About the Archive


History of the Archive

Meredith Martin began assembling the Archive in 2007 as she was writing The Rise and Fall of Meter: Poetry and English National Culture, 1860 – 1930. Much of her research would not have been possible without the pioneering work of T.V. F. Brogan, whose 1981 bibliography English Versification, 1570–1980: A Reference Guide With a Global Appendix. Brogan was the first to assemble bibliographic records for 1,743 works on versification and prosody. We have included 578 out-of-copyright books from this bibliography, and we are expanding the collection to include works from 1570 by gathering and scanning the remaining materials (most of which are periodical and newspaper articles). T.V.F. Brogan passed away in 2012, and the Princeton Prosody Archive is dedicated to his memory.

What began as three ring binders in 2007 turned into an unruly Endnote file in 2008, and in 2009, was transformed into two rounds of linked articles in an early version of Zotero. A frozen Firefox browser stalled one MacBook and three hard-drives, and finally, after receiving a grant from the Princeton Council on the Humanities in 2010, Martin hired a contracted programmer who unsuccessfully attempted to build full-text search functionality with page images in a MySQL database. It was increasingly clear that Princeton needed a Center for Digital Humanities to help consult Martin on the project.

Concurrent to starting the Digital Humanities Initiative at Princeton, Martin shifted her focus away from including journal articles in the Archive when Princeton University Counsel could not reach an agreement with publishing company Gale to allow for both full-text searching and page image displays for the periodical materials. (Because prosodic materials are often not readable by regular OCR, page images are crucial). With the help of project manager Grant Wythoff (2009-2013), the PPA partnered with Google Books and HathiTrust in 2011. The HathiTrust delivered more than 8,000 monographs – their full text and MARC metadata – for the PPA to host on its servers. In 2012, the PPA was awarded an Officer’s Grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to begin imagining a public version of the Archive. In 2013, the PPA hired Travis Brown, who was then working at the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH). Brown developed the back-end of the current PPA beta-site, which allows users to browse and search through its fully indexed content. Ben Johnston has been the technical lead at Princeton in consultation with current project manager Meagan Wilson (who began her tenure in the fall of 2013). The Center for Digital Humanities at Princeton completed its inaugural year in 2014-2015.

PPA Contacts and Board Members

Primary Investigator
Meredith Martin (Associate Professor of English, Princeton University)

Project Manager
Meagan Wilson (PhD candidate in English, Princeton University)

Technical Lead
Rebecca Koeser (Lead Developer, Center for Digital Humanities, Princeton University)

Advisory Board

  • Jean Bauer (Associate Director, Princeton University Center for Digital Humanities)
  • Natasha Ermolaev (Assistant Director, Princeton University Center for Digital Humanities)
  • Ben Glaser (Assistant Professor of English, Yale University)
  • Natalie Houston (Associate Professor of English, University of Massachusetts Lowell)
  • Brian Kernighan (Professor of Computer Science, Princeton University)
  • Virginia Jackson (Endowed Chair in Rhetoric for English and Comparative Literature, University of California Irvine)
  • Meredith McGill (Associate Professor of English, Rutgers University)
  • David Mimno (Assistant Professor of Information Science, Cornell University)
  • Yopie Prins (Irene Butter Collegiate Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University of Michigan)
  • Jesse Sheidlower (Former North American Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, Author of The F-Word)
  • Grant Wythoff (Society of Fellows in the Humanities, Columbia University)

Past Collaborators and Contributors

Since its 2007 inception, the PPA has been grateful for the dedicated direction given by an incredible network of subject experts and technical advisors. We wish especially to thank members of our original Advisory and Technical Advisory Boards:

  • Travis Brown (Software Developer)
  • Annmarie Drury (Assistant Professor of English and Co-Director of First Year Writing, Queens College)
  • Christiane Fellbaum (Senior Research Scholar in Computer Science, Princeton University)
  • Curtis Hillegas (Associate CIO, Research Computing, Princeton University Office of Information Technology and Princeton Institute for Computational Science and Engineering)
  • Simon Jarvis (Gorley Putt Professor of Poetry and Poetics, University of Cambridge)
  • Andrew Jewell (Professor of Digital Projects and Editor of the Willa Cather Archive, University of Nebraska-Lincoln)
  • Daniel Snelson (Andrew Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities, Northwestern University)
  • Andrew Stauffer (Associate Professor of English and Director of NINES, University of Virginia)
  • Jon Stroop (Library Applications Development Manager, Princeton University Library)
  • Mark Ratliff (Associate Director of Academic Services and Digital Repository Architect, Princeton University Office of Information Technology)

The project would also not have been possible without the hours of hard work of several key contributors. We are thankful to the PPA’s founding project manager and current Advisory Board member, Grant Wythoff, whose tireless efforts ensured that the Archive developed into a single-source collection for prosodic works by facilitating our partnership with the HathiTrust and overseeing the development of the PPA’s first beta-site. Without the painstaking programming and indexing of Travis Brown, a former Advisory Board member, we would not have had our first beta-site, our first fully searchable collection. Clifford Wulfman (DH Specialist at the Princeton CDH) was a guiding force as we built the PPA’s early strategy and was instrumental in helping us refine our collection and eliminate duplicate entries. And finally, we are eternally grateful to the dedicated hours given to us by Ben Johnston (Senior Educational Technologist at Princeton’s McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning). Involved with the PPA since its beginning, Ben singlehandedly kept the lights running on the technical end of the project as we transitioned into a final product.

Site Architecture

The PPA is committed to providing a model for other scholars struggling with the question of how to organize and present their own HathiTrust collections (in their research or in the classroom). To this end, all code for the Archive is open source. The repositories and a comprehensive description of the site architecture is available here.