2. What is Pliny?

Pliny is a tool that works with annotations or notes that you gather as you are reading -- arguably the starting point for much personal scholarly research in the humanities. It can be used with both digital (web sites, images and PDF files) and non-digital (books, printed journal articles) materials. The text of the annotation can be anything that you wish to record -- indeed, whatever strikes you about the material you are reading is fair game.

Pliny is designed assuming that you might well accumulate many notes (perhaps even thousands) over time, and that your note collection will then provide a base platform upon which you might develop some sort of interpretation of the materials they refer to. Thus, Pliny has components in it that go beyond annotation facilities to help you manage the notes and organise them, even if you have thousands of them to work through. We hope Pliny will in this way help you in the task of taking your reactions and transforming them into an overarching scheme or structure into which your notes can fit.

Pliny itself is never going to be a website (although it could help you manage information you wish to record about websites) and you will not use it directly through your web browser like you might a online scholarly resource. Instead, Pliny is an application that runs on your desktop computer. Because it is not a website, it can manage both materials from or not from the web -- ranging from on-line journals to digital image archives, and even non-digital materials such as books or journal articles. Recording notes in Pliny does not require that a website "support" Pliny for you. It also means that all the information you give to Pliny will be stored on your own computer, rather than on a remote machine.

There is more about what Pliny is about on the Screenshots page, and a more detailed description of what has motivated Pliny's development on the page Pliny: What and Why?.

Pliny software is certainly available for you to try out an use from here, but it should be thought of as a kind of prototype.

Why "Pliny"?

Why is this software called Pliny? I am beholden to Willard McCarty for the name, who pointed me at Pliny the Elder -- an individual who was famous in classical Roman times as someone who expressed his curiosity about all things by constantly recording notes about them. Apparently, he seems to have written quite a few works (Michel Barran says the number of works is 75 in his article about Pliny in Eric Weisstein's World of Biography), but the only one to survive is his encyclopedic Historia Naturalis, which orders and presents his collected notes under a large number of topics. It is perhaps characteristic of his curiosity that he collapsed and died while travelling to see Vesuvius first-hand (and to rescue friends) during its eruption in 79 C.E.

Articles and Presentations about Pliny

The following articles and posters are available that explain more about Pliny and present recent developments:

John Bradley
Department of Digital Humanities
King's College London