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.

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!

The EMROC(K) Playlist

By Jennifer Munroe

Hurricane Florence, 16 September 2018. Credit: NASA, via Wikimedia Commons.

Last week, Rebecca Laroche and Hillary Nunn suggested in jest that we should build a soundtrack to mark this year’s more-eventful-than-usual travel to DC.  So… here is just a little fun I had on the train! You can either click on the hyperlinks for added fun OR check out the Spotify playlist that Mark Gudgeon (@gudge75 on Twitter) has assembled for us.

In September 2018, EMROC was planning our fourth annual Transcribathon and Steering Committee meetings at the Folger Shakespeare Library. To our chagrin, also in the mix was Florence, a formidable storm that originated in Africa. After days of anticipating the storm, and just when we thought the Waiting was the hardest part, Florence hit the North Carolina coast with a fury, leaving poor Maggie in Raleigh (though inland) blowing in the wind and being rocked like a hurricane. It really was nasty. In fact, poor Maggie said it shook her all night long. And just when it seemed things might clear, it seemed, here comes the rain again.

Meanwhile, Rebecca and Hillary decided to hold on and see if they would make it to DC, even though Florence’s track kept changing.  Will Florence disrupt things all the way to DC? And Jen, in Charlotte, remained in the danger zone. Elaine Leong, thankfully, arrived in the States in advance of the storm, and it looked like she would be able to take the downtown train from Baltimore to DC without trouble. Maggie Simons and my flight plans remained uncertain, so we both tried to book trains in vain and waited to see if the airports would stay open. While those of us in Charlotte and Raleigh worked on alternative plans to Skype in for meetings, in the sights of the storm, we were also worried about losing the power. We were all under pressure.

Just when things looked really bad, Florence decided to beat it and head south just enough that Raleigh’s airport could open, and Maggie saw the sign that she could get to DC. Likewise, it appeared Hillary and Rebecca could see clearly now that they too would make it to the DC area. But Florence had Charlotte in her sights, and Jen kept going back and forth about whether her flight would be canceled, whether she would drive. “Should I stay or should I go?” she wondered. In the end, she decided to push it and drive to Richmond on Saturday, then a crazy train to DC Sunday morning. 

Finally, things were looking up. Everyone (except Lisa Smith who was unable to leave London, home of the brash, outrageous and free, for family reasons) would make it. So thrilled, all we could do is shout and jump around. Truly unbelievable! It looked like we might be gettin’ jiggy with it after all. Tomorrow won’t be such a manic Monday. We will be together from 9 to 5, making plans for EMROC’s next few years and enjoying each other’s company. We’ll see Sarah (Powell) smile when we meet her at the library. It appears now that at least by Tuesday, we will all be walking on sunshine here in DC. And, of course, Heather Wolfe and Lisa will be London calling, leading an enthusiastic group of transcribers at the Wellcome, helping to make our dreams come true. Wednesday, we will all be on the road again, and it will seem the longest time before we meet again. But for the next few days, we have each other, and nothing’s gonna stop us now.

The moral is: don’t stop believing

Getting into the groove, seventeenth-century style! Credit: Christoffel Jacobsz. van der Laemen (1615-1651), Dancing Party in an Interior, ca. 1640s (Wikimedia Commons).

Welcome to Transcribathon 2018!

Excerpt from Jane Dawson’s book. Credit: Folger Shakespeare Library.

Thank you for stopping by our transcribathon today. We’re so glad that you’ve decided to join us.

We’re kicking things off at the wonderful Wellcome Library in London at 10:00 UK time. The Library is kindly allowing Heather Wolfe (Folger Shakespeare Library) and I to use their Viewing Room for a pop-up event. Have digitized documents, will travel!

There are a few details about today that you might find useful before getting started.

  • Throughout the day, we’ll be posting and answering questions here, on our Facebook page, on our Twitter account, and our Instagram account.
  • The hashtag on Twitter and Instagram is #EMROCtranscribes.
  • If you’re not on social media, you can just leave your question as a comment on one of today’s transcribathon posts or email Lisa Smith (lisa.smith@essex.ac.uk).
  • How to find the book we’re transcribing and how to select a page to transcribe…
  • What we know about Jane Dawson.
  • A FAQ page that covers everything from whether you should modernise the English (no) or moving the transcription box around to how to represent what you see on the page (e.g. page breaks, symbols, and more).
  • A miscellanea of what the buttons on the transcribing platform (Dromio) mean, what a transcribed page would look like, and more.

Don’t worry about making mistakes or putting in all the fiddly coding. We’re triple-keying for accuracy (which means three people will do the same page) and will edit for a final version.

The most useful thing for us is that you write what you see on the page. In terms of the coding, it’s especially helpful if you capture the basics (line breaks, page breaks, thorn (often appearing as a y instead of th, as in ye) and expand certain words (see the section on semi-diplomatic transcription here).

If you’re a novice to early modern handwriting, my top tip is beware of the long s! It looks like an f, but should be transcribed as an s. You can read a bit about the history of the long s here. You might also be interested in learning more about the type of transcription we’re doing: semi-diplomatic.  The Early Modern Manuscripts Online project at the Folger has a good information page on it.

Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, keep in mind that all questions are good questions. If you’re having technical troubles or can’t understand our guides (user-related or platform-related), it’s helpful for us to know. If you’re having trouble deciphering a word, a community of fellow transcribers is here to help. If you want to know what a mystery ingredient is, the fun is in the discussions as others try to help.

One of the great delights of a transcribathon is people sharing the things they spot when transcribing. So please drop in to introduce yourselves, share your interesting tidbits, ask questions, and share your wisdom.

Jan Brueghel the Elder, Bouquet, 1603. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

We have a quick request before you start transcribing: would you fill in a very short pre-transcribathon survey? It will take no more than five minutes. Out goal is to learn a bit more about our transcribers and their knowledge before the event. (There will be a follow-up survey post-transcribathon, too.) The survey is here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/THN8DZS .

Thank you for your help–both participating today and filling in the survey! We are so delighted that you’ve decided to work with us today and look forward to hearing more about it.

Transcribathon 2018

From Jane Dawson, V.a.14, Folger Shakespeare Library.

On 18 September, we’ll be hosting our annual transcribathon. This year, we’re working on the wonderful Jane Dawson book. It is an interesting example of a manuscript book from the middling sorts, and has lots of food and medicine. Rebecca Laroche discusses the book here.

We’d love to have you join in. Things will be kicking off in the UK at 10:00 (UK-time) and will continue over the next twelve hours. During those twelve hours, we’ll be talking about what we’re transcribing on Twitter, Facebook, and this blog…

If you’d like to join in, please see our announcement here or catch up on Liza Blake’s recent blog post on bringing transcription into the classroom.

To join in, drop me a line in the comments, by email at lisa.smith@essex.ac.uk, or on Twitter @historybeagle.

Welcome to #EMROCTranscribes 2017!

By Lisa Smith

Welcome to our third annual transcribathon!

The goal in previous years has been to take one book and finish a triple-keyed transcription of it over twelve hours. In 2016, 128 people from around the world finished Lady Castleton’s book, and in 2015, we had ninety-three transcribers complete Rebeckah Winche’s book.

We’re delighted to welcome several groups joining in today: University of Essex, George Washington University, University of Guelph, Folger Institute, University of Akron, University of North Carolina Charlotte, Penn State Abington, Oberlin College, University of California, Pacific Lutheran, University of Colorado Colorado Springs, University of Texas Arlington, and Mount Saint Mary College. If you’re joining in, whether as a group or an individual, please let us know!

Our 2017 project

Recipe containing elf hoof from Margaret Baker’s manuscript. Source: Folger Shakespeare Library, V.a.619.

This year, EMROC is trying something a little different. Rather than focus on one book, there will be a BANQUET OF BOOKS. As Amy Tigner explains,

Our goal is to have 10 completed texts this year, that is 10 triple-transcribed and vetted early modern recipe books that can be downloaded in a searchable pdf. We currently have a number of texts that are either partially transcribed or fully transcribed but not completely vetted. So, in working to complete these texts we will be offering a banquet of possibilities for those interested in learning more about early modern recipes and paleography.

Example from Packe’s book. Source: Folger Shakespeare Library, Va215.

The three books on offer are: Margaret Baker, Susannah Packe, and Letitia Cromwell. I have a soft spot for Baker, having worked on her book with my Digital Recipe Books Project module last year. (The class blogged about it here  and developed a contextual online exhibition about the book here.) The Baker manuscript has many intriguing elements, such as excerpts from published medical and alchemical treatises and a recipe that calls for elf hoof! But the other books have their delights, as well. Cromwell has a recipe for the proverbial humble pie and a page written in code, while Packe has a great sections with candy, fruit wines, and beer.

For those who like things a little easier, I recommend Baker (almost entirely one hand, fairly clear, throughout) or Packe (one easy and neatly spaced hand, and one slightly harder, messier hand). Cromwell, with its mix of hands will appeal more to those with experience.

Page from Cromwell’s book, with code. Source: Folger Shakespeare Library, V.a.8.

Need help? Want to say hello?

To join in, all you need to do is go to the Folger’s transcription interface, at: http://transcribe.folger.edu. When asked to sign in, just enter your first and last names (or whatever name you’d like to use), and an account will be created for you. Please be sure to enter your name as you’d like it to appear in the database.

Once in, click “EMROC.” There is a folder called “Transcribathon” at the bottom of the list, which contains the three manuscripts we’ll be working on. (More on those tomorrow!) Click on a manuscript and find a page that needs transcription. Look to the right of the page number to see how many people have transcribed it. If there are fewer than three, go for it!

We also have helpful guides to doing transcription and how to use the online transcription tool, Dromio. You can also send in your questions to other transcribers on Twitter (#EMROCtranscribes) or by commenting on our blog posts throughout the day.

Point people throughout the day will be on our Twitter account (@EMRecipesOnline) or by email.

And now, let’s kick things off here in Essex! We’ll be going from 7:00-11:30 ET.