Your first transcription

(Lightly adapted from the rules suggested in Raymond Clemens and Timothy Graham. Introduction to Manuscript Studies. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2007.
The purpose of a transcription is to provide an accurate record of the manuscript . The transcriber, therefore, should resist the temptation to normalize and thus should reproduce the peculiarities of spelling and even outright errors. Maintain original spelling and punctuation as much as possible, but a transcription is not a fascimile.
If you are having problem making out all the letters in a word (this can be hard with Gothic script), try out the Enigma tool. There are likely to be abbreviations in your transcription. For help with unscrabbling abbreviations, see Ad fontes.

Major Rules:

  1. 1.
    Start a new numbered line in the transcription for every new line in the manuscript, or, use a slash (/) to show line breaks.
  2. 2.
    Use capitals where the manuscript uses capitals, even if it differs from modern usage. Personal names in the Middle Ages were not capitalized, and so do not do so in your transcription.
  3. 3.
    Use the forms of punctuation that occur in the manuscript. Do not attempt to translate them into modern punctuation.
  4. 4.
    Do not normalize spelling. The same word might be spelled different ways - retain original spelling even if a clear mistake.
  5. 5.
    Normalize word separation. If two words are run together in the manuscript, with no space between them, the transcription should show two separate words.
  6. 6.
    Expand abbreviations.
  7. 7.
    Record the beginning of a new page in the manuscript by entering the folio number within square brackets at the appropriate point in the transcription. Also record a column letter within square brackers (eg. a, b or c) at the beginning of a new column.

Symbols to use:

symbol
description
use
example
( )
Parentheses
Expanded abbreviation
d(omi)ni
† †
obeli or daggers
problematic readings: text is corrupt, or transcriber is uncertain of the text
†domini†
/ \
slashes
scribal insertion on the line
do/mi\ni
/
slashes
scribal insertion between lines
do\mi/ni
\ //
double slashes
scribal insertion in the margin
\\domini//
[ ]
square brackets
letters canceled by scraping or washing; legible erased letters are placed within the brackets
do[mi]ni
[ / ]
square brackets and slash
substitution of a new letter or word over an erasure; if original reading is legible, it is placed to the left of slash
[/d]omini or [h/d]omini
[[ ]]
double square brackets
portion of text lost through damage (trimming of the margin, rodent activity, etc.)
domin[[*]] with asterisks indicating the estimated number of letters lost

Strategies for transcription

(Condensed from BYU Script tutorial)
  1. 1.
    STUDY A NEW HANDWRITING CAREFULLY. It is important to work carefully and slowly when beginning to read a new handwriting style, so as to develop a familiarity with the personal writing style of the priest or recorder, and the type of writing he is using. Also, notice any particular idiosyncrasies such as unique forms of particular letters, the use of certain abbreviations, or peculiar syntactical approaches.
  2. 2.
    BEGIN WITH THOSE PORTIONS OF THE RECORD THAT ARE FAMILIAR. Repeated phrases, dates, and names of which you are already sure can help to familiarize you with a new handwriting style.
  3. 3.
    USE THE SURROUNDING TEXT AS A GUIDE. Generally, the text with which you are working can help you find the meaning of a difficult word or passage. The following three suggestions should aid you in using the surrounding text:
    • Compare the letters in unknown words or names with those of known words or names. In this way you can make good use of the familiar dates, phrases, and known names discussed above.
    • Read the word in the context in which it was written. This can be especially helpful where the records are written in complete sentences, or where you are already familiar with the basic concept that is being developed.
    • Look for the same word or name elsewhere. This can be especially helpful where there are marginal notes, or where the same word is repeated several times in a single document. The word written in another place may not be abbreviated or may be more clearly written or, in many cases, the writer may have chosen completely different letter styles.
  4. 4.
    COMPARE UNKNOWN LETTERS WITH THOSE ON ALPHABET CHARTS Frequently, one can get a general idea of what a particularly difficult letter could be by comparing it with those letters on the alphabet charts available here. However, it should be recognized that handwriting varies drastically from person to person, as well as from time period to time period, and a particular letter in a document may not be found on the alphabet charts provided.
  5. 5.
    CONSULT AN OUTSIDE SOURCE Consult an outside source – our sources are mostly liturgical so searching for what you have discerned so far in a digital Vulgate bible, the Cantus database, or (if these others don't work) then Google.
  6. 6.
    DON'T SPEND TOO MUCH TIME ON A LETTER OR NAME. If you cannot decipher a name or word after reasonable efforts, trace or copy it down. Write down your best guess or guesses as to what the word may be, and then go on. The word, especially if it is a name, will most likely appear again.
  7. 7.
    VARIETY OF HANDWRITING FOUND IN RECORDS Remember that a great deal of variety in handwriting can be found in a single document. It is common to find various styles of the same letter within a given document, and even within the same word. Any word may also be written in different ways.