondence. The calendar would provide an annotated, chronological inventory of the 3,000 letters; and the index would identify each of Prior’s nearly 300 correspondents and list the letters that passed between them and Prior. Dr. Kline, though never an active participant in this project, would be named as a compiler on the title page in recognition of his contributions to the original project. This work was approximately two-thirds complete when H. B. Wright’s failing health forced suspension of the project in 1992. He died in May 2000; Dr. Kline had died in 1987. In October 2000, D. K. Wright resumed work preparing the calendar and index. At this point, the Miami University Libraries, with Judith A. Sessions as Dean and University Librarian, realized that it had the personnel and the system requirements necessary to support a major project for World Wide Web publication. The Libraries became a full collaborator in the effort to mount and maintain an online version of the calendar and accompanying directories of correspondents and manuscript repositories.3

In some respects, this project may never be complete. Additional letters may come to light, and new information may enable us to correct dates of letters and identifications of correspondents. One beauty of online publication is that it makes for such ease in correcting and otherwise modifying data. This living document will be updated whenever additional or improved data are received, and we invite users of this site to complete the Comments form, especially if they can provide clarifying details about any of the entries or know of additional Prior correspondence.

2.3. Current Staff

  • Deborah Kempf Wright, Editor and TEI Specialist, Research Associate, Miami University Libraries, October 2000—June 2009
  • John Millard, Web Site Designer, Head of Digital Initiatives and Associate Librarian, Miami University Libraries

2.4. Acknowledgements

The three compilers were aided in their work by summer grants to H. B. Wright from the American Philosophical Society, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Henry E. Huntington Library; to Kline from SUNY Research Foundation, the American Philosophical Society, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Council of Learned Societies; and to D. K. Wright from UCLA’s William Andrews Clark Memorial Library. In 2006, in part because of a Rare Book School (at the University of Virginia) full-tuition scholarship, D. K. Wright participated in a week-long workshop on "Electronic Texts and Images." In 2008, she was granted a Franklin Research Grant from the American Philosophical Society and a Fellowship from the Bibliographical Society of America which enabled her to spend one month in England working at the National Archives in Kew and the British Library in London. D. K. Wright expresses her deep appreciation for all this support. She also thanks the owners and custodians of the Prior letters who have been generous in granting permission for the manuscripts in their care to be calendared on this web site and eventually transcribed here in full. She is also grateful to those many members of their staffs who have answered her emails and letters of various kinds of enquiry.4 While too numerous to mention by name, she would be remiss if she did not single out Stephen Parks, now retired as Curator of the Osborn Collection at the Beinecke Library, Yale University, and C. J. Wright, now retired from the Department of Manuscripts, the British Library. Both extended many courtesies over many years, and C. J. Wright was kind enough to provide D. K. Wright with a letter of introduction to the British Library when she made her November 2008 research visit there. She thanks the undergraduate and graduate students who worked on the project in the past. And she is particularly grateful to Judith A. Sessions, Dean and University Librarian, and her staff at Miami University Libraries for their collaboration on this project, especially John Millard, Digital Initiatives Librarian, Ross Shanley-Roberts, former Technical Services Librarian and current Special Projects Technologist, Janet H. Stuckey, Head of Special Collections, and William A. Wortman, Humanities Librarian Emeritus.

3. Matthew Prior's Life and Times

Matthew Prior was a British poet prominent not only as a literary figure but also as a member of Great Britain’s diplomatic service, and his correspondence is significant to seventeenth- and eighteenth-century studies in the fields of history and political science as well as literature. He was born in July of 1664. There has long been debate about where he was born, but evidence from his long-time secretary, Adrian Drift, indicates that it was in London. His father was a carpenter but prosperous enough to send his son to Westminster School. However, he died while Prior was a student there, and Matthew was obliged to leave school and go to work for his uncle in his London tavern keeping accounts, a fact that would impact his future in both positive and negative ways. There he was noticed reading the classics by Charles Sackville, soon to be the 6th Earl of Dorset, who took Prior under his patronage and subsidized his return to Westminster School. From there Prior went to St. John’s College, University of Cambridge, and from there to a succession of employments, mostly public, culminating in 1712 in his appointment as Plenipotentiary for the Treaty of Utrecht. His humble origins prevented his advancement to the rank of ambassador. Nevertheless, he was absolutely crucial to the negotiations that ended the War of the Spanish Succession, that conflict between England and her allies and France and hers over the balance of power in Europe, which was threatened by the possibility that the king of Spain, grandson of Louis XIV, might one day inherit the throne of France as well.

