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About the Database
END is a bibliographic database based on the Collection of British and American Fiction 1660-1830 held by the University of Pennsylvania's Rare Book & Manuscript Library. When completed, the database will include records of more than 3,000 novels and fictional narratives by canonical authors such as Daniel Defoe to Jane Austen as well as less well-known novelists like Mary Brunton and Mary Walker. Users will be able to perform both keyword and faceted searches across bibliographic records containing both edition-specific and copy-specific information about each novel.
END is designed to complement existing full-text archives. A large (and growing) number of digitized copies of early novels exist online in both open-access and proprietary form, yet one of the well-documented characteristics of new digitization projects has been the loss of precisely the kind of metadata END aims to provide. This means that even as our archive of digital texts from the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries expands, our ability to access them in precise, controlled, and complex ways has diminished. By offering human-generated and easy to manipulate sets of information about early novels, END offers a concrete solution inspired by sophisticated models of text searching that have existed for centuries.
By uniting twenty-first-century database and search technologies with the sensibility of eighteenth-century indexing practices, END allows users to access the collection of novels in a variety of innovative ways. It creates access to the terms, genres, and categories – from titles to indexes - by which the novels name and organize themselves, revealing the kinds of "book information" that allow users to let "the novel itself" speak. At the same time, the database does include extensive stores of more subjective and extra-bibliographic cataloger-created information, allowing users to choose whether to include or exclude such information, or even to search one type of information against the other.
In the future we hope to collaborate with other institutions holding noteworthy collections of novels in order to expand the number of titles and records in the database, thereby making it even more representative of extant holdings of early English novels worldwide; doing so will also provide us with valuable additional copy-specific information. Expanding our scope to include novels published through 1850 or to include novels in languages other than English are other possibilities under consideration. In the future we hope to collaborate with other institutions holding collections of early novels in order to expand the number of titles and records in the database. This expansion will make the database even more representative of extant early English novels worldwide; it will also provide users with valuable additional copy-specific information by incorporating multiple copies of existing titles. A pilot collaboration with the Bryn Mawr College Library is currently underway; users can search Penn and Bryn Mawr novels together, or, using the repository facet, separately. Expanding our scope to include novels published through 1850 or to include novels in languages other than English are other possibilities under consideration.