• The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia

The Lee Family Digital Archive is the largest online source for primary source materials concerning the Lee family of Virginia. It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online. We are always looking for new letters, diaries, and books to add to our website. Do you have a rare item that you would like to donate or share with us? If so, please contact our editor, Colin Woodward, at  (804) 493-1940, about how you can contribute to this historic project.



Digital Legacy

Introduction. The LFDA plans to integrate existing MARC records (machine-readable cataloging record) of the Lee Family papers held at various repositories into one database that, after evaluation for quality and consistency, can be converted into a TEI (Text Encoded Initiative)-based XML database and combined with transcriptions, images, and annotation generated by the project staff.

Texts. Accurate textual transcriptions are the basis of any documentary edition. All transcriptions are uniformly rendered according to the project's detailed transcription and editorial policy (based on modern scholarly standards) and encoded with relevant XML tagging. In brief, the transcriptions remain as true to the original documents as possible, with the following qualifications. Spelling, punctuation, and capitalization are rendered as the writers intended, with mid-range letters following modern usage. Dashes, abbreviations, and contractions are kept as written, except that tildes are dropped and dots follow abbreviations but not contractions. Superscript letters are lowered, and any markings that appear beneath them will be treated as dots. Underlined text is rendered in italics. Marginal or above-line insertions are placed in the text where appropriate or indicated in a note; deleted material is recorded in the notes when substantive. Angle brackets denote mutilated or illegible material and square brackets indicate material inserted by the editors. The placement within a document of the dateline, salutation, farewell and signature is standardized. Paragraphing and indentions also are standardized to reflect breaks intended by the writer. A writer's footnote or appendix is inserted in the document at the proper place. Each document also contains a source note dealing with provenance, multiple copies, addresses, dockets, and other markings or pertinent information regarding the physical nature of the manuscript; administrative metadata also is accessible. Annotation follows the source note when appropriate. XML encoding is provided for each document's heading, dateline, salutation, paragraphing, closing, and signature information, and for people and place names.

Digital Images. Fidelity in the reproduction of images is a top priority. Although digital facsimile images of documents can never replace the original, LFDA images are intended to be "archival" to the extent that virtual copies might stand in for originals too fragile to be routinely handled (or even those destroyed or lost). Where possible, images will be digitized from the original manuscript on a flatbed scanner at high resolution, in uncompressed TIFF format at 600 dots per inch (dpi), and permanently archived. Digital facsimiles will be faithful to the original documents in scale, scale, and color and hence sufficient for most historians and other scholars to base their research upon. Where flatbed scanning of the originals is not possible or practical, images will be generated by digital-camera photography, and where the original manuscripts are not accessible digital images will be generated from microfilm or other best copies. All images will be resized to a 100-dpi image resolution in JPEG format for quick viewing across the internet, and to 300-dpi JPEG for enlarged viewing. These standards of reproduction provide resolutions sufficient for viewing and printing and are routine in the World Wide Web environment.

Contextualization. The Lee Papers as a collection of cataloging data, digital facsimiles, faithfully rendered searchable texts, and scholarly annotations will provide a "preservation and access" record (at least in a digital sense) for a wealth of historical information about one of America's most prominent families, a treasure trove that spans much of the American experience. As such — given the importance of several of its subjects during formative military periods (the Revolution and early Republic, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and the Civil War) — it will be valuable in and of itself. But on the principle that correspondence and other written works, as well as actions of the participants, makes sense only in historical context, the LFDA strives to enhance the usefulness of the information gathered and presented. Integral to the presentation and interpretation of the documentary record will be a complete Lee Family genealogy, a chronology or timeline, a biographical database of all persons (not just Lee family members) and a geographical database of all place names appearing in the documentary record, a calendar of Lee Family papers, an exhaustive bibliography, digitization of related secondary sources (e.g. Freeman's R. E. Lee), and interpretative essays generated specifically for the archive. Assistance in navigation and searching, amplified by an analytical scholarly index, will be provided.

Copyright Information. Every attempt will be made to identify and comply with all the rights to holders of copyright, and inclusion in the LFDA will not infringe on such rights. A special debt of gratitude is owed to the Lee Family descendants, who have willingly encouraged the use of the documentary record surrounding their ancestors, and to the repositories that own and care for the original manuscripts, for providing access to their collections. Notwithstanding the current misunderstanding surrounding fair-use of copyrighted material, confusion over international electronic copyright, and the owners' fears of illicit copying or loss of potential revenues, all participants have cheerfully cooperated in making viable this scholarly venture. Nevertheless, we require all users to indicate explicit agreement with the conditions of use, including copyright restrictions, stipulated on the LFDA website.


Access will be made free to the public via the World Wide Web.

User-generated information. For the end-user, nothing is more important than assured access to specific information provided in the LFDA. The user's ability to conduct comprehensive searches on the texts is paramount. The power of those searches depends upon the information (accurate rendering of texts and bibliographical metadata) and XML encoding provided for the documents; users can employ that information (or combinations of information) to access further information, which in turn can be employed to discover even further clusters of information, all relevant to their specific interests. A creative user can generate sequences of information from an endless array of documents, arranging it chronologically, alphabetically by sender or recipient, or by location or subject matter.

Text searches. Users can launch search queries for specific information contained in any of the LFDA's electronic texts. Such queries will generate lists of documents containing matched information that can be arranged (according to the user) by date, sender or recipient, location, type of document, location of document, etc. The user can select any document from the return list and view its transcription; the search-terms are highlighted in color. The user can also determine how much of the transcribed text to view; the amount of text viewed can be restricted to a number of words or lines, or to a paragraph or page, surrounding the information searched for, or the entire document can be viewed, either alone or in context with other documents generated by the search. Users can refine searches by querying for new information within documents generated by previous searches, or by restricting queries to finding exact words, phrases, or capitalization. On the other hand, so-called "fuzzy search" features allows users to find information even when the words being searched are misspelled or spelled in a non-standard manner. Thus, for instance, a user can determine whether to search for "parlor" or "parlour"; "General," "Gen.," or "Genl"; or combinations there of.

Accessing Images. At some point, almost every researcher wants to see what the original hand-written document of a text looks like. High-quality digital facsimiles provide "virtual" access to users of such documents at a fraction of the time and expense that it has historically taken to find and examine them in various scattered repositories. All queries of electronic texts (or administrative metadata) also generate links to digital images of the manuscript pages containing the text. Digital images can then be browsed in the context of the search query. Higher resolution images are accessible where desired

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