PDB18 - The German Letter in the 18th Century

Authors: Décultot, Elisabeth / Dumont, Stefan / Fischer, Katrin / Kampkaspar, Dario / Kittelmann, Jana / Sander, Ruth / Stäcker, Thomas

Date: Thursday, 7 September 2023, 4:15pm to 5:45pm

Location: Main Campus, L 1 <campus:stage>

The project establishes a co-operative network and creates a representative digital collection of already edited and printed 18th-century letters. As an infrastructure project in the DFG funding program “Digitisation and Indexing”, PDB18 does not itself pursue a research question of its own, but will enable research on epistolary exchange in the 18th century using digital methods (network analysis, text mining etc.) by providing comprehensive data sets of metadata and full texts.

The corpus will include letters that correspondents have written in the German-speaking area or sent there. It potentially includes all languages, although German, Latin and French will predominate. The letters will be accessible via metadata, images, and (in part) full texts via the portal PDB18 (www.pdb18.de), which is based mainly on the existing infrastructures correspSearch (Dumont, Grabsch, Müller-Laackman 2022) and ZEiD1.

The metadata of the edited letters is captured and provided according to the Correspondence Metadata Interchange Format (Stadler 2014, TEI Correspondence SIG 2018). The capturing of metadata and the enrichment with IDs from authority files (Stadler 2012) is done manually, as this has proven in tests to be the most efficient approach. The metadata is aggregated in correspSearch, where it can be searched extensively (Dumont 2016) and retrieved via various APIs (TEI-XML, TEI-JSON; in the future also as RDF). Within the project, correspSearch will be extended by various functions, e.g. new search functions (such as the language used in the letter) and a registry in which letters can be defined as (abstract) work entities. This will also make it possible to map different editions of the same letter to each other.

The published letters from 18th century prints and modern editions are scanned in the ULB Darmstadt. The images form the basis for generating full texts using the OCR software Transkribus. Transformation tools are used to convert the text into a TEI-XML format, which is based on the Base Format of the German Text Archive (BBAW 2022). The TEI-XML documents are stored in eXist-db (eXist Solutions 2023), the transcribed text and the corresponding facsimile are presented side by side with the help of the framework wdbplus (Kampkaspar 2018). All full texts are searchable and offered for download via interfaces.

The project is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) and started in 2022.


Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften (Ed.). 2022. DTABf. Deutsches Textarchiv – Basisformat. https://www.deutschestextarchiv.de/doku/basisformat/brief.html

Dumont, Stefan. 2016. „correspSearch – Connecting Scholarly Editions of Letters“. Journal of the Text Encoding Initiative (10). https://doi.org/10.4000/jtei.1742

Dumont, Stefan; Grabsch, Sascha; Müller-Laackman, Jonas (Eds.). 2022. correspSearch – Connect Scholarly Editions of Correspondence (2.1.0) [Webservice]. Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities 2022. https://correspSearch.net

eXist Solutions. 2022. eXist-db [Software]. https://exist-db.org

Kampkaspar, Dario. 2018. W. Digitale Bibliothek (wdbplus). [Software]. https://github.com/dariok/wdbplus

Stadler, Peter. 2012. „Normdateien in der Edition“. editio 26: 174–83.

Stadler, Peter. 2014. ‘Interoperabilität von Digitalen Briefeditionen’. In Fontanes Briefe Ediert, edited by Hanna Delf von Wolzhagen, 278–87. Fontaneana 12. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann.

TEI Correspondence SIG. 2018. Correspondence Metadata Interchange Format (CMIF). https://github.com/TEI-Correspondence-SIG/CMIF

About the authors

Elisabeth Décultot has been Professor of Modern German Literary Studies at Martin Luther University Halle since 2015 and has led the Interdisciplinary Centre for European Enlightenment Studies (IZEA) since 2020. She is co-leader of the project PDB18.

Stefan Dumont has been a researcher at TELOTA, the DH working group at BBAW, since 2011. He is coordinator of the DFG project “correspSearch” and co-leader of PDB18. His research focuses on digital editions of correspondence and their standardization and networking.

Katrin Fischer currently works on PDB18 at the Centre for Digital Editions (CEiD) at University and State Library (ULB) Darmstadt. She holds a degree in History and Applied Geosciences. Her research interests include indexes in scholarly editions, correspondences and mapping historical networks.

Dario Kampkaspar is the head of the Centre for Digital Editions in Darmstadt. He holds a Magister Artium in history and English philology and has been working on TEI-based projects at the Duke Augustus Library in Wolfenbüttel, the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna and the CEiD for more than 10 years.

Jana Kittelmann has been a researcher at the IZEA since 2015. Through her many years of work on various letter editions (print and digital), one of her main research interests is the culture and history of the letter. She is project-coordinator of PDB18.

Ruth Sander has been working at TELOTA, the DH initiative of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, since 2021. Her work and research focuses on digital scholarly editions. Since 2022 she is part of the correspSearch team.

Thomas Stäcker has been Director of the University and State Library Darmstadt since 2017 and part-time Professor of Digital Humanities at the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam. He is co-leader of the project PDB18. ORCID:


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