TEI xml

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TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) is "a consortium which collectively develops and maintains a standard for the representation of texts in digital form," to quote own website. They have developed a series of guidelines for editing texts in a digital form. In their latest form (which is called P 5), these guidelines weigh in at a hefty 1350 pages (OK, that's counting the bibliography and the index too; there are only 1290 pages of real text). These describe an xml format which is suitable for editing texts. The TEI guidelines have the advantage of being very well documented. There are a number of free resources available that should help everyone who is interested in getting started (one extremely helpful website is ). They are not (and do not aspire to be) an absolute standard that everyone has to follow, but many academic projects use these guidelines, and they should be a pretty good way to make sure that your electronic edition of a text will be useful in the future.

Since editing texts is something which quite a few users of ConTeXt are involved in, it makes sense to think about ways in which xml documents which follow the TEI guideline can be typeset with ConTeXt. We would invite users to keep a few caveats in mind:

  1. The TEI guidelines are very detailed because they try to cater to a large number of needs. Most users will only need a small subset of the tags and attributes which the guidelines offer. It would not make sense to try and provide a monolithic solution that defines all TEI tags; instead, localized ConTeXt style sheets are necessary which will define a subset which is relevant for a number of texts with similar features.
  2. Even with this huge number of tags, TEI does not expect to be sufficient for every text. Users are encouraged to develop their own styles; again, this necessitates special ConTeXt style sheets to process such adaptations.
  3. Encoding and typesetting texts in xml is an ongoing process. As you go forward in your edition, you realize that you need more tags, that you need to distinguish more special cases, that you want to add more information to your edition. This means that you will have to go back and forth between your xml file and the ConTeXt style and adapt both to your needs.

All of which means that the following paragraphs are just the first step in an ongoing attempt. I (Thomas) have written down a setup for a text that I am editing (for those who are interested: the Lives of the Sophists by Philostratus). I fully expect this to be a community effort: as others use TEI xml, they will discover new ways of handling things, will want to add features or add examples for other sorts of texts. My example is meant to start the discussion. Since those who edit texts usually have a background in the humanities, not in programming, I have added lengthy comments which will explain every step.

--Thomas 08:33, 10 October 2010 (UTC)