The Novels of Fanny Lewald             Washington University Digital Gateway

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About Fanny Lewald | About the project | Digitization process


About Fanny Lewald

Fanny Lewald (1811-1889) was a popular and prolific writer of novels, novellas, short stories, travelogues, letters, and political essays, among other things, as well as a detailed autobiography of her early years that gives insight into not only her own life but the lives of nineteenth-century, middle-class women in general.

The oldest of eight surviving children, Lewald was born in Königsberg to Jewish parents who were so assimilated that she was five or six when she learned – from the neighbors – that she was Jewish. She was an excellent student, earning high marks in the school’s public examinations and regretful praise from visiting dignitaries who felt her gifts would have been better suited to a boy. Yet her formal education ended at thirteen. She then embarked on almost twenty years of unenthusiastic housekeeping characterized in her autobiography as “Leidensjahre.” The monotony was broken by a trip through Germany with her father, unrequited love for her cousin, and a proposal from a virtual stranger whom she refused, despite her father’s pressure. She began to write, encouraged by a relative, August Lewald, who printed her letters about events in Königsberg in the magazine he published and paid her for her work. Her father gave her his reluctant permission to start a career as a writer, although he initially insisted that her work be published anonymously. At thirty-three, she moved into an apartment of her own – an unusual step for a woman in her position – in Berlin. In 1845 Lewald traveled to Italy, where she encountered a new, less conventional way of life in the German community of artists and scholars she found there. There she also met Adolf Stahr, the man she would marry nine years later.

Although Lewald was to become a very well-known, best-selling author, often compared to George Sand and George Eliot, she was largely forgotten within 20 years of her death. Feminist critics rediscovered her in the 1970s, when she was heralded especially for her autobiography and her political essays on subjects like the education of girls and women. These had gained her acclaim in her lifetime as well, including a letter of praise from John Stuart Mill. Because of this interest, the autobiography, a number of political essays, and Jenny, an early novel whose theme is Jewish emancipation, have since been republished. Most of Lewald’s other work, however, is available only in the reading rooms of scattered libraries. That makes a web site like this one an all the more vital contribution to scholarship and to the rediscovery of this important voice from the nineteenth century.

Text by Vanessa Van Ornam

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About the Project

As many of Fanny Lewald’s original works are not widely held by libraries in North America, Prof. Lynne Tatlock, Washington University’s Hortense and Tobias Lewin Distinguished Professor in the Humanities, suggested that Digital Library Services undertake digitizing some of the harder-to-find novels to make them available to literary scholars and the general public. Hard copies of ten novels were obtained from Vanessa Van Ornam, who wrote her dissertation on Lewald and later published Fanny Lewald and Nineteenth-Century Constructions of Femininity (2002). This project was a collaboration between Digital Library Services and Brian Vetruba, Germanic Studies Librarian, who oversaw and coordinated the project.

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Digitization Process

In 2008, working with Professor Lynne Tatlock, Vanessa Van Ornam, and Brian Vetruba, Digital Library Services received photocopies of ten of Fanny Lewald’s novels. Because the novels are in the public domain, there were no copyright issues with photocopying these works. The digitization process involved scanning the photocopied pages, performing image correction, and creating XML markup for each novel. Scanning assistance was provided by Rose Haynes and Teresa Yarber of the Washington University Libraries' Database Management Unit. DLS student assistans also contributed to all phases of the digitization process.

Image capture
Once the novels were received, the photocopies were digitized using an Epson GT 2500 flatbed scanner. While these photocopies are somewhat valuable because of the limited access to Lewald’s novels, their condition was stable enough to be scanned on a flatbed scanner. Because the materials being scanned were black and white photocopies, the images were captured in 8-bit grayscale. Although DLS’ image capture standard for most projects is RGB color, grayscale was used for this project because the source material was black and white and scanning in grayscale produced a significantly smaller file size. The images were scanned at 600 ppi and saved as TIFF files using lossless LZW compression. Files were organized in directories indicating the novel title and volume number. Three versions of the images were saved: the original scan, cropped double page spreads, and single pages. Single page files were saved both as TIFFs, for preservation, and in the JPEG2000 format, for access. DLS is transitioning to using JPEG2000 as an image preservation file format, and used this project to evaluate the reliability and quality of this format. The single page images and corresponding XML files were then indexed in the DLXS asset management system.

Image correction
All image correction was performed using Adobe Photoshop CS3. The photocopies of the novels were produced on 8.5x11 inch paper, although the novels themselves were much smaller. To eliminate white space, the images were cropped to the actual novel’s page size and saved as double page spreads and further cropped into single pages. Single pages were then straightened to correct page skew. The photocopies had been hole punched through the top to bind all of the pages together. These holes were eliminated using the clone tool in Photoshop. Often, the pages were varying sizes after being cropped and straightened. To ensure that the pages would display correctly in DLXS, the canvas size was altered to a consistent size and a matching color was filled in the remaining background area. Although cosmetic changes were made, to preserve the integrity of the text, no alterations were made to areas containing text.

XML encoding
Attempts to perform Optical Character Recognition on the texts were made using ABBYY FineReader OCR software. However, because these novels were printed using the German Fraktur typeface, the captured OCR was not legible enough to be useful to readers. Without sufficient staff or time to transcribe all of the novels, DLS made the decision to present page images of the novels, without providing searchable text. The digitized page images increase availability and access to these important texts, which were previously available in few select libraries.

Metadata for this collection was encoded in TEI. Because the transcribed text is unavailable, XML encoding for this project consists of the TEI header, providing bibliographic information, and the body, which is made up of chapter divisions and references to each page image. To expedite XML encoding, DLS investigated the use of the BodyBuilder XML application to automate markup of the XML body. DLS staff first learned about this application, developed by the University of Pittsburgh, at the DLXS workshop in 2007. After contacting University of Pittsburgh’s Library System staff, they agreed to make the application available to DLS. BodyBuilder automatically builds a TEI body structure through a WISYWIG interface. Users can upload page image files and the application will create page break tags with the appropriate sequence and reference to the image filename. In addition, users can indicate where a chapter division should be placed and the application will insert div tags. The resulting TEI file is ouput from the application and can then be modified to suit the project’s needs. DLS used BodyBuilder to create TEI body structures for each novel and then created a TEI header that could be used for each file. Automatically generating the XML significantly expedited project workflow.

Initially, the TEI files were encoded using TEI P4. However, with the release of TEI P5, the XML files were updated to P5 encoding. Minimal modifications were made to the files in order to index them in DLXS because the DLXS system is based on TEI P4. This collection uses the DLXS text class page turning software to display page images.

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