From the EpiDoc Wiki:
EpiDoc is an international, collaborative effort that provides guidelines and tools for encoding scholarly and educational editions of ancient documents. It uses a subset of the Text Encoding Initiative's standard for the representation of texts in digital form and was developed initially for the publication of digital editions of ancient inscriptions (e.g. Inscriptions of Aphrodisias, Vindolanda Tablets). Its domain has expanded to include the publication of papyri and manuscripts (e.g. Papyri.info). It addresses not only the transcription and editorial treatment of texts themselves, but also the history and materiality of the objects on which the texts appear (i.e., manuscripts, monuments, tablets, papyri, and other text-bearing objects).
The EpiDoc Collaborative, building recommendations for structured markup of epigraphic documents in TEI XML, was originally formed in 2000 by scholars at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Tom Elliott, the former director of the Ancient World Mapping Center, with Hugh Cayless and Amy Hawkins. The guidelines have matured considerably through extensive discussion on the Markup list and other discussion fora, at several conferences, and through the experience of various pilot projects. The first major—but not by any means the only—epigraphic project to adopt and pilot the EpiDoc recommendations were the Inscriptions of Aphrodisias and Vindolanda Tablets Online in 2002-4, and the guidelines reached a degree of stability for the first time in that period. EpiDoc has since been adopted as the native format for the Greek Papyrology site, Papyri.info.
From Bodard & Stoyanova 2016 (CC-BY 4.0):
The EpiDoc Collaborative produces a set of guidelines, schema and related tools for the encoding of epigraphic and other ancient text editions in TEI XML. The first EpiDoc Guidelines, published in 2000, arose jointly from work on Latin inscriptions by scholars at the University of North Carolina, and from work by the EAGLE Commission of the Association Internationale d’Epigraphie Grecque et Latine. Since then, many major online editions of inscriptions have been published using EpiDoc, including the Inscriptions of Aphrodisias, Vindolanda Tablets Online, US Epigraphy Project, Inscriptions of Roman Tripolitania, Pandektis (Upper Macedonia, Aegean Thrace and Achaia), Roman Inscriptions of Britain, and now massive corpora such as the Duke Databank of Documentary Papyri, Datenbank zur jüdischen Grabsteinepigraphik and the EAGLE Europeana Project, make use of EpiDoc in their workflow.
In the meantime there were two major phases in the development of EpiDoc tools and documentation, under the funded Inscriptions of Aphrodisias and Integrating Digital Papyrology projects respectively. Inscriptions of Aphrodisias was a major AHRC project at King’s College London funded for three years from 2004−2007, and preceded by the small pilot project that led the Aphrodisias in Late Antiquity digital publication. In the course of this project, ten international workshops were held, which brought together scholars and practitioners to discuss EpiDoc and the intersections between epigraphic scholarship and archaeology, prosopography, lexicography, numismatics, Byzantine materials and other topics. These workshops were also the venue for significant practical work on tools such as the EpiDoc Example XSLT and the EpiDoc Guidelines, which reached a state of stability of usefulness for public consumption during this process. Integrating Digital Papyrology was a Mellon-funded project involving a consortium of institutions, led by Duke University, between 2008−2011. This project produced several major new tools (especially the open source Papyrological Navigator and the SoSOL collaborative editing platform), and also funded several development and training workshops which further enhanced the EpiDoc Guidelines and training schedule.
From a bid doc, 2014 (Gabriel Bodard):
Many epigraphic and papyrological corpora have been published in the past decade and a half in accordance with the EpiDoc standards for digitally representing and publishing ancient textual editions in XML. The EpiDoc community maintains: (i) a set of Guidelines that encourage consistency and interoperability between publications and online corpora; (ii) a Text Encoding Initiative ODD document and RelaxNG schema for validating XML and providing editing support; (iii) a collection of Example Stylesheets to demonstrate and provide a starting point for the transformation of XML editions into online, print and other publication formats. EpiDoc is also a community of support, offering training courses, discussion fora, and other opportunities for scholars and students to learn about the XML standards, related tools, and acquire other skills necessary for working for ancient texts in this form.
From Digital Mediaevalist 2008 (Gabriel Bodard):
§ 4 The EpiDoc Guidelines, recommendations for XML mark-up of epigraphic documents, were originally conceived in 2000, by Tom Elliot, then director of the Ancient World Mapping Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with Hugh Cayless and Amy Hawkins. The guidelines and other tools have matured considerably through extensive discussion in online fora such as the Markup list, at several conferences, and through the experience of various pilot projects. 2 The first major—but not by any means the only—epigraphic project to adopt and pilot the EpiDoc recommendations has been Inscriptions of Aphrodisias , and the guidelines have reached a degree of stability for the first time during this process.
