Finding Early Modern Bee Books: The Methods

methods process

Once a source has been identified that contains the word ‘bees’ within it, how then should it be examined? What might we try to extract, in terms of knowledge, that would be useful and interesting, to a study of early modern bee literature? A study such as this must have boundaries and limitations or it could never be completed (or perhaps even properly attempted).

From the beginning I envisaged a large part of this project to be presented in terms of a website, utilising the blogging function of WordPress as a means of categorisation, organisation, and presentation. The size of the corpus also necessitates an underlying database, to;

(a) keep track of the thousands of publications under study, and;

(b) to enable various statistics and analyses to be conducted on the resultant data.

I considered various options, ranging from a simple spreadsheet through to NVivo proprietary software, ending up deciding that simple is best, at least for now. The project, therefore, has two parts. First an Access Database, containing metadata about each book, including a calculation of occurrence of ‘bees’, ‘honey’, and ‘wax’ in each.

 

Table showing main fields in the database

Field Name

Purpose

Description

Date

To record the date of publication

Taken from item metadata or STC entry

Author

To record the original author (surname, first name)

Taken from item metadata or STC entry

Translation

To note whether this is translated from another language

Yes or no options

Translator

To record the translator of the work (if applicable) (surname, first name)

Taken from item metadata or STC entry

Title

The full or abbreviated title

Taken from item metadata or STC entry. In cases where the title is long, it has been abbreviated. For incunabula, the first line is used unless a better title is available.

Printer

The name of the printer (when known) (surname, first name)

Taken from item metadata or STC entry

Location

Location of publication

Taken from item metadata or STC entry

STC reference

Standard Title Catalogue reference

Taken from item metadata or STC entry

Type

Genre of publication

Where possible taken from STC entry. Where none is given a suitable standardised ‘type’ is given.

Subject

The subject of references to bees, honey, and wax

From summarising the references and set to a standard set of categories

Source

The online repository where the item is obtained

For example EEBO, Google Books etc.

Total pages

Number of pages

Taken from item metadata or STC entry where possible. If not calculated from the copy itself. This will not always be accurate but does give an indication of length.

Total words

Number of words

This is a rough estimate, usually based on the machine-readable version which often includes additional text such as page references, title etc.

Bees

Number of times that ‘bees’ are written in the book

Count of references

Honey

Number of times that ‘honey’ or its variant spelling is written in the book

Count of references (honey, huny, hony, hoony, honny, hiney)

Wax

Number of times that ‘wax’ is written in the book

Count of references, limited to references about wax as an item rather than the literary reference of waxing.

Second, a blog post that describes the book, its author and circumstance, and the references to bees, honey, and wax. Each post will be labelled with a standard set of categories and a freeform set of tags to enable easy browsing of different types of books and topics

The purpose will be to identify key themes and trends within the literature that can enable a better understanding of beekeeping knowledge in the sixteenth- and seventeenth-centuries.