Undergraduate student contribution

DHUM 491: Remediating Bills of Mortality


DHUM491 is a directed studies course in Digital Humanities at the University of Victoria. Joey Takeda designed this iteration of the course, which is being supervised by Janelle Jenstad in Summer 2015, through the department of English.1
The Bills of Mortality were printed broadsides listing the numbers of deaths and christenings. The earliest collections of these in London date to the early 16th century; from 1625 on, they were privately printed on a press owned by the Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks and specially licensed by Star Chamber. In 1662, John Graunt compiled and analyzed a collection of these documents, arguably ushering in the field of demography and population statistics. In this course, we attempt to read these bills of mortality not for numbers but for toponyms (placenames). We are interested in the following questions: How does reading the bills of mortality for place help shape our understanding of place, death, and the printing press in Early Modern London? How can we map this data? How does compiling the data in the digital environment change the nature of the documents we are remediating? And how do our digital remediation processes help us understand the nature of these broadsides and the early remediations of data gathered by women, compiled by parish clerks, printed on perhaps London’s only legal private press, and then recompiled by the first demographer?

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this directed reading, Takeda will:
  1. have more robust tools and skills for searching repositories of primary texts;
  2. have a better understanding of the techniques of microhistorical analysis and macroanalytic reading;
  3. have developed a way of reading a small, focussed corpus of demographic texts as literary artefacts using humanities computing tools;
  4. understand the basic issues to consider in remediating texts (from manuscript records to printed tables, to demographic compilations, to digital editions and databases);
  5. know how to write XSLT transformations to render printed historical documents as texts and as databases;
  6. be able to mobilize historical data in the service of an argument about mortality and space in early modern London; and
  7. know and be able to recount the history of the Parish Clerks’ private printing press.


Note: the assignments are currently in draft. After they are proofed, they will be posted on the site.

Written Assignments

Editing a text requires careful documentation and explication. Takeda’s edition of the Bills of Mortality, like any good critical edition, will be carefully and thoroughly documented through annotated bibliographies and critical apparatus.
Assignment Details Weight
Preface for Finding Aid Defining and Refining: In order to compose a finding aid for the Bills of Mortality, we must have an understanding of what a Bill of Mortality is. Finding aids require a preface that spells out its inclusions, exclusions, criteria, and sources. 8%
Annotated Bibliography of Secondary Sources Making an Intervention: What critical work has been done? What work needs to be done on the Bills of Mortality? This annotated bibliography will provide 8%
Reflection Critically reflecting: These texts were already a remediation of data. Given that Takeda’s project is also a remediation of data, he will take the opportunity to think through the critical implications of aggregation, analysis, and remediation. How are these processes critically significant, similar, and/or different? This will be published on the MoEML blog. 8%
The Edition Making the Edition: The final paper will be the critical apparatus for the edition of the bills. The critical information will apear in two places: an introductory page that includes sections like an introduction, textual note, critical overview (drawn from the annotated bibliography of secondary sources), the bills, and ancilliary information and encoded in the <teiHeader>. 33%

Encoding Assignments


There will be two encoding assignments. The first will be a chronological finding aid for the Bills of Mortality, listing all known bills (extant and lost). There is no readily accessible list of the Bills of Mortality; MoEML will publish this list for the benefit of other scholars. The second encoding assignment is to transcribe, transform, edit, and anthologize the extant Bills of Mortality. Takeda will devise new remediation tools with Excel, XSLT, and CSS. His edition will be a critically-informed remediation of the data.
Assignment Details Weight
Encoding Assignment 1 Finding Aid of all known Mortality Bills for London from the earliest up to John Graunt. Takeda will submit this as an encoded MoEML table. 10%
Encoding Assignment 2 Encoding, Editing, and Anthologizing the Bills. Takeda will submit the encoded texts and the anthology incrementally, as a new section in MoEML’s Library. 33%


Note: these primary and secondary sources will all be added to MoEML’s bibliography.

Primary Documents

  • The Bills of Mortality
  • John Graunt
  • John Bell
  • Totaro, Rebecca, ed. The Plague in Essential Elizabethan Sources, 1558-1603. Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne UP, 2010.
  • Birch, Thomas, ed. A Collection of the yearly bills of mortality, from 1657 to 1758 inclusive. London: A. Millar, 1759. Open.