As a principal negotiator, Prior was a Tory acting on behalf of a Tory government. However, Queen Anne took an inopportune time to die. The Tory party, led by rivals Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford, and Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke, was in disarray and unable to hang on to power after her death. This great treaty the Tories had fashioned was thought by the Whigs to have favored France. When they regained power with the accession of George I, they sought to punish those responsible. Prior ranked high in this group, and he was called before a Parliamentary Secret Committee. The Committee hoped that Prior would give evidence damaging to the Earl of Oxford. He had what were no doubt convenient lapses of memory and did not satisfy the Committee with the hoped for answers. Lack of evidence did not stop the Committee, however; Prior was made to endure a year of Parliamentary confinement in a private home not his own, and Oxford spent even more time in the Tower. Neither was ever convicted; both were denied the privileges of the Act of Grace, the 1717 amnesty granted most of the other presumed offenders.

Prior never recovered politically from this fall, but he flourished as a poet. Younger than John Dryden, older than Alexander Pope, he was one of the most important writers of his day. Jonathan Swift was a close friend, and he helped lead the drive to enlist subscribers for the magnificent 1718/[19] edition of Prior’s poems. Among those who subscribed were members of the Harley family, who were indebted to Prior for his loyalty to Oxford before the Secret Committee. A warm and mutually advantageous friendship developed. Indeed, Oxford’s son, Edward Harley, twenty-five years Prior’s junior, was one of his most intimate friends in the last years of his life. Through a financial agreement with the younger Harley, Prior was able to purchase a country house called Down Hall, which reverted to Harley upon Prior’s death. Prior’s letters show his delight in being the squire and making improvements to his estate, which was situated between London where Prior also had a house and Harley’s own country seat, Wimpole in Cambridgeshire. Prior was a frequent guest at Wimpole and was there in September of 1721 when he fell ill of an old complaint, “cholera morbus.” After a week’s struggle, he died there on September 18th at the age of 57. He was buried with due pomp and circumstance where he wanted to be—in Westminster Abbey at the feet of the Elizabethan poet, Edmund Spenser, who himself had been buried near Chaucer.

Prior’s letters begin in 1684, when he was a university student, and end in the year of his death, 1721. They reveal him, year by year, in the following capacities:

1684-1696: as student at Cambridge; secretary to envoys at The Hague; King’s Secretary at The Hague (chargé d’affaires); a keen observer of the personalities gathered at this international center and a most articulate victim of the vicissitudes experienced by a young diplomatist;
1697-1698: as Secretary to the British embassy at the Congress of Ryswick for the treaty ending the War of the Grand Alliance and as the composer of the Latin text of that treaty; as secretary (in absentia) to the Lords Justices of Ireland; and in Paris as secretary to the Earl of Portland’s embassy to France and subsequently to the Earl of Jersey’s embassy;
1698-1708: in Paris as chargé d’affaires and as secretary to the Earl of Manchester’s embassy to France; in London as Under Secretary of State involved in negotiations for the Second Partition Treaty; as successor to John Locke on the Commission of Trade and Plantations; Member of Parliament; Senior Fellow at St. John’s College, Cambridge; as poet preparing the first authorized collection of his Poems on Several Occasions (1709);
1709-1713: as a Tory poet, member of the Brothers Club, friend of Jonathan Swift; as secret emissary from Queen Anne to Louis XIV in preliminary negotiations for ending the War of the Spanish Succession; as Commissioner of Customs; as Minister Plenipotentiary at Paris and Versailles during the peace congress at Utrecht and during the Duke of Shrewsbury’s embassy;
1714-1715: in Paris, honored and entertained as the British Minister to the court of Louis XIV; as the active negotiator in regard to continuing international problems concerning commerce, territories, and military defenses; as sufferer because of the split between his friends Oxford and Bolingbroke and because of the Whig reaction after the death of Queen Anne; in London for examination by Walpole’s Secret Committee, followed by confinement as a Parliamentary prisoner;
1716-1721: as poet preparing the impressive folio edition of his Poems on Several Occasions (1718/[19]), sold by subscription; as close friend of Edward Harley, Lord Harley (later 2nd Earl of Oxford); as leader of a group of virtuosi; as loser in the collapse of the South Sea Bubble; as owner and developer of a country estate, Down Hall.

