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Theodor Fontane Marginalia

UI-Concept Theodor Fontane Marginalia


The Theodor Fontane Archive (TFA) in Potsdam is the central tool for research on Fontane.

It consists of about 150 books of his ownership with numerous handwritten marginalia and glosses. In addition to this comparatively small author’s library, the TFA collects metadata about the literature Fontane worked with but did not own. These 4000–5000 books and documents form Fontane’s virtual library.

The TFA is in the process of digitalizing the collection and can provide two datasets: the reference library comprising rich metadata (i.e. bibliographical information and information about marginalia) and as soon as the whole collection will be digitized about 74,000 high quality images. Secondly the virtual library with metadata (i.e. bibliographical information) and in some cases references to books of the reference library and links to different open access sources with scans of these books.

Working libraries of authors are still somewhat under-explored in literature research, which is surprising given the wealth of information about the author’s working process, cultural contexts and influences they provide.

Certainly part of the reason for this is that these libraries, like the TFA, are not available online, limiting access sharply. Even if they were; a table of 74,000+ images in a browser tab would not be exactly inviting to engage with.

Visualizing in a way that is suitable for easy and effective exploration is therefore key in advancing research on those libraries and reaching a larger audience.


As described above, the annotations Fontane made in his books are the real wealth of the TFA; the books itself are mostly standard works and readily available online.

For this reason, we focused our design around these marginalia and highlights, and tried to leave the book contents on the sidelines.


The overview-page shows a big picture of the bookshelf and aims to help identify pages that might be interesting to look at in detail.

For each book, a spread of all pages with annotations are shown and their total amount per page is visualized.

This setup should give a good idea of how active Fontane was in each book and lead to a promising starting point to explore.




After identifying an entry page in the bookshelf-overview, users can zoom into the contents.

A transition leads to the corresponding place in Pageview and the previews make way for transcripts of Fontane’s marginalia and highlights.

From here, the surrounding pages can be explored as well; clicking on one refocuses the view accordingly.

For each clipping, or content piece, the original scans are accessible as well through “view in context”.






Art des Projekts

Keine Angabe


foto: Prof. Dr. Marian Dörk

Zugehöriger Workspace

Visualizing Cultural Collections


Wintersemester 2017 / 2018