Editing Aphra Behn in the Digital Age (E-ABIDA)

Through systematically integrating digital and established methods, E-ABIDA will produce and disseminate a new, comprehensive edition of Aphra Behn (1640-89), one of the most important English Restoration writers, and one of the most significant women writers in any age or nation.

Celebrated by Virginia Woolf as the first Englishwoman to earn her living by her pen, Behn was a leading dramatist, author, literary editor, and translator of poetry, fiction, and philosophical and scientific prose. Her diverse writings address such matters as the challenges facing women writers; colonialism and slavery; the cultural legacy of the classical world; scientific innovation; politics; and sexuality. She sustained a 20-year career in the competitive London theatre, worked with leading writers, and was published by eminent booksellers. Her importance is also recognised by both The National Archives and The National Theatre, who will work with E-ABIDA to mount a public exhibition about her work as a spy, and to stage one of her plays.

E-ABIDA will integrate digital and standard editorial methods so as to facilitate the swift production of a new Behn Complete Works for publication by Cambridge University Press. Generously annotated, it will be accessible to both specialist and general readers. Print-on-demand, modern-spelling selections will be available, enhancing its attraction to teachers and theatre companies. The edition will be based on a complete re-evaluation of Behn's literary canon, which includes several texts of contested attribution.

A key dimension of the project is its integration of standard and digital methods, facilitated through a digital workspace. In Phase 1, the software on this platform will facilitate collaboration between contributing editors by alerting them when other editors are working on cognate problems. It will also enable the General Editors to oversee progress on the various works. In Phase 2, a public-facing website will be added, including a searchable dataset of Behn's works; materials showing how scholarly editions are made; visual representations of Behn's connections with theatres, printshops, coffee-houses, and other institutions. Study Packs for schools and workbench tools will be made available as a resource for other editorial projects.

To produce a global Behn edition for the twenty-first century requires a collaborative team of international, interdisciplinary scholars. E-ABIDA brings together exactly that, with contributors from Britain, France, Austria, North America and Australia. The Principal Investigator, Co-Investigators and Research Associates, based at three universities, have complementary research interests in literature and language, theatre and book history, and digital humanities. They span the career stages from PDRA to Professor, and have worked together since 2013 to build partnerships with The National Archives and the National Theatre, and to plan the edition's methods. Behn's works not only span a wide range of genres and subjects but also have a strong worldwide appeal and present-day resonance.