4. The Correspondence and the Calendar

The correspondence consists of 3,000 letters by and to Prior. It includes personal and official letters between Prior and nearly 300 named correspondents. The manuscripts of these letters are scattered among thirty-seven repositories, including that of one private owner who prefers to remain anonymous. The single largest collection is that of the Marquess of Bath; it is preserved at Longleat House and Library, England. The National Archives (UK) and the British Library are the other major holders of Prior manuscripts, with the Archives du Ministère des Affaires Étrangères, the Nationaal Archief (formerly Algemeen Rijksarchief), the London Metropolitan Archives (custodian of the Jersey Papers), and the Beinecke Library at Yale University all holding thirty-five or more Prior letters each. Well over half of the letters (1,810) are in Prior’s hand or the hands of his correspondents, others are letterbook copies or scribal copies. Less than half have ever been published. When we refer to publication, we mean publication in print and we make no attempt to cite publications in other forms. But it should be noted that there is a microfilm set of the Longleat manuscripts which is commercially available from Microform Imaging Ltd. According to WorldCat, six libraries hold relevant reels of this microfilm; but of those six, only three hold the most important reels, those of the Prior Papers.5 Relatively few of Prior’s letters, then, are widely available in any form. The Calendar provides a detailed map to a rich collection of primary documents.

Every known letter written by Prior or addressed to him is calendared, whether it is a personal missive, a diplomatic dispatch, a cryptic note, or a demand for payment. The only letters with his signature that are not calendared are the hundreds of official letters of the Board of Trade and Plantations written during Prior’s membership (1700-1707). Mary P. Clarke in “The Board of Trade at Work” has described the internal workings of the Board of Trade, including the process by which the Board’s letters were drafted:
Whatever the business in hand every document went through three stages. First, the subject was considered and the substance of the letter or report agreed upon—a process which was sometimes adjourned from day to day and occupied the greater part of several sessions. At last the Board ordered the letter, outlining to the secretary the points which it was to involve. The actual composition fell to the secretary who presented a first draught to the Commissioners for inspection. If satisfactory it was “approved and ordered to be transcribed”. It was then delivered to a clerk to be put into final form, and having been “transcribed fair” was presented to the Board again for signature.6
As Clarke also explains, in 1696 the signatures of at least five members were required; in 1697 the number was reduced to four (20). Therefore, for the purposes of this database, those letters bearing Prior’s signature along with those of all the other members present when the letter was authorized are not considered part of his correspondence. Users interested in these letters are directed to J. C. Sainty’s Officials of the Boards of Trade, 1660-1870 (London: Athlone Press [for] University of London, 1974), which provides a useful bibliography of reference sources for the Board, both in manuscript and in print (xi-xii). Other letters signed solely by Prior and written in his capacity as a Commissioner are included. Newsletters originating from the Secretary of State’s office in 1698 and preserved with letters to Prior from Under Secretary Robert Yard are not calendared, although Yard’s personal letters to Prior, even if largely on public matters, are included.

The communications Prior sent to the States General of the United Provinces in the years 1692 through 1697 when he was stationed at The Hague were in the form of memorials, “informal state papers […] embodying statements of facts, claims, or propositions made on behalf of his [an envoy’s] government […]” (OED Online). This kind of document appears again from 1712 through 1714 when Prior was in Paris negotiating the Treaty of Utrecht. For the later period, we do not calendar such documents as distinct pieces of correspondence because there they can usually be tied to actual letters, usually as enclosures. If they are to be found adjacent to their letters, the manuscript line gives inclusive page numbers. If more explanation is necessary to locate them, information is provided in an annotation. For the earlier period, however, the memorials are such significant evidence of how Prior conducted diplomatic business that we cite them as letters but label each one Memorial.

For sixty-five of the letters in print, either the sole or the most authoritative manuscript disappeared after publication. The most important of the publications is Gilbert Parke’s (bowdlerized) 1798 edition of Bolingbroke’s correspondence; it includes fifty-four of these letters, most of which would otherwise have been lost entirely.7 His source text was the untraced papers of Thomas Hare, Bolingbroke’s Under Secretary of State who took possession of the papers when Bolingbroke was dismissed from office. 8

The Hare Papers did not disappear until 1961. By 1947 their contents, four of Bolingbroke’s letterbooks, had been acquired by a New York collector. In 1961, his heirs donated at least part of his collection to the New York Public Library, and what appears to be an inventory of his manuscripts, also on file in the New York Public Library Department of Manuscripts, suggests that the donation included these four letterbooks. However, the New York Public Library does not have these four volumes and apparently never received them. We have been unable to trace them beyond the collector’s 1947 acquisition of them. The discovery of the present location of these Bolingbroke letterbooks is to be hoped for because Parke’s edition suppressed certain passages. As Parke himself explained, “The Editor has been induced to omit many passages in the letters to and from Prior, which are either unimportant or of a private nature […]” (3: 153n*).

One scholar, Charles K. Eves, had access to the Hare Papers before they were lost, and in Matthew Prior: Poet and Diplomatist (New York: Columbia UP, 1939), he identified passages in the Hare Papers that were omitted by Parke and quoted a number of them in his text or his footnotes. Most of these quotations are short, but they are significant and they do not appear anywhere else. We have therefore cited each one as an incomplete (inc.) printing of the letter in which it is found, and the Bolingbroke publication is also listed as an incomplete printing of the same letter.

Where a publication is the now lone witness to a letter, we necessarily base our Calendar data and our transcriptions on that printing. However, for many of the other letters in Parke's edition we do have other manuscripts that carry a high degree of authority. For those letters, our data and transcriptions are based on the most authoritative surviving manuscripts. Substantive variants in the printed texts are collated and recorded in the annotations. A few letters, however, survive in manuscripts that we consider to be inferior to Parke's printed versions. Ten are extant in State Papers 105/266 or in less authoritative manuscripts; four others survive in State Papers 105/267. These fourteen are (usually) extracts only and/or contain what seem to be errors in transcription when compared to Parke's edition. For these letters, the source text is Parke's edition. Annotations point out the substantive variants found in the State Papers manuscripts. In all cases where Parke's edition is our source, his textual annotations are included, but those on the subject matter are omitted.

5. Using the Calendar

5.1. Reading the Entries

The Calendar entries follow a pattern of data presentation that identifies each letter by correspondent and date and leads the user to the location of the manuscripts of that letter. A “reading” of one of them will explain the elements of the Calendar:
Unique id: 1697.0703.Fa
Sender: PRIOR
Place/Date: The Hague, [23 June]/3 July 1697.
Address: “mr Secretary Blathwayt.”
Endorsement: “3 July 1697 From Mr. Prior.”
Manuscript: Miami U, Special Collections, Prior Manuscripts, Letters (orig.).
Publication: None known.
The entry is headed by an identifying sequence code (unique id), which is derived from the New Style date of the letter (here 3 July 1697) and follows the modern practice of beginning the New Year on 1 January even though the archaic practice of beginning the New Year on 25 March was still used by some of Prior’s contemporaries. This particular letter is the first (a) From Prior on that date. It is addressed to “mr Secretary Blathwayt,” who endorsed it upon receipt with the notation “3 July 1697 From Mr. Prior.” Because both Old Style dates (used in England, Scotland, Ireland, and the Protestant states of Germany) and New Style (used in France, Italy, the Netherlands, and the Catholic states of Germany) were still in use during Prior’s lifetime, we give both after identifying the place where the letter was written (if known), in this case The Hague. If any part of the name or dateline is missing from the manuscript, we enclose the added element in square brackets, in this case the Old Style date. The manuscript of this letter is an original (as opposed to a copy kept by the writer in his own letterbook, for example [lb. copy]), and it is located in the Special Collections of Miami University Libraries. There is no known publication of this letter.

This entry is typical. Others could include additional information: identification of a language other than English in which a letter was written, a postmark if one survives, or an annotation if one is needed. Should a letter lack address or endorsement, that line will be omitted without comment. In the rare cases where a printing exists but the manuscript is lost, the Manuscript line will read “None recovered.” For those letters already published, at least one printing is cited, the most complete from the most authoritative manuscript. Annotations will not summarize or elucidate the content of the letters except as needed to justify conjectured elements in the entry.

Unless we have reason to question our source documents, we respect their authority and do not use square brackets around data they imply. For example, letters surviving in letterbook copies rarely include the writer’s signature, but they are assumed to have been composed by the letterbook’s owner unless there is evidence to the contrary. Therefore when a letterbook copy is our source text, the sender’s name is not put in square brackets. And in those few cases of lost manuscripts whose letters survive in print only, square brackets are used only if the editor of the printing used them or indicated that his identifications had been conjectured. Where square brackets are otherwise required, our rationale for the conjectured element is offered in an annotation that follows the Publication line unless the bracketed element is justified by an unbracketed element of that same Calendar entry, such as a date justified by the endorsement. Exceptions to this involve bracketed place names. If the correspondent wrote in his official capacity, we assume that he wrote from the city where he was stationed unless there is evidence to the contrary. If a correspondent wrote several letters on one day and all but one include the same place name in the dateline, we assume that the other letter was written from that place as well. If a letter’s content makes the place from where it was written clear—for example, “I am in Town”—we cite the evident place (in this example, London). In all these instances, the place name is bracketed but no rationale for identifying the place is offered. The spelling and punctuation of addresses and endorsements, which are placed within quotation marks, have been retained, but superscripts have been lowered to the line, lineation has not been preserved, and a terminal period has been placed at the end of each line. Prior is identified in the annotations by the single letter capital P. Spellings of the names of his correspondents have been standardized in the identification line, as have those of place names. Both Old Style and New Style dates are given so that the chronological sequence of the letters is as clear as possible.