Nelson, Carolyn and Matthew Seccombe. British Newspapers and Periodicals 1641-1700: A Short-Title Catalogue of Serialsd in England, Scotland, Ireland, and British America. New York: MLA, 1987.


I have categorized the bibliography under multiple headings for convenience. Often items in these categories overlap in some way (Greenberg’s essay for example) so each essay is placed in the category most suitable.

Early Modern

Adams, Reginald H. The Parish Clerks of London: A History of the Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks in London. London and Chichester: Phillimore, 1971.
Clegg, Cyndia Susan. Press Censorship in Caroline England. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars, 2008.
Clegg, Cyndia Susan. Press Censorship in Elizabethan England. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars, 1997.
Plomer, Henry Robert. A Short History of English Printing, 1476–1898. London: Kegan Paul, 1900.
Siebert, Frederick Seaton. Freedom of the Press in England, 1476-1776: The Rise and Decline of Government Controls. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1952.
Bayatrizi, Zohreh. Life Sentences: The Modern Ordering of Mortality. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2008.
Champion, J.A.I. Epidemic Disease in London. London: Institute of Historical Research, 1993. Open. [Each essay is linked in .pdf form at the end of the page.]
Christie, James. Some account of parish clerks, more especially of the Ancient Fraternity (Bretherne and Sisterne) of S. Nicholas, now known as the Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks. London: 1893. Open.
Farren, Edwin James. Historical Essay on the Rise and Early Progress of the Doctrine of Life-contingencies in England, Leading to the Establishment of the First Life-assurance Society in which Ages Were Distinguished. London: Smith, Elder, & Co, 1844. Open.
Greenberg, Stephen. Plague, theng Press, and Public Health in Seventeenth-Century London. Huntington Library Quarterly 67.4 (2004): 508-527.
Harding, Vanessa. Burial of the Plague Dead in Early Modern London. Epidemic Disease in London. Ed. J.A.I. Champion. London: Institute of Historical Research. Open.University of London.
Harding, Vanessa. The Dead and the Living in Paris and London, 1500-1670. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002.
Kreager, Philip. New Light on Graunt. Population Studies 42.1 (1988): 129-140. DOI: 10.1080/0032472031000143156.
Maitland, William. The history and survey of London : From its Foundation to the Present Time. Vol. 2. London: 1756. Open.
Munkhoff, Richelle. Reckoning Death: Women Searchers and the Bills of Mortality in Early Modern London. Rhetorics of Bodily Disease and Health in Medieval and Early Modern England. Ed. Jennifer C. Vaught. Surrey: Ashgate, 2010. 119-134.
Newman, Karen. Cultural Capitals: Early Modern London and Paris. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2007. Read Ch.7, Death, Name, and Number.
Plomer, Henry Robert. Literature of the Plague. The Library 1 (1891): 209-228. DOI: 10.1093/library/s1-3.1.209.
Robertson, J.C. Reckoning with London: Interpreting the Bills of Mortality before John Graunt. Urban History 23.3 (1996): 325-350. DOI: 10.1017/S0963926800016898.
Slack, Paul. The Impact of Plague in Tudor and Stuart England. London: Routledge, 1985. [Especially Chapter 6: Metropolitan Crises.]
Slauter, Will. Write Up Your Dead: The Bills of Mortality and the London plague of 1665. Media History 17.1 (2008): 1-15. DOI: 10.1080/13688804.2011.532371.
Sullivan, Erin. Physical and Spiritual Illness: Narrative Appropriations of the Bills of Mortality. Representing the Plague in Early Modern England. Ed. Rebecca Totaro and Ernest B. Gilman. New York and London: Routledge, 2011.
Sutherland, Ian. Mortality in London, 1563 to 1665. Population and Social Change. Ed. D.V. Glass and Roger Revelle. Edward Arnold: London, 1972. 287-320.
Twigg, Graham. Plague in London: Spatial and Temporal Aspects of Mortality. Epidemic Disease in London. Ed. J.A.I. Champion. London: Institute of Historical Research. Open.University of London.
Wilson, F. P. The Plague in Shakespeare’s London. London: OUP, 1963.

