Creating images during a pandemic

As I mentioned in a previous post, we began the project with scans generously provided by the Cordell Collection at Indiana State University, with student volunteers at UCF cropping full-page images into entry-sized images. Then a team of UCF computer science majors created software that could de-warp, enhance, crop, and merge entry images—when we supplied it with high resolution images. Unfortunately, for a variety of excellent reasons, only a few hundred of the images were high enough resolution for the software to read. And even more unfortunately, this discovery struck about the same time as the global pandemic.

What to do? UCF’s library volunteered to make new images, but we don’t have these volumes in our collection. The library at the University of Florida in Gainesville, about three hours away, does have these volumes—but UF was understandably reluctant to loan them to us, even if we hired a bonded/insured courier to ferry them directly from their library to ours. They offered instead to scan them for us!

So during the first crazy months of the pandemic, wearing full PPE in a limited-access building, UF’s Digital Support Services Team at the George A. Smathers Libraries managed to image every page of both volumes of both editions of the dictionary: the 1755 (1st folio edition) and the 1773 (4th folio edition). They did this during a time of heightened demand for their scanning services, as face-to-face classes and resources were hurriedly moved online. And these scans are what allowed our image software to work.

We expected that switching copy-texts would have only a negligible effect on our transcriptions, since most of the variations previously observed in the dictionary are minor, such as differing abbreviations for a cited author/title. (For more on this topic, see Todd, William B. “Variants in Johnson’s Dictionary.” The Book Collector 14:2 (1965): 212-214.) 

However, we did discover one differently-spelled headword: The 1755 (1st folio) edition from UF spells this word “paronnychia.” The 1773 (4th folio) edition from UF, and both editions from ISU, spell the word “paronychia.”

entry for "paronnychia" from 1755 (1st folio) edition, UF copy
1755 (1st folio) edition, UF copy
1755 (1st folio) edition, ISU copy

The full-page images you see on our site right now are the scans from UF, except for two pages in the 1773 edition (Needlessly – Nep) that were missing from the UF copy. We substituted pages from the ISU copy for those. None of these images are high-resolution because the high-resolution images take far too long to load.

Right now, we’re working on a way to link each entry to its full-page image as well as to the entry-size image. After that, we’ll build links from the low-resolution images to the higher resolution images, for those who wish to see them. Stay tuned!