For the most part, Calendar entries were entered into the database in chronological order; but some letters posed particular difficulties in dating or identification of correspondent, and their entries were entered into the database after the other entries. When the Calendar is browsed, the entries appear in the order in which they were input. However, when the Calendar is searched by individual years, the entries appear in chronological order. The abbreviations used by the various repositories in their shelf-marks are not expanded.9 Abbreviations devised by the compilers to identify the repositories themselves are defined in the Directory of Repositories where the user will also find contact information for the repositories (including email addresses and web page URLs if available), a summary of the collections cited from each repository, and the statements of the repositories’ permission to identify their holdings on this site. The named correspondents are briefly identified in the Directory of Correspondents. In this directory we use abbreviations to cite the most frequently used sources for biographical information, and a key to those abbreviations is provided. This key includes expansions of titles cited in abbreviated form in the Calendar entries as well.

5.2. Browsing and Searching the Calendar

The Browse function for the Calendar enables the user to view the Calendar entries in groups of five letters at a time in the order in which the entries were input. The Search functions enable the user (1) to view the entries for individual years in chronological order, (2) to search for all the letters between Prior and any one of his correspondents, (3) to search for all the letters preserved at any one repository, (4) to search for any one letter by sequence code if the code (unique id) is known, and (5) to search by datafield and keyword within any of the other four searches described.

6. The Transcriptions

6.1. Long-term Aim

Our long-term aim in the transcriptions was originally twofold: to provide as nearly a diplomatic text as possible without sacrificing readability and to provide a text whose spelling has been standardized. The standardized text was to be offered primarily to enhance searching rather than to provide an alternative reading text. Prior is a very literate, articulate writer whose eighteenth-century habits of phrasing, punctuation, and orthography seldom present difficulties for the reader and for whom wholesale modernization is a disservice. If that is not always true for his correspondents, it is true that most readers would readily adapt to the diplomatic texts of all the letters and could ignore or utilize the standardized texts as they wished.

Since the Prior Project is going into a long-term, possibly permanent, suspension with this release of documents, the mini edition must stand not only as a protype for future work but also as the only part of the project to meet the original long-term goal of offering two transcriptions. Since this sample of letters is small, search functions that would have made use of the standardized texts have not been implemented.

6.2. The Text Encoding Initiative

The documents presented here were marked up according to the P5 Guidelines of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI). The XML editor used was <oXygen/> 10.0. With the exception of the method of associating images with text, the only tools used, including stylesheets, were those available through <oXygen/>. Page images are associated with the corresponding text using the calendar's sequence number as a key. Page image display was accomplished by first bundling the individual page images into a single DjVu format file and then using a custom viewer implemented in PHP to provide access to both the transformed text and individual pages. The html versions of the XML documents are static copies of the XML as transformed with the <oXygen/> XML using minimally customized XSLT stylesheets from Sebastian Rahtz (Research Technologies Service, Oxford University). Should an editor eventually present him or herself as a potential successor to the retiring editor, the project's XML/TEI files will be made available; but they are not at this time being provided freely via this web site.

6.3. The Source Text

Many of the letters in the total correspondence survive in more than one document, such as the manuscript sent to the addressee and the sender's letterbook, or file, copy; and we use as the source text that document we consider to be the most authoritative of the texts available to us. Where it exists, that is almost always the autograph letter sent to the recipient, what the Calendar labels the "orig." manuscript. Where a letter is represented by more than one manuscript, the Calendar lists the most authoritative one first. If a version other than the autograph manuscript has been preferred, an annotation explains the departure from the principle (see, for example, Calendar entry 1713.1129.Fb, note).

Letters sometimes mention or have enclosures preserved with them. The treatment of enclosures is described in the section "The Correspondence and the Calendar" and except when they are classified as correspondence in their own right, they are not as a rule transcribed.

6.4. The Diplomatic Text

With the exception of some layout considerations, described below as well as here, the source text is followed as closely as possible. The writer's paragraphing is preserved but with standardized indentation; if there is no paragraphing, none is imposed. A problem arises with this approach when there is an unusual amount of space midline between two sentences. It is not unusual for writers to conserve paper by beginning a new paragraph midline. On the other hand it is not unusual for them to include extra space between words in order to fill out a line. Unusual spaces of the second kind are silently ignored; but since in all cases we preserve lineation (to facilitate line-by-line comparison with digital images of the manuscript and to aid in providing for accuracy in transcription and proofreading), those spaces that we have interpreted as paragraph breaks are represented in the transcription. Hyphens (or sometimes dots or the equal sign) used to divide words at the end and beginning of lines are retained and input in Unicode as soft hyphens, but they are not represented in the output. The word itself is tagged with the element <w>. Hard hyphens from the standard keyboard are used for words regularly hyphenated regardless of their position in the line. 10 Those words are not further tagged with <w>.