Digital Humanities

Bolter, Jay David, and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT P, 2000.
Bowker, Geoffrey C., and Susan Leigh Star. Sorting Things Out: Classifications and Its Consequences. Cambridge: MIT P, 2000.
Burnard, Lou, Katherine O’Brien O’Keeffe, and John Unsworth, eds. Electronic Textual Editing. New York: Modern Language Association, 2006.
Byrant, John. The Fluid Text. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2002.
Cummings, James. The Materiality of Markup and the Text Encoding Initiative. Digitizing Medieval and Early Modern Material Culture. Ed. Brent Nelson and Melissa M. Terras. Toronto: Iter; Tempe, AZ: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2012. 49-81.
Galey, Alan, Richard Cunningham, Brent Nelson, Ray Siemens, and The INKE Team. Beyond Remediation: The Role of Textual Studies in Implementing New Knowledge Environments. Digitizing Medieval and Early Modern Material Culture. Ed. Brent Nelson and Melissa M. Terras. Toronto: Iter, Inc.; Tempe, Arizona: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2012. 21-48.
Hayles, N. Katherine, and Jessica Pressman, eds. Comparative Textual Media: Transforming the Humanities in the Postprint Era. Minneapolis and London: U of Minneapolis P, 2013.
Hayles, N. Katherine. Electronic Literature. Notre Dame, IN: U of Notre Dame P, 2008.
Jockers, Matthew L. Macroanalysis: Digital Methods and Literary History. Urbana, Chicago, and Springfield: U of Illinois P, 2013.
Moretti, Franco. Graphs, Maps, Trees. London and New York: Verso, 2005.
Moretti, Franco. Distant Reading. London and New York: Verso, 2013.
Tennison, Jeni. Beginning XSLT 2.0: From Novice to Professional. Berkeley, CA: Apress, 2005.


  1. This is a revision version of the syllabus. The archived version can be found here. (JT)

Cite this page

MLA citation

Takeda, Joey. DHUM 491: Remediating Bills of Mortality. The Map of Early Modern London, Edition 6.6, edited by Janelle Jenstad, U of Victoria, 30 Jun. 2021, mapoflondon.uvic.ca/edition/6.6/DHUM491_2015.htm.

Chicago citation

Takeda, Joey. DHUM 491: Remediating Bills of Mortality. The Map of Early Modern London, Edition 6.6. Ed. Janelle Jenstad. Victoria: University of Victoria. Accessed June 30, 2021. mapoflondon.uvic.ca/edition/6.6/DHUM491_2015.htm.

APA citation

Takeda, J. 2021. DHUM 491: Remediating Bills of Mortality. In J. Jenstad (Ed), The Map of Early Modern London (Edition 6.6). Victoria: University of Victoria. Retrieved from https://mapoflondon.uvic.ca/editions/6.6/DHUM491_2015.htm.

RIS file (for RefMan, RefWorks, EndNote etc.)

Provider: University of Victoria
Database: The Map of Early Modern London
Content: text/plain; charset="utf-8"

A1  - Takeda, Joey
ED  - Jenstad, Janelle
T1  - DHUM 491: Remediating Bills of Mortality
T2  - The Map of Early Modern London
ET  - 6.6
PY  - 2021
DA  - 2021/06/30
CY  - Victoria
PB  - University of Victoria
LA  - English
UR  - https://mapoflondon.uvic.ca/edition/6.6/DHUM491_2015.htm
UR  - https://mapoflondon.uvic.ca/edition/6.6/xml/standalone/DHUM491_2015.xml
ER  - 

TEI citation

<bibl type="mla"><author><name ref="#TAKE1"><surname>Takeda</surname>, <forename>Joey</forename></name></author>. <title level="a">DHUM 491: Remediating Bills of Mortality</title>. <title level="m">The Map of Early Modern London</title>, Edition <edition>6.6</edition>, edited by <editor><name ref="#JENS1"><forename>Janelle</forename> <surname>Jenstad</surname></name></editor>, <publisher>U of Victoria</publisher>, <date when="2021-06-30">30 Jun. 2021</date>, <ref target="https://mapoflondon.uvic.ca/edition/6.6/DHUM491_2015.htm">mapoflondon.uvic.ca/edition/6.6/DHUM491_2015.htm</ref>.</bibl>