The Digital MEGA

The latest issue of Socialism and Democracy includes an update on the progress of the Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe project, the international scholarly effort to publish all of the works of Marx in the languages in which they were written. The author, Gerd Callesen, is a Danish librarian and editorial participant in the project. While the expensive volumes in the series are not intended for use by the average person interested in Marx (and shrinking academic library budgets mean that few students may even have a chance to use them), some volumes in the series are being made freely available on the web. Criticism &c. provides here an excerpt from the article focusing on the MEGA’s digital portion and some concluding paragraphs on the future of the project.

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Excerpt from “MEGA² at the Halfway Point” by Gerd Callesen

(from Socialism and Democracy, November 2011, Vol 25, Issue 3)

It is hardly possible to produce such an extensive edition without reacting to the technological breakthrough entailed by the digitalization of printed matter. This has been done despite the limited resources available to the International Marx Engels Stiftung (IMES).

Section II (Capital and preparatory studies), which is all but complete, was selected for digitalization. Unlike any previous edition of Capital, this section includes all other versions and drafts for the three volumes of Capital written by Marx and his editor Engels. In their editorial apparatus the volumes of Section II provide detailed documentation of the relations and connections between these various versions. The objective of the MEGA Digitalization Project is to present the body of economic texts found in Sections across the different volumes. In this way the intertextual linkage between individual manuscript and print versions is thrown open to research either through accumulated registers or full-text searching. Line and page enumeration of the edited texts are presented identically with the printed MEGA² volumes, which facilitates citation.

Digital MEGA is presented in an imaginary desktop in which any number of windows can be opened so that different texts, registers, and search results/hits can be shown at the same time and in parallel. The ‘desktop’ is considerably bigger than the computer screen, which means that the layout remains clear even when several windows are open. Information concerning content and functionalities can be found in the project description and guidance under the heading, ‘Über das Projekt’. An English-language version of this text is planned for the near future.

Currently the digital edition of MEGA² covers the edited texts of five MEGA volumes, including ‘Grundrisse’ (II/1) and a number of versions of Capital vol. 2, Marx manuscripts (II/4.1, 11/11), editorial texts related to them (II/12), and the printed versions published by Engels. Soon the edited text of the first (1867) edition of Capital vol. 1 (II/5) will be available online. In addition, a full-text search for all the volumes as well as an accumulated subject index for all the different versions and preparatory texts for Capital vol. 2 are available. In the medium term the plan is to make the manuscripts and printed versions of Capital vol. 3 available as well.

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Continued funding of the endeavour seems problematic. Publication of MEGA² is assured until 2015. At that time, a new evaluation will determine whether it will be continued or not. It is to be hoped that at least the volumes that are far advanced will be given the green light. It is also to be hoped that funding will be increased in light of the broad recognition which the edition enjoys in the German and international press as well as in scholarly journals. It should be stressed that the edition is being used in ever wider circles, so that some of the volumes have already had to be reprinted, and citations of MEGA volumes occur ever more frequently.

It seems that the recruitment of new collaborators is not an acute problem, but the senior people from the time before 1990 who until now have been in charge of most of the volumes will necessarily soon cease to be active, this being especially true of the Moscow collaborators. This matters, not just because of their work on individual volumes but mainly because of their profound knowledge of the collections held in Moscow and the work they carry out to the benefit of the entire project. Despite challenges of various kinds, it remains admirable that the MEGA continues to issue two volumes every year. Compared to other large-scale historical critical editions, this is no mean feat.

[1] Making the texts available online is the outcome of cooperation between the Academy project MEGA and the working group Telota, both at the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, and a group of Japanese scholars at Tohoku University (Sendai) and Hosei University (Tokyo).

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  1. Pingback: Miscellany « Poumista

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