The accidentals of capitalization, punctuation, and spelling are preserved. Where ambiguities arise in capitalization (Is it capital or minuscule?) and punctuation (Is it a semi-colon or a colon?), they are silently resolved in favor of modern usage. Other kinds of flourishes and graphics are not normally transcribed. If their presence seems to carry meaning, they are described in the notes.

The writers' spelling, including abbreviations and superior letters, is also retained but with some standardization of any punctuation associated with an abbreviation. Punctuation is on the line and before the superior letters, as in M:r, even though the r might appear directly over the colon or might follow the colon in the source text. We find puzzling the editorial judgment of others that certain abbreviations common to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries such as "Mtie" should always be expanded because the original readers of those abbreviations automatically expanded them in their own minds, but others, the ampersand in particular, should be retained because twenty-first-century readers understand them as readily as their seventeenth- and eighteenth-century counterparts did.11 With a little experience with texts written in the eighteenth-century, present-day readers can become as familiar with the meaning of "Mtie" as they are with the meaning of "&" and have a visual experience of the documents more like that of their first readers. The function of superscripts, familiar to today's readers in constructions like "21st," will become apparent, and retaining superior letters as superscripts is absolutely essential if the editor is retaining the abbreviation because without the superscript a key signal of abbreviation is missing.

Endorsements often include an abbreviation that resembles the Unicode character ℞ (an R with crossed tail), whose Unicode name is "Prescription Take." In an endorsement, this abbreviation indicates receipt of a letter on a given date. We have not been able to find a definitive explanation of how ℞ came to be associated with a medical prescription, let alone one that defines it as meaning "receipt of"; but the etymological kinship of the words receipt, receive, and recipe (as in recipe for a medicinal drug) suggests a derivation;12 and we represent all similarly formed abbreviations for receipt of a letter with the character ℞.

Another commonly used abbreviation is that for "Esquire." The final four letters are dropped and the descender of the q is combined with a stroke that resembles the numeral three—q3. In printed books, q3 was represented by a special typeface or by q followed immediately by a semicolon—q;. We will represent it as q;. In words other than esquire q; is an abbreviation for "que."13

A mark of abbreviation is often nothing more than a stroke or a looped stroke in the superscript position. All such marks will be transcribed with a tilde in the superscript position, as in "m~" for "Mr." (see, for example, letter 1697.0703.Fa).

The writer's use of u/v, i/j, the long s, and ff (for capital F) is preserved in the diplomatic transcript. Please note that letters in French, whose vocabulary contains many words with the uv combination, will be harder to read at first glance because of the appearance of uu.

Quite a few letters include encrypted text with numbers standing for letters, words, or empty content; and the deciphered text is often present, usually as an interlinear addition by the recipient. When the decoding is interlinear, the decoded text appears in superscript immediately after the numbers that are the code for the superscripted letter(s) or word. If decoding is present but is not interlinear, it is treated like a Marginal notation, described below, and annotated if necessary. Here is a sample display of interlinear deciphering; superior dashes are the recipient's indicators of empty content. The text is from letter 1715.0122.Fc:

I have again seen 561Bu 474le 267au
390 [….] […] he said
he had received a Letter from 670the
2203Prince 492of 485Naſsau 372 373 270 391

Authorial or scribal additions and cancellations and missing or illegible text are tagged with appropriate TEI markup, and the output is pointed in what we hope is a straightforward, uncluttered manner according to the following key:
  • 〈added text〉 = on-the-line authorial or scribal addition
  • 〈˄ added text〉 = interlinear authorial or scribal addition
  • strikethrough = authorial or scribal deletion
  • [?emendation] = uncertain editorial emendation
  • [...] = a gap in the transcription
Large angle brackets 〈 〉 contain authorial or scribal additions. A caret within these brackets 〈˄ …〉 indicates that the addition is interlinear, whether or not marked with a caret or other sign by the author or scribe. If marked by the author or scribe in some way, a textual comment is provided in the notes. Absence of the caret indicates that the addition was made on the line. If an addition was written in the margin and marked for insertion, it is included in angle brackets at the appropriate point and annotated. A strikethrough indicates deletion by the author or scribe. Square brackets [ ] signal editorial emendation, and markup and/or an annotation offers the reason emendation is necessary, for example damage to the manuscript. Uncertainty about the emendation is indicated by a question mark thus: [?…]. A bracketed ellipsis [...] points to a gap in the transcription. The value of the attribute @reason might be "blotted" or "torn" or "cancelled" or a similar descriptive word. Such gaps might be further explained with an annotation. A simple sentence so marked up and annotated might look like this:

Yesterday 〈˄ afterno[on]〉 I sent 〈mailed〉 you a letter.1
Note: 1The last two letters of the addition "afternoon" are smudged.

