“Into the Pulterverse” represents an editing project undertaken by nineteen undergraduates enrolled in Professor Dianne Mitchell’s Literary Analysis course at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Each student was tasked with editing a poem by the seventeenth-century English poet Hester Pulter, whose writings have only recently become known to scholars. Using digital images of her manuscript (MS Lt q 32), now at the University of Leeds, students selected and transcribed one of her poems. This was not an easy task, since letter forms looked different four hundred years ago! Each student then edited his or her poem to improve the reading experience for a 21st-century audience. Students could choose whether or how much to update the spelling, punctuation, and capitalization in the Leeds manuscript. This was complicated by the fact that the manuscript was copied out from Pulter’s original papers by a scribe who may have made his own editorial judgement – and occasionally introduced mistakes into the text.
Using a plug-in called Hypothesis, students then annotated difficult words and passages in order to make these poems legible to readers. The poems edited here are known as “Emblems,” lyrics that offer some kind of pithy moral to the reader by working through a series of instructive images or ancient fables. As Alice Eardley notes in her invaluable print edition of Hester Pulter’s writings (Center for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2014), Pulter’s emblems are unusual in that they gesture to the fraught political situation of Pulter’s time. In addition to researching mythological and biblical references, as well as antiquated and usual words, students had to learn about the Civil Wars that wracked mid-seventeenth century England and culminated in the execution of the monarch, Charles I. To further situate the modern reader into this unfamiliar world, students identified a text or image that helped contextualize Pulter’s work, introducing this material in the form of a “Curation” or multiple “Curations.”
“Into the Pulterverse” is modeled on a publicly accessible web edition of Pulter’s poems entitled The Pulter Project (although it should be noted that the poems the students edited were not yet available on that site as of November 2019!). Like The Pulter Project, “Into the Pulterverse” is a collaborative edition that affords its participants a great deal of agency in how to represent Hester Pulter’s work to a modern audience. Because Pulter’s poetry is so new to scholarship, the students welcomed the chance to join a burgeoning conversation about this talented and often surprising writer. Their editions, including their annotations, tags, and Curations, are part of this conversation. We hope you enjoy them.
Professor Mitchell is grateful to Professors Leah Knight and Wendy Wall, founders of The Pulter Project, for making available to my students the digital images from the Leeds manuscript that served as the base texts for our edition. I would also like to thank Dr Jennifer Knievel, Humanities Library at Norlin Library, CU Boulder, for introducing the students to many new research sources that made the annotations and Curations possible. Finally, I deeply appreciate the assistance of Caroline Sinkinson from “Buffs Create” who helped set up the WordPress site our class used and provided much advice along the way.