Tricky Transcription

The first recipe I chose to transcribe today was Jane Dawson’s wound drink. It looked like a nice short recipe to start with! But, as I worked, I realised that it is a great one for highlighting (a) tricky things that might come up and (b) the process of decision-making involved in transcribing.

Jane Dawson, V.b.14, Folger Shakespeare Library, 80-81.

Apart from the whole sideways thing, it looks pretty easy, right? And fortunately, there is a handy rotation feature in Dromio. You can find it at the top left, if you encounter something similar. You can also zoom in to make the page bigger, if the print is too small.

It was easy to get the first bits. I represented the new page by highlighting the page number and clicking pb (image A). Then I showed the recipe title by clicking on hd (image C). As I worked, I noticed the apothecary symbols (image B)… and groaned: ‘How am I supposed to represent those again?’ Fortunately, Heather Wolfe from the Folger  was working with me at the Wellcome pop-up. She reminded me: write it out in English and represent it as a metamark (mrk).

I kept the Roman numerals, as Dawson had written them. If you need to look up any apothecary symbols, though, the Folgerpedia entry on measurements can help you to indentify them!

The start of a letter–probably an ‘h’ based on Dawson’s other letter forms–before ‘real’ (D) also gave me pause. Was it part of the word? Was it something other than ‘real’? Would any word variation that includes it make sense here? Heather and I took a look at the higher resolution images available through the Folger’s online catalogue, agreeing that it looked like a false start on Dawson’s part. We decided to represent it as a deletion, using del, to ‘honour Dawson’s error’ (as Heather put it) rather than ignoring it. Of course, ignoring it would have been a valid choice on the part of a transcriber, too!

The last issue was how to represent that the recipe was turned on its side, inserted, and pinned in. Here’s what to do… 1) If your page is just sideways, you don’t need to do anything. 2) Insertions and pins, however, are QUITE EXCITING. And these do get the rarely used note treatment to describe what it is. For this, I placed a note describing these details at the bottom of the page, highlighted it, and clicked on note.

As this example shows, there is a lot that goes into transcribing — decisions need to be made as you go along, and there is not necessary a right answer. But if you’re in doubt and want a second opinion, just let us know!


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About lisasmith

Lecturer in Digital History, University of Essex. Writes on gender, health, and the household in early modern England and France (ca. 1600-1800). Primary investigator for the Sir Hans Sloane Correspondence Online Project. Collaborator for the Early Modern Recipes Online Collective, founding co-editor of The Recipes Project, and blogger at Wonders and Marvels and Shakespeare's World. Tweets as @historybeagle. On Zooniverse as @LWSmith.

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