The correspondence is by and large clean, fair, in appearance. We have chosen to keep the signals of authorial/scribal and editorial emendation to a minimum and to provide textual commentary for the more complicated instances of alteration.

While our editorial practices aim for as diplomatic a transcription of the content of the correspondence as possible, we do accept the standardizations on the layout of a letter as dictated by the tools available in <oXygen/>. Catchwords are usually silently ignored unless they are needed to complete their sentences or unless there is a discrepancy between a catchword and the next word in the letter, in which case annotation is provided. Marginal notations not intended as insertions, if any, are placed after the letter and tagged as a separate division. A recipient's marginal note on the letter's content, as opposed to his endorsement, or a sender's note on his letterbook copy would fall into this category. Any such are labeled thus: Marginal notation:. Notations on a document made by the sender's scribe are treated similarly and labeled as scribal. Any address, endorsement (the recipient's notation regarding receipt of the letter), or postmark is labeled thus: Addressed:, Endorsed:, Postmarked:. If there is more than one address—for example, both inside and outside addresses—the label is expanded to indicate the location. Inside addresses are often in the lower left-hand corner of the first page of the letter. An address in a letterbook copy, which usually appears in the upper left-hand margin of the copy's first page, is normally no more than a notation by the sender or his secretary of the recipient's name. The Calendar treats them as addresses and they are labeled thus in the transcriptions as well. Endorsements are sometimes more like docketings than endorsements, but if such notations have been made by the recipient or his secretary and are not marginal notations as described above, they are all labeled as endorsements. The shape of a postmark is not replicated; only its content is given.

6.5. The Searchable Text14

The searchable text will be the text standardized in limited ways to facilitate word searches and searches for names of people and places. This means that a standard spelling will be encoded for any word or person or place name whose spelling in the source text is no longer the preferred spelling. These standardizations follow British spelling; and the OED Online http://dictionary.oed.com/entrance.dtl, the online Oxford DNB http://www.oxforddnb.com, and the Oxford Reference Online http://www.oxfordreference.com are our principal authorities. Except as described below, standardization will not extend to punctuation; but it will remove all brackets, both angle and square except for those which indicate lacunae in the transcription, and all cancelled text. Its result will be a clear text.

All abbreviations will be expanded except those still commonly used (e.g. &, etc., Mr., and Esq.). In the markup, the <abbr> and <expan> tags will be used except in those cases where we are retaining an abbreviation but standardizing its display. For example, "mr" or "m~" will become "Mr." but will not be expanded; "Esq;" will become "Esq." but will not be expanded. For such instances, we will use the <orig> and <reg> tags. Contractions still current (e.g. don't) are not considered abbreviations and will not be expanded. Neither will a contraction like "'tis."

The following usages will be standardized:
  • u/v, i/j, the long s, and ff—haue will become have, vnhappy will become unhappy, iust will become just, busineſs will become business, ffrancis will become Francis.
  • the apostrophe and diacritics—your Graces’ friends will become your Grace's friends; Eclaircissement will become Éclaircissement.
  • Hyphens used for word division will be omitted unless standard spelling requires a hyphen.
  • Words spelled as two words that are now spelled as one will be standardized—my self will become myself.
  • Slash marks used as punctuation will be converted to modern punctuation; if used only as flourishes or if they needlessly multiply punctuation, they will be silently omitted.
  • Dashes used to fill out line ends will be silently omitted.

6.6. Annotations

Each transcription includes a hyperlink to its letter's Calendar entry with the unique id serving as the link. Annotations that are already part of the Calendar entries provide our rationales for dating an undated letter and identifying an unnamed correspondent. Additional annotations, which follow transcriptions as needed, tend to focus on aspects of textual analysis that should be addressed in any particular letter, for example a change of hands, as from Drift's to Prior's in an "original" letter inscribed by Drift except for the final paragraph and signature. Annotations on the content of the letters themselves were intended for a subsequent phase of the project. To the extent that the editor has had to research the subject matter of a letter in order to provide the best possible transcription, she has included some content-related annotations, such as identifications of persons named.

