Header Level 1

The following three sessions on the MEI header aim to create metadata for an electronic transcription of Robert Schumann’s song “Der Abendstern”. If you were cataloging this work for a library database, you would capture the relevant bibliographic information for the work as metadata stored within the appropriate fields in the library database. Compiling metadata using MEI is not essentially different from that procedure. The MEI header also provides various places (called "fields" when working in a database, but "elements" in XML) where you can insert bibliographic information.

Working with the MEI header, you will learn that elements with the same name can be used in many different places, but that their precise meaning can change, depending on the context in which they are used. A <title> of a <work> is different than a <title> of a file. Therefore, you must always be aware of the current context when working on the header.

1) New MEI File

We’ll explore the MEI header step by step, starting with the description of the electronic file itself. You learned how to create a new MEI document within the tutorial Creating a new MEI document. Take the file you created there or start a new one (ignoring the <music> part for the moment). The file should be completely empty but valid.


2) File Description

The first section of the header is the <fileDesc> element. As its name implies, this element contains a description of the file you’re creating, not to be confused with the musical work that is the content of the file.

Obviously, it would be good to give the file a title and to indicate who is responsible for creating it. In addition, information about the ownership, publication, and distribution of the file would be helpful. In fact, these basic descriptive components are required by MEI. Looking at the structure of the empty MEI file just created, you’ll notice a couple of mandatory elements. The <meiHead> element always requires a <titleStmt> (title statement) and a <pubStmt> (publication statement).


3) File Title

Let’s have a detailed look at the <titleStmt> element of your new MEI header. It contains a <title> element, which should be filled out with the title given to the electronic work by its creator. Most often, this is the same title as the source of the encoding. So start the encoding of your MEI header by choosing an appropriate title.

When creating an electronic transcription of an existing source, it is highly recommended that the title be derived from the source while at the same time being clearly distinguishable from it. You might add a simple phrase, such as “an electronic transcription” or “a digital edition”, to distinguish the electronic work from the source in citations and in catalogs containing descriptions of both types of material.

For further information about the file description, please refer to the MEI Guidelines .

Now, add the distinguishing phrase of your choice to the title in the file description.


4) Responsibility Statement

The responsibility statement element <respStmt> is included within the title statement. This is the element within your file description where you’ll encode one or more persons responsible for the creation of the electronic work (for example the encoder, editor, author or compiler) as well as persons who have been responsible for the creation of the existing source text, the composer(s).

The <respStmt> is optional. If used, it may contain a <resp> element (holding a phrase describing the nature of a person's intellectual responsibility). It may also have <name>, <corpName>, and <persName> elements indicating the responsible person or group.

Please add a <respStmt> element to your MEI header. Include information about the composer of the original work (Robert Schumann) and indicate who is responsible for the machine-readable transcription. (This should be you, as you are creating this file at the moment.)


5) Attributes @role, @dbkey, @authority, and @authURI

Because the order of elements in the MEI header is not predetermined, it can be somewhat complicated to programmatically extract the correct combinations of <resp> and <persName> elements. To avoid this problem, we recommend that you use the @role attribute on <persName> to specify a person's responsibility. The controlled vocabulary from the MARC code list for relators is a good source for values for this attribute. Using a controlled vocabulary makes your files easier to understand and thus facilitates data interchange.

It’s also highly recommended that you standardize the form of names in the various responsibility statements. For example, you could take the normalized form of a person’s name from an authority file. The @authority and @authURI attributes can be used to indicate the name and URI of the authority file you’ve consulted and the @dbkey attribute can be used to link to the record number for the individual name within the authority database.


6) Publication Statement

Let's go on to the second mandatory element of the file description: the publication statement.

The <pubStmt> element is a container for information regarding the publication or distribution of a bibliographic item. It includes the publisher's name and address, the date of publication, and other relevant details. It may also contain a single <unpub> element, if the file has yet to be published.

As your file has not been published yet, please add the <unpub> child element to your file description. You might also add a short phrase indicating the nature of or the reason for the unpublished status as the element's content, but this is optional.


7) Revision Description

For the last step in this tutorial let’s have a short look at another section of the MEI header: the revision description, which is represented by the <revisionDesc> element. The revision description is always encoded at the end of the MEI header. It may contain only <change> child elements.

Although it is not mandatory, it is a good practice to provide a <revisionDesc>. Its purpose is to record modifications to the file. Each modification is described in a separate <change> element, which may hold information about the modification date, affected content and responsibility. Major revisions of the header itself should also be documented in the <revisionDesc>.

What you could do right now is to create the beginning of a list of <change> elements. So fill in the <revisionDesc> element, along with the sub-element <change> and its sub-elements <respStmt>, <changeDesc> and <date>. Add an @n attribute to the <change> element and give it a value of "1”, since this is the first change made to the MEI file. Please also enter the name of the person responsible for the change (this would be you again), the date of change in ISO format (YYYY-MM-DD) and a description of the changes you made.