§ 5 EpiDoc specifies the use of XML (Extensible Markup Language), an industry standard maintained and documented by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C 1996-2007). In simple terms XML is a grammar for defining markup languages—including HTML, the principle language of the Web. XML is a software- and platform-independent language, optimised for compatibility, interchange, and durability, which means that it is ideal for archive storage as well as web and database publication. Since XML, and, now less commonly, its parent language SGML, are used almost universally for encoding and storing data in the commercial sector by computer professionals, publishers, analysts, archivists, economists and so forth, advantages over a proprietary database system are increasingly clear. In particular, it is likely that any changes in technology that require upgrades to either the encoding of XML itself, or its transformation and delivery, will be handled by those with the resources to do so, and that academic projects can coat-tail on this progress, rather than having to invest in expensive solutions themselves or see their materials fall out of date.
From Digital Humanities Quarterly 2010 (Hugh Cayless):
The first draft of a set of guidelines for the application of TEI to epigraphic texts (a.k.a. The EpiDoc Guidelines) was promulgated in January 2001 with the assistance of Ross Scaife and Anne Mahoney (of the Stoa Consortium), and of John Bodel (then at Rutgers, now in the Classics Department at Brown University) and Charles Crowther (at Oxford’s Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents). Crowther was a member of the AIEGL IT Commission and was planning with Alan Bowman and John Pearce the on-line publication of the Vindolanda Writing Tablets. Bodel's collaboration with Stephen Tracy on Greek and Latin Inscriptions in the USA. A Checklist (Rome 1997) was soon to spawn the U.S. Epigraphy Project. Both Bodel and Crowther had participated in the Rome meeting. The promulgation of an incomplete, draft set of guidelines drew the attention of a third epigraphist, Charlotte Roueché (in the Department of Byzantine and Modern Greek at King’s College, London), who was exploring new technologies to apply to the publication of inscriptions from Aphrodisias.
From Gabriel Bodard, 'EpiDoc: Epigraphic documents in XML for publication and interchange' in ed. Francisca Feraudi-Gruénais, Latin on Stone: Epigraphic Research and Electronic Archives, Roman Studies: Interdisciplinary Approaches (Rowan & Littlefield, 2010), 101-118:
In 1999 a commission on Epigraphy and Information Technology held a round-table meeting, convened by Silvio Panciera, under the auspices of the Association Internationale d'Epigraphie Grecque et Latine. Among the out-comes of this meeting, in addition to an alliance between the major Latin data-bases at Heidelberg, Rome, and Bari, was the statement that the data in these databases needed to be (a) in Unicode, and (b) archived in XML. In response to this report, Tom Elliott, then director of the Ancient World Mapping Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, made public the EpiDoc Guide-lines, recommendations for XML mark-up of epigraphic documents, that he and colleagues had been working on privately for some time.
These guidelines and other tools have since matured considerably through extensive discussion in online fora, at several conferences, and through the experience of various pilot projects. The first—but not by any means the only— major epigraphic project to adopt and pilot the EpiDoc recommendations was Inscriptions of Aphrodisias. In the course of this process the guidelines and tools have reached a degree of maturity and stability for the first time.
From "Eighteen Years of EpiDoc. Now what?," a keynote address at EAGLE2014 Paris (Tom Elliott):
The word "EpiDoc" is a portmanteau, composed of the abbreviated word "epigraphy" and the abbreviated word "document" or "documentation" (I can't remember which). It has become a misnomer, as EpiDoc is used for much more than epigraphic documents and documentation. It has found a home in papyrology and in the study of texts transmitted to us from antiquity via the literary and book-copying cultures of the intervening ages. It has at least informed, if not been directly used, in other allied subfields like numismatics and sigillography. It's quite possible I'll learn this week of even broader usages.
EpiDoc is a digital format and method for the encoding of both transcribed and descriptive information about ancient texts and the objects that supported and transmitted them. Formally, it is a wholly conformant customization of the Text Encoding Initiative's standard for the representation of texts in digital form. It is serialized in XML -- the Extensible Markup Language -- a specification developed and maintained by the World-Wide Web Consortium.
EpiDoc is more than format and method. It is a community of practice. The term embraces all the people who learn, use, critique, and talk about EpiDoc. It also takes in the Guidelines, tools, and other helps that have been created and curated by those people. All of them are volunteers, scraping together the time to work on EpiDoc out of their personal time, their academic time, and out of the occasional grant. There has never been formal funding devoted to the development or maintenance of the EpiDoc guidelines or software. If you are a participant in the EpiDoc community, you are a hero.
