Team Project Transcription

Due Date: Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Submission Instructions: Bring printed copy to class and submit digitally (on Box)

Assignment Description:

Selecting a Group of Letters

By Thursday, November 16, each team should select a set of materials from a folder of archival images . A word document in the folder provides brief bibliographical information about each folder. Note that some materials are digital images and others are large pdf packets of multiple items. Quality varies from folder to folder and item to item.

Once your team has chosen a folder, you will want to narrow your focus to a small set of interrelated items. Perhaps they will share a topic focus but, more likely, they will represent a pair of correspondents writing back and forth over a relatively focused period of time. For example, perhaps you could locate a back and forth between an agent and an author about finding a publisher for a particular work.

Choose the cluster so that you have one substantive item for transcription per teammate (see below for length requirements). Try to choose a topic that seems interesting to the most team members.

Transcription Component

Simple accuracy is perhaps the hardest thing to achieve in an edition, and electronic technology scarcely affects the labor of transcribing and proofreading. Transcription on a keyboard, like writing on animal skins with a quill, still takes place character by character. (Duggan qtd. in Kline and Perdue 139)

This part of the team assignment asks you to pay careful attention to how a primary document like a letter becomes part of a scholarly edition or a researcher's field notes.

Each teammate will be in charge of transcribing a different letter. The letter should be at least a few paragraphs long) and may be a bit shorter if it's handwritten as opposed to type, since handwriting can be difficult to decipher.

Your work must be:
  1. Typed
  2. Stapled if two pages or more
  3. Handed in on time
  4. Submitted digitally on
Your submission must have:
  1. Numbered pages if longer than one page
  2. Proper citations. Use Chicago style citations (consult a handbook or see me if you have questions about how to do this).
  3. A proper, accurate citation of the letter you are transcribing
  4. A complete transcription of the item
  5. Explanatory or editorial endnotes for the item

Transcription Directions

The Text

Mary Jo Kline and Susan Holbrook Perdue recommend beginning with a non-proofread, un-amended version of document (116). They suggest that it is wise to keep an edited copy of this version for reference. Even this step of the process can be deceiving, as it requires extreme care to replicate all of the nuances of an original document, incuding rsservig misspellings, capitalization, line breaks and page numbers. They recommend turning off autocorrect on Microsoft Word and taking extra care to preserve "errors" in the original document. They add, "the appearance of a typed document should not mislead an editor into ignoring other factors that may dictate editorial treatment" (125)

Once you have completed the first step, you should add the following to the transcription:

  1. Preserve all patterns of capitalization
  2. Make sure every new paragraph is marked with an extra line and no indentation
  3. Align all text to the left margin even if it is elsewhere on the page
  4. Mark all page breaks with the words [page break] in brackets like this example
  5. For any word you can't read or decipher, write [illegible] in brackets like this example
  6. For any substantive word that is mispelled or abbreviated, leave it as is.(See below for when to add an explanatory note.)
  7. When adding explanatory notes, include your endnote numbering in brackets, like this: my note first.[1]
Explanatory Notes

Kline and Perdue suggest that documentary editors keep two very different audiences in mind when transcribing materials: the author’s original, intended audience and readers today (231). Thinking about the original audience cn help explain why some details are abbreviated or left out. Meanwhile, "Modