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The Thomas Gray Archive is a fully browseable, searchable and annotated digital archive of the life and works of Thomas Gray (1716-1771), one of the most versatile 18th-century poets. The Archive aims to make Gray's work accessible to scholars, teachers, students, and the general reader. It provides access to high quality primary sources and secondary materials and constitutes a networked effort of institutions and individuals engaged in making Gray's works available digitally, thus partaking in and benefiting from collaborative scholarship online.

Aims and Objectives

The main purpose of the Thomas Gray Archive is to provide a structured platform for the scholarly discussion and exploration of Gray's life and works. The Archive aims to provide Gray scholars with the research tools (among them a comprehensive collaborative commentary, a finding aid to Gray manuscripts, and a digital library) necessary to fully exploit the increasing number of textual and image-based primary sources available. Intended and conducted as a collaborative and participatory effort from the start, the Archive endeavours to facilitate and support research in a networked environment, drawing on the expertise and resources shared by the scholarly community.

While the Thomas Gray Archive already offers a substantial amount of high quality resources, the long-term objective is to both transcribe and provide digital images of all Gray materials, including published works, manuscripts, letters, notebooks, and marginalia. The Archive intends to work with the archives, libraries, and repositories that hold relevant materials to produce digital surrogates of and provide free access to these resources.

Based on open, interoperable standards and formats widely used in the digital humanities (such as METS, MODS, TEI, and EAD), the Archive strives to preserve and to make accessible a comprehensive corpus of high-quality primary sources and secondary materials for use in teaching, scholarship, and publishing. In this sense, the Thomas Gray Archive, just like its analogue counterparts, is a place of reading, a place that facilitates and supports research, a place that preserves and disseminates information in the pursuit of knowledge.


The Thomas Gray Archive began as an unfunded research project at the Göttingen State and University Library (SUB Göttingen) in 2000. Co-founded by Reimer Eck, Associate Director at SUB Göttingen, and Alexander Huber, who is its editor, the project's focus was to create a collaborative online commentary to Gray's poetry, acknowledging the considerable challenges Gray's texts pose even to professional readers. Gray himself conceded the need for explanatory notes in the 1768 edition of his collected poems and it is not surprising that the volume of textual and editorial scholarship produced is hugely disproportionate to the slim corpus of Gray's poetry. Much of the groundwork of the Archive as it exists today was laid in Göttingen, where the project benefited from both the library's strong holdings of eighteenth-century books and the support of the Center for Retrospective Digitization, Göttingen (GDZ).

In 2002 the Archive moved, with its editor, to the University of Oxford. During the following years, the Archive evolved from its original goal and core concept, namely to stimulate discussion by providing an opportunity to researchers to add notes and queries to any part of any of the texts available, to a more fully-fledged digital archive, which includes many of the resources and online tools used by scholars working in the humanities today, such as a search facility, a computer-generated concordance, a finding aid to Gray manuscripts, a digital library, a biographical sketch, chronology, glossary, bibliography, gallery, and links to related online resources.


The Thomas Gray Archive is an unfunded research project. The Archive was made possible by the generosity and enthusiasm of colleagues at SUB Göttingen and the University of Oxford who provided an abundance of encouragement and support. The Archive is also grateful to SUB Göttingen and to the University of Oxford for their institutional commitment and support.



Page images were scanned from the original source materials to create 600dpi TIFF digital images. For most of the printed sources bitonal imaging was used, all manuscript materials have been digitized using 24bit colour imaging. The TIFF "master" files will be preserved on removable storage media for archival purposes and, wherever the source materials are owned by the Archive, are available on request. From these TIFF "master" files derivative versions have been created for delivery via the Website. The derivatives were created using the ImageMagick command line tool. Digitisation of the images was done on a variety of equipment, the b/w imaging was performed on an Epson GT-10000 flat bed scanner and a Zeutschel OmniScan 7000 scanning station, the colour imaging of manuscript materials was done on a "Grazer cradle" by Imaging Services at the Bodleian Libraries.


Powered by TEI

The Archive, like many modern virtual archives and digital editions, is based on resources encoded in XML (eXtensible Markup Language). All of Gray's poetry, selected prose works and an increasing number of 18th-century editions of his works and letters are available in full-text. While the poems and prose works have been edited for the Archive, the transcriptions of the editions were double-keyed, i.e. typed in twice by two typists. The two transcriptions are then compared, and any differences are noted and resolved manually. The resulting rate of accuracy is guaranteed to be 99.95%, but this will obviously vary from case to case. In case of doubt, it is strongly recommended to consult the text on the original page image files, or if necessary the original document in the relevant library or archive. The full-text was marked up following the recommendations of the TEI Guidelines for Electronic Text Encoding and Interchange. Additional markup was added both through automated and manual intervention.


As one of the key scholarly activities, annotating is a method by which scholars organize ideas and connect pieces of information about their object of study. In a networked environment, annotating facilitates the creation and sharing of new insights, e.g. gained from linking previously unconnected ideas or discoveries. From its inception, the Archive has encouraged participation and discussion, and its principal goal and core functionality has been to enable readers not only to browse and search the texts in order to locate and access variants, textual notes, and glosses, but also to contribute their own notes or queries. As a starting point, extracts from traditional print editions have been used to provide a basis for the scholarly discussion to emerge online. The Archive's annotation facility stores all annotations in a separate document. The annotations are linked to ranges (pairs of start and end points) in the source documents, e.g. line 5, word 3 to line 7, word 6. The commentary can be accessed not only via links from the source documents but also as a stand-alone record of the scholarly discussion. While the collaborative commentary strives to be authoritative, it is not conceived of as definitive, instead it is intended to be suggestive of new connections and interpretative avenues.


Bibliographic metadata for the digital surrogates created in the Archive is held in a METS container using the MODS schema. Additionally, administrative, technical, and structural metadata has been created pulling together information from the imaging software, the preservation infrastructure, and the library catalogue. The Encoded Archival Description (EAD) standard has been used for encoding the Gray manuscripts finding aid. The correspondence calendar has been encoded following the TEI guidelines.


The current Website was designed by Huber Digital. Photography by Martin Hall. The Website has been designed and built using current Web standards and technologies (HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript). The Website is published by the Thomas Gray Archive and has been publicly available since 15 November 2000. The Website is currently updated twice a year, in the Spring and Autumn. In between these major updates, versioned corrections and revisions of the pages take place continuously. A complete revision history is also available. Each major update is also archived separately and can be made available for reference purposes on request. The Thomas Gray Archive collects and publishes anonymized yearly Website statistics in order to both help evaluate its usage and impact, and support outreach activities and any applications to potential funding bodies:

Output and Dissemination

The Thomas Gray Archive's main output is a comprehensive set of tools and high-quality resources aimed at supporting Gray scholars throughout the research process, from the early stages of discovery, collection, and annotation through to the later stages of comparison, analysis, and composition. The Archive's resources are being disseminated to the general scholarly community not only via this Website, but have also been shared with a number of projects and initiatives, ranging from discovery tools (Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker) and electronic text archives (Internet Archive Text Archive) to related research projects (Electronic Enlightenment, Cultures of Knowledge) and digital aggregators (18thConnect).

The Archive has been discussed in a number of articles and reviews:


We maintain a list of projects that are planned, underway or have been completed at the Thomas Gray Archive. Where not indicated otherwise, the editor has served as project manager for the projects. Outputs from projects are usually made available on the Archive Website as well as on any collaborator's. If you are interested in collaborating with us on a project or are looking for a home for your relevant research outputs, including digital resources and research papers, please get in touch with the editor.

Copyright and Citation Guide

All digital surrogates of works not held by the Archive are reproduced under license from the libraries, archives, museums, and other institutions which hold the originals and must not be reproduced without prior written permission. Unfortunately, the Archive is unable to provide that permission, nor can it provide images for re-use as the copyright holders may reserve the right to charge a fee. Please contact the relevant institution directly using the copyright information provided with every work in the Archive.

Copyright in digital surrogates of works owned by the Archive, in the electronic texts, bibliographic information and markup, and the Website is with the Thomas Gray Archive. These works, including their XML source files, are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Users who wish to cite material from the Archive in online or print publications can use the following information:

Title: Thomas Gray Archive
Editor: Alexander Huber
Publisher: Thomas Gray Archive
Date of access: 22 Jul 2024
Last updated:15 Apr 2024

Listed below are the recommended citation formats in MLA style for (a) the Website as a whole, (b) a poem by Gray, and (c) a scholarly edition from the Thomas Gray Archive. Please consult the relevant published style guide to match your own requirements.

  1. Huber, Alexander, ed. Thomas Gray Archive. Thomas Gray Archive, 15 Apr 2024. Web. 22 Jul 2024. <>
  2. Gray, Thomas. "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard". Thomas Gray Archive, 24 Mar 2018. Web. 22 Jul 2024. <>
  3. Roberts, W. G., ed. Notes on a Tour through France and Italy undertaken in the Years 1739 to 1741 by Thomas Gray. Thomas Gray Archive, 03 Apr 2023. Web. 22 Jul 2024. <>

Use and Privacy Policy

The Thomas Gray Archive is open access. All material is made available free of charge for individual, non-commercial use, provided the Archive is acknowledged in every instance. If you wish to reproduce, distribute or use anything from this Website for commercial purposes you must obtain permission from the relevant copyright owner.

Teachers and students who want to copy or otherwise use material from the Archive for projects, lessons, or courses in a classroom context may freely do so. Any other use, copying, reproduction or publication of material from the site requires permission. For permission to use material from libraries or collections, please contact the institutions or owners directly.

In oder to provide a reliable and useful service, we use two external services which will store some small pieces of information on your computer in the form of cookies. We use Shareaholic to connect our Website to a number of Social Networking services and also to provide access to sharing, printing, and e-mail options. And we use Google Analytics to provide us with a measure of the usage and impact of our site, and to inform any outreach activities. We only submit anonymized IP addresses to Google Analytics. We consider these cookies essential to the provision of the service requested by the user.


The editor would like to express his gratitude to colleagues and administration at both SUB Göttingen and the University of Oxford for their enthusiasm, skill, and relentless encouragement and support. The creation of the digital versions of the primary sources and secondary materials available in the Archive would not have been possible without the generous permission granted by both institutions to the project.

The editor would also like to acknowledge colleagues at both the Center for Retrospective Digitization, Göttingen (GDZ), and Imaging Services at the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, who provided continuous and invaluable advice, guidance, expertise, and indispensable support throughout.

This project would not have been possible without the sustained engagement and willing cooperation of a large number of individuals. The editor gratefully acknowledges their collaboration.

The editor would also like to thank the Text Creation Partnership for their efforts to create and make available searchable electronic editions of the books in the Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) corpus.


The Thomas Gray Archive was co-founded (with Reimer Eck, Göttingen State and University Library) and is edited by Alexander Huber (Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford). The Website was designed by Huber Digital.

Thomas Gray Archive
Alexander Huber, Editor

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