6.7. Verification of Transcriptions

Four of the original manuscripts of the letters in the mini edition are owned by Miami University Libraries and housed in the Walter Havighurst Special Collections; and the digital transcriptions of these letters are based on the manuscripts, not on photographic surrogates. For the other two letters in the mini edition, one owned by Princeton University Library and in the Robert H. Taylor Collection, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, the other by the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, England, the editor was fortunate to have the assistance of the Curator of the Robert H. Taylor Collection, Mark R. Farrell, and Nicholas Robinson of the Fitzwilliam Museum who kindly verified her transcriptions against the original manuscripts.

For most of the letters of 1712, the most authoritative manuscripts are preserved at the UK National Archives in Kew (formerly the Public Record Office) or at the British Library. Transcripts originally based on photographic surrogates of these manuscripts were verified by the editor against the source documents during a research trip spent at the National Archives and the British Library. For every transcript released by the Prior Project, the TEI header for each letter describes the actual witness that was transcribed and records as needed a revision history of the editor's handling of the letter.

6.8. Terms of Use

The encoded texts in the Prior Project are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/us/).

Copyrights to images are held by the institutions and individuals who have generously contributed them. Publication (print or electronic) or commercial use of any of the copyrighted materials without direct authorization from the copyright holders is prohibited. The copying of materials from The Matthew Prior Project is permitted only under the fair-use provisions of copyright law.

Permission to publish from any unpublished documents, beyond the bounds of "fair use," must be obtained from the holder of the copyright. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure that permission. You may wish to refer to the WATCH (Writers, Artists, and Their Copyright Holders, http://tyer.hrc.utexas.edu/), a database containing primarily, but not exclusively, the names and addresses of copyright holders or contact persons for authors and artists whose archives are housed, in whole or in part, in libraries and archives in North America and the United Kingdom.

See also section 5 below, The Transcriptions, for further discussion of the project's aims and the extent to which those goals have been met or modified.
Permission for transcription from one private owner, the Marquess of Bath, is contingent upon the payment of a significant fee and has not yet been obtained.

One repository identified in the Calendar but not listed in the Directory of Repositories is the Surrey Record Office, now called the Surrey History Centre. The Calendar lists only one letter from Prior as located there (see 1698.1018.Fa); and that manuscript is an extract only of a letter the original of which is at the British Library and the letterbook copy at Longleat House. Surrey holds its manuscript version on behalf of a private owner, and we did not seek permission for inclusion of the text of the extract on the web site.

Correspondence with the Centre has revealed the possibility that another letter to Prior is also preserved there among the papers of the Onslow family. The Centre has the letter catalogued as to [?Matthew Prior] from Richard Onslow, the first Lord Onslow (ref. G173/3/5). We were not able to confirm the identification before the Prior Project was suspended. For further information, please contact the Surrey History Centre, 130 Goldsworth Road, Woking, Surrey GU21 6ND (www.surreycc.gov.uk/surreyhistorycentre).

See also the section on verification of transcriptions.
These figures are from 2003.
The American Historical Review, vol. 17, no. 1 (October, 1911) 36-37.
Two of these fifty-four are also printed, incomplete, elsewhere.
Gilbert Parke, ed., Letters and Correspondence…of…Henry St. John, Lord Visc. Bolingbroke…, vol. 1 (London, 1798) vii-ix.
Some manuscript volumes contain two sets of numbering that identify folio/page numbers. An original set of numbers, perhaps contemporary with the letter writers, may have been superceded by later archival numbering. We have tried to be consistent in our identification of folio/page numbers, but enquiries to archives about any particular letter should include full details about the letter's writer, recipient, and date to the extent that they are known, as well as the shelf number as cited by the Calendar.
See the encoding guidelines of the Brown University Women Writers Project (http://www.wwp.brown.edu/encoding/documentation/markup/records/103.html), accessed 9 January 2008.
See, for example, Michael Hunter, Editing Early Modern Texts: An Introduction to Principles and Practice (Basingstoke, [UK], and New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2007) 77-78.
The OED Online traces the etymology of receipt (n.), receive (v.), and recipe (v. and n.) all to the Latin recipĕre.
See the discussion by the Text Creation Partnership at the University of Michigan of ambiguous abbreviations (http://www.lib.umich.edu/tcp/docs/dox/ambigs.html), accessed 23 January 2008, and Ronald B. McKerrow, An Introduction to Bibliography… (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1927) 321.
Though the standardized text is available only in the mini edition and the corresponding search functions have not been implemented, the relevant editorial principles as originally written are offered for those interested.