Thank you!

Thank you to everyone who participated in our Transcribathon this week. You are all amazing. When everyone finished the Dawson manuscript with about two hours left to go (!), we decided to open another nearly-completed manuscript–Margaret Turner. And we finished that one, too!

The EMROC community is awesome, in both the modern and early modern senses of the word.

If you’re missing the Transcribathon, keep your eyes peeled for further details. We’ll be hosting a Jane Dawson Cook Along (as suggested by the Medical Heritage Library, @MedicalHeritage on Twitter) next week.

Thank you so much for being a part of our community!

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 (
  • 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: .

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, or on Twitter @historybeagle.

Teaching Transcribathons and Experiential Learning

By Liza Blake

This post is one of seven scheduled to appear in The Recipes Project’s upcoming September Teaching Series, which focuses on new ideas and strategies for teaching with recipes.

As we all prepare for the next EMROC Transcribathon on Sept. 18, I look back at the role Transcribathons might play in literature classrooms—specifically, in this case, a class on early modern women’s writing (compare techniques here and here).

Interested in bringing transcription into the classroom? It’s easier than you might think, and just as exciting for your students as you might expect! This post describes a locally hosted, teaching-oriented EMROC Transcribathon, and provides some resources for those wishing to host local Transcribathons of their own.

Scene from Toronto Campus

This winter the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) hosted Professor Rebecca Laroche to lead a local EMROC Transcribathon. The Transcribathon was made possible by funding from the UTM Graduate Expansion Fund, the UTM Department of English and Drama, and the University of Toronto Scarborough Department of English. Two University of Toronto graduate RAs put time and energy into the event: Melanie Simoes Santos (English Dept.), and Cai Henderson (Centre for Medieval Studies).

The UTM Transcribathon was hosted for the 47 UTM undergraduates in Professor Liza Blake’s early modern women writers course, 307 Women Writers syllabus W18 (abbreviated for sharing).

The course was designed around experiential learning: in addition to the Transcribathon, students also received training in textual bibliography and editorial theory; critically analyzed editorial choices in two women writer anthologies; and each produced an edition of a text of their choosing for a class-wide anthology (conducting bibliographical research, undertaking textual collation, and producing textual and bibliographical introductions for their texts). Students left aware of the work that went into producing their textbooks, and empowered to not just consume but produce those texts themselves.

At the heart of the course’s emphasis on experiential learning, then, was the EMROC Transcribathon, where students gathered together to transcribe, and reflect on the place of transcription in a women’s writing course. For attending and participating in the Transcribathon for at least an hour, and submitting their reflections, students received a grade worth 5% of their final mark.

What does it take to run a local Transcribathon? Not much! The funding sources mentioned above allowed us to fly in and host an EMROC representative (Prof. Rebecca Laroche); reserve a room and provide refreshments; and hire graduate RAs to serve as (paid) organizers and facilitators. But at a minimum, one needs only a designated space and a committed group of transcribers!

Leading up to the event, we talked in class about EMROC, and why so many scholars are invested in transcribing these recipe books. I went over standard transcription conventions, describing the differences between transcribing and modernizing with a handout (Transcription Conventions) and I went over how to mark up with this handout: Dromio guidelines.

I also gave them a manuscript “alphabet”—a cheat sheet (TurnerMS alphabet) showing the manuscript’s particular graphs. These handouts were prepared by Melanie Simoes Santos and myself. Jennifer Munroe has also written on helpful tips for easing students into transcription, here.

On the day itself, the instructions were simple: show up for an hour and transcribe! One student wrote about the experience, “It gave me a surreal sense of intimacy with a woman who lived in a completely different time,” and another was surprised that “the personal grammatical and expressive preferences of the author became familiar to me; … I didn’t expect something like an old cookbook to possess such a distinct voice.” One student said, “It never occurred to me how much work actually goes into uncovering a work, transcribing it, and publishing it in an anthology,” and this insight prompted larger reflections for another student: “Getting the chance to transcribe something makes me think about the relationship that exists between the original work versus the modernized or edited work we see in our anthologies.” The event allowed one student “to reflect … on why certain texts are privileged and transcribed over others.” Another concluded, “I felt like I was contributing to something bigger than just our course.” There were also extremely practical outcomes: “I learned how to make orange pudding and dry figs!”

Anyone interested in hosting a local Transcribathon of their own is welcome to get in touch with me; I’m happy to share funding materials or answer questions about hosting. In the meantime, I leave you with some parting thoughts and tips.

1) Flexibility. Though many students cherished the collaboration of the group Transcribathon, some students had irreconcilable work obligations, so I allowed a few to “check in” and “check out” via email, and send copies of their transcriptions, if they couldn’t come in person.

2) Food. Funding made it possible to have ample refreshments set out for the duration of the event, and many students mentioned how much they appreciated draw of the free lunch.

3) Prizes. A trip to the Canadian store Dollarama the night before yielded us some cheap prizes: e.g., if someone found the word “spoon” in a recipe, they could win a wooden spoon to add to their own kitchen.

These prizes were surprisingly effective motivators for our transcribers, and we’d recommend this practice to others!

4) Beyond? It might have been exciting to try the recipes themselves out, as other Transcribathons have done, or to link the Transcribathon more specifically with a same-day research event. Transcribathons that include linked research talks remind participants of what is at stake in their transcribing labor.