I knew there was a very big cache of Mitford letters I hadn’t yet looked at in Mitford’s home town of Reading, but as I worked tonight on the project of systematically identifying all the archives holding Mitford’s letters, I realized that the University of Reading is indeed in possession of 800 Mitford letters to her favorite correspondent, Sir William Elford (and others)! (She was very attached to Elford, and I think we’ll be learning a lot more about this longstanding friendship…) The number “800” caused my jaw to drop, but we are a team and we can but try… and I think we’re going to have to get a few legions of students and scholars and archivists to help us! In the meantime I’m looking forward to writing to and possibly meeting the U. of Reading archivists soon.
Here’s the resource I’ve been using for now to identify the locations of Mitford’s letters and papers: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/nra/searches/subjectView.asp?ID=P19965
Our site should at the very least try to identify all the letters we can find, and sort them by recipient and repository and date…this by itself is going to take some serious time. Meanwhile it is wonderful to have received permissions to reproduce Mitford’s letters from Reading Central Library and the John Rylands Library at the U. of Manchester!
Much excellent work is underway this week by our project team: each one working on a text by Mitford, mostly plays but a group of two working on the first version of Our Village (and coping bravely with limited options, stuck working with a faulty text due to OCR). I’ve been supervising the autotagging of texts, and spending some excellent quality time in Google + hangouts, in the most recent of which we’ve been hammering out some excellent plans for context markup, extracting and adapting the TEI P5 guidelines. My next task (tomorrow!) is to write up our rules for context coding in our Coding Guidelines document in Google Drive, and I’ll need everyone to read that new section carefully as soon as I’ve written it. Context coding is a tough thing to standardize, but the TEI gives us some useful options that we’re adapting for historic as well as fictional people, places, and events, among others.
Evidently, reports of the 800 letters are greatly exaggerated–something wrong on the National Archives catalog listing! But those hundreds of letters are likely accounted for at Reading Central Library, after all.