Monthly Archives: September 2016

September Updates

A regular report of updates to the Statutes Project.

0: Launched this site.

1: Links to digitized volumes of the Laws of Grenada, 1763 to 1875, added.

2: Volumes 31 and 32 of Danby Pickering’s edition of the Statutes uploaded to the Github repository.

3: All 6 volumes of Pickering’s edition so far OCR’d run through Ted Underwood’s OCR Normalizer. The text is still poor, but nevertheless considerably improved over what came straight out of Abbyy Finereader. Again, all to be found on Github.

4: Began posting the specific volumes I am using as sources for British legislation. Note that the particular scans I am using as sources are important, due to individual blemishes and stamps on the original volume, and technical distortions – not to mention stray fingers – of the digitization used.

Planned for October: more OCRing, more normalizing, some thinking about the titles of the statutes, and a very odd lottery.

Introducing The Statutes Project

The aim of the Statutes project is quite simple: to put the majority of historic English legislation online in accessible, useful formats, readable by humans and machines alike, with accompanying metadata, without any financial, technical or legal obstacles to use or adaption.

The simplicity of this statement masks the many difficulties: finding the laws, digitizing them, turning page images into clean, correct text, and so on. And doing so  without having an entire life devoured by spell checking and hand correction.

The many volumes of statutes compiled through the last three centuries, coupled with mass digitization projects such as those run by Google Books and the Internet Archive, along with optical character recognition and text correction tools, does at least allow for the hope that useable – but not perfect – texts can be produced with a minimum of effort.

The focus will be on the late seventeenth, eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the ‘long eighteenth century’ that is central to my own historical studies. Expect a concentration on matters relating to debt and debtors; that is the subject of my PhD.

This blog is more a notebook than a full archive of legislation, although that is the long-term hope. It will cover the technical side more than the theoretical, although that won’t be absent. When there’s a sufficient corpus, quantatively and qualatively, there will be some preliminary attempts at analysis, little games aiming to investigate the possibilities.

Future posts will discuss the project in more detail, covering the source volumes, the software, textual analysis, dissemination, and undoubtably the many trials and tribulations produced by a simple idea rashly executed.