What is TEI Encoding?


The Text Encoding Initiative (also known as TEI) has been around since 1987. According to the TEI website, it was founded to “develop guidelines for encoding machine-readable texts in the humanities and social sciences.” The majority of funding for the TEI comes from member fees. The great thing about the TEI is that the schema can be, and is meant to be customized by its users!

There are different parts that make up the code. The header in particular is interesting because it sets up the context/environment for the rest of the file. The TEI header contains “free prose” which are just words, that can be organized in different ways such as in paragraphs, or other elements. 

In class, we encoded a Helen Maria Williams’ poem. The header contains general information about the poem such as the title, the author, name of the distributor, the date it was published, etc.

The header gives the reader information and context for the body. Without the header, the body would be in a sort of vacuum, alone with nothing surrounding it to give the reader a feel for the time period, or even the person who thought up the words on the page. There is a disconnect, and in order for the full story to be told, the header needs to be that connection. 

There are still things that I do not understand about the header, there are some tags I haven’t quite delved into yet, but I’m sure with a bit of time I could get a good grasp on it. TEI does not seem extremely difficult to get a handle on, with some time and patience, it seems manageable.

“This book aims to showcase a few of the many varieties of TEI markup without going into much detail for any of them.”