Text Encoding at the Wittgenstein Archives

Wittgenstein's Nachlaß presents numerous problems for publication. Wittgenstein was in the habit of continuously revising and rearranging his manuscripts. There are multiple amendments such as interlinear insertions, overwritings, deletions, substitutions, marginal notes etc. When Wittgenstein revised and rearranged his work, he wrote or dictated from earlier drafts and altered, moved or removed sentences and sections and inserted new ones; thus there is a complicated relationship between the Nachlaß manuscripts, many of them being partial duplications of one another. The result is a text in which old remarks sometimes reappear without modifications or are placed several times in different contexts. Since Wittgenstein himself never prepared more than a negligible fraction of his writings for publication, most of his manuscripts and typescripts are still full of various annotations, deletions, insertions, marginal remarks, critical instructions and cross-references, and alternative formulations for particular phrases. Neither is it always clear which of such alternative formulations he finally decided upon.

In order to reproduce the texts as completely as possible the Wittgenstein Archives developed for the machine-readable version of the Nachlaß its own coding format and registration standard (code system), which provide the basis for specially designed software that offers a wide range of opportunities for presentation and analysis of the texts.

The transcriptions at the Wittgenstein Archives were coded in a primary format using a syntax called MECS (Multi Element Code System). MECS defines the syntax for the Wittgenstein Archives' registration standard, MECS-WIT. This syntax allows the source transcriptions to be manipulated with MECS software for varying presentation formats, code extraction, variant control, word lists and other statistical data.

MECS is designed to ensure that MECS conforming transcriptions can be easily formatted for output to other applications. Several filter sets allow for the presentation of the transcriptions in WordPerfect, HTML, FolioFlatFile or in plain ASCII format. The Wittgenstein Archives emphasized the need to prepare the transcriptions in a format which is neither system nor application dependent.

The Wittgenstein Archives, Allégt. 27, N-5007 Bergen, Norge
+47 55 58 94 74
+47 55 58 94 70

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Last updated 01.11.2000 alois.pichler@hit.uib.no