One of the great achievements of the 1931 Leiden meeting was the establishment of a set of common notational practices for epigraphic and papyrological transcription. In the 21st century, the next hurdle/challenge to be met is of the same sort: to migrate these practices into the digital arena and extend them in a way that takes advantage of the functional opportunities offered by the new medium. The goal of the EpiDoc Community is to do just this (see further: Introduction for Epigraphers). The toolkit provided by the EpiDoc Community includes a TEI-conformant markup language, a set of XML tools to assist in transcription and publication (see EpiDoc Development, and full documentation of how to use both.
The EpiDoc toolkit is useful in a number of ways. It can help make basic activities such as transcription and sharing of documents much easier. For projects using standard XML tools and TEI/EpiDoc markup, sharing documents between projects becomes as simple as telling the software where to find the new file. For projects engaged in converting materials from Leiden notation to XML, manual conversion of data and re-entering of texts will become a thing of the past; the EpiDoc tools can convert directly from Leiden notation to EpiDoc markup without manual intervention.
But beyond the tremendous practical benefits to be realized from automated conversion and project-to-project data sharing, individual projects can gain other advantages from adopting EpiDoc techniques. One of the most significant is the ability to produce much more powerful user interfaces, which can be adapted easily to the needs of different user groups. One can imagine a website in which customizable user preferences dictate whether standard glosses for the various division types are presented to or hidden from the user (i.e., a helpful, student-oriented interface vs. a compact, streamlined view for scholars). Printed output in a variety of formats is also easy to produce from the EpiDoc-encoded source. Another important advantage is the ability to provide more nuanced searching, using the EpiDoc markup to identify specific search contexts and terms. Users can search for date ranges found only in 'description' divisions, for Latin abbreviations found only in 'edition' divisions, or for English words appearing only in 'translation' divisions. In assembling a large database of inscriptions, an automated process could easily be put to the task of reading all the entries from the 'bibliography' divisions of hundreds of individual texts prepared by a number of different projects, then collating the citations into a single master bibliography file for the entire database (for the major divisions of an EpiDoc document, see Document Structure).
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