From Charlotte Tupman (2010), 'Contextual epigraphy and XML: Digital Publication and Its Application to the Study of Inscribed Funerary Monuments,' in edd. Bodard/Mahony, Digital Research and the Study of Classical Antiquity (Ashgate), pp. 73-86:
The EpiDoc Guidelines for digital epigraphic publications provide detailed standards that are not limited by language or geographic location. They have been formulated and developed by experts from a number of different countries, and are open to contributions by others working in this field (all contributions are considered by an editorial board before being approved for inclusion in the Guidelines). The EpiDoc standards also provide tools for editing and publishing, as well as support through the wider EpiDoc community in the form of conferences, wikis and discussion groups.
From Fernando-Luis Álvarez, Elena García-Barriocanal and Joaquín-L. Gómez-Pantoja, 'Sharing Epigraphic Information as Linked Data', in (eds. Sanchez-Alonso & Athanasiadis), Metadata and semantic research (Springer 2010), pp. 222–234:
Recently, the open EpiDoc specification (Cayless, 2003) has been developed and several systems using this proposed standard have already been deployed (Bodard, 2008). An EpiDoc file is a representation in XML of the edition of one inscription or a group of inscriptions. At a minimum the file will contain a text in Greek or Latin, probably with editorial siglae. It may also contain apparatus, translation, commentary, place of finding, description and dating of the text or object, among several other information elements that are normally published in a scholarly edition. However, EpiDoc is not providing a way to encode computational semantics, as it is relying mostly on structured metadata with text fields.
From Bagnall 2010:
IDP does not exist in a vacuum, of course. It is founded on the use of an XML encoding standard called EpiDoc, which is a customization of the widely used Text Encoding Initiative tag set. EpiDoc was originally developed by Tom Elliott, who is now associate director for digital programs at ISAW, for the coding of editions of inscriptions, rather than papyri. EpiDoc was built with the larger world in mind, and it is capable of extension to other categories of documents, of which papyri have been the first but not only example. There has now been serious work done on using EpiDoc for recording coins. Because EpiDoc uses standard TEI elements, these documents are all fairly open to searching by a variety of compatible tools, and they will collectively make it possible for us to imagine search interfaces that will interrogate a range of ancient sources of different types.
Within this framework, the EpiDoc community has been working, since 2000, to develop a custom version of the TEI Guidelines to support the particular needs of epigraphers. The idea was launched by Tom Elliott, an ancient historian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; the aim is both to make the fullest possible use of the work that has already been done, and also to ensure that texts which happen to be inscribed are handled in a manner consistent with that used for other texts, and not distanced from them. The EpiDoc customization removes irrelevant elements from the main body of the TEI, and it adds provisions for the specific kinds of transcription, analysis, description, and classification that are essential for epigraphic work. The result is a simple yet powerful language which can be used to mark all of the significant features of inscriptions and also represent the accompanying information about the epigraphic object itself.
To accompany the EpiDoc encoding language, the EpiDoc community has also produced a set of encoding guidelines and software tools, as well as documentation which describes how to use the encoding language, the tools, and the other elements of the EpiDoc method. The goal is to establish a framework that is easy to learn and use, even for scholars with no technical background or support. This may sound improbable, but the enterprise is of the same order as learning to mark-up a standard epigraphic text, with the existing series of sigla.
From Mahoney 2006:
The EpiDoc initiative, under the leadership of Tom Elliott of the Ancient World Mapping Center, University of North Carolina, is working out ways to encode epigraphic data with the TEI. EpiDoc's basic assumption is that ‘Ancient epigraphic texts ought to be widely available in digital form for sharing and use in a variety of environments for a variety of scholarly and educational purposes. Individuals, organizations and projects require digital epigraphic texts for personal or internal use as well; if standard tools and formats were available, such needs would be more easily met’ (EpiDoc Collaborative). The obvious standard for sharing and presenting texts is XML. Rather than writing a DTD for epigraphy from scratch, moreover, the EpiDoc group uses the TEI ‘because TEI has already addressed many of the taxonomic and semantic challenges faced by epigraphers, because the TEI-using community can provide a wide range of best-practice examples and guiding expertise, and because existing tooling built around TEI could easily lead to early, effective presentation and use of TEI-encoded epigraphic texts.’
The EpiDoc approach has already been adopted by several epigraphic projects, and others are considering it. As noted above, Aphrodisias and the Roman Britain corpus use EpiDoc for their texts. The Dêmos project, directed by Christopher Blackwell of Furman University, is a library of materials about Athenian democracy which will include Greek inscriptions, marked up with EpiDoc, among the primary sources. Epigrapher Michael Arnush of Skidmore College is writing translations and commentaries for these inscriptions. The corpus of Macedonian and Thracian inscriptions being compiled at KERA, the Research Center for Greek and Roman Antiquity at Athens, is beginning to use the TEI and may choose to use EpiDoc.