Reviewing Digital Resources: The Database of Early English Playbooks (DEEP) - Introduction
The Database of Early English Playbooks (DEEP) is a freely accessible digital resource which "allows scholars and students to investigate the publishing, printing, and marketing of English Renaissance drama in ways not possible using any other print or electronic resource." Much like the comprehensive English Short Title Catalogue and the Early English Books project, DEEP is a project whose aim is to systematically allow access to bibliographic information for all early modern printed materials in England, Scotland, and Ireland; unlike those much broader projects, DEEP confines itself to "original playbooks, their title-pages, paratextual matter, advertising features, bibliographic details, and theatrical backgrounds." The project is perhaps best understood as a highly usable bibliographic database allowing users to find and explore bibliographic information relating to any particular text, author, printer, publisher, company, illustration, paratextual material, etc. While many of these search fields fall outside the realm of traditional bibliographic capture, all are drawn from the original texts themselves. DEEP helps you know what to look for when entering more comprehensive collections like university special collections or Early English Books Online (EEBO).
The project is quite usable. The landing page features several links to various items, including a Basic Search, Advanced Search, a How to Use DEEP guide, and so on. The "How to Use DEEP" document is impressively thorough, and includes not only a bare-bones guide to using the search functions, but goes further and details the uses of and logic behind all search fields used by the project. One interesting feature is the balance of blank search fields and listed search terms. If one is undertaking a basic search, for instance, and selects "Title" as a search field, a text box appears into which a term is typed. If "Author" is selected, a second box appears. This box includes all authors in the DEEP, from which users are expected to choose.
As is made clear in the "History behind DEEP" section of the site, the project is the result of collaboration between Drs. Alan B. Farmer (currently an Associate Professor at The Ohio State University) and Zachary Lesser (currently an Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania). Begun in 1999 as a locally-hosted database for the private use of Farmer and Lesser while doctoral students at Columbia University, the project was transformed into a web resource in 2005. Funded by the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign Campus Research Board, the University of Pennsylvania's School of Arts and Sciences and the Schoenberg Center for Electronic Text and Image (SCETI), the online version of DEEP "went 'live' in November, 2007." It is to the pair's credit that they take pains to ensure those who worked to develop the site are acknowledged on the History page, including various programmers, visual designers, graphic designers, database consultants, and the director of the SCETI.
Author: Daniel Powell
Word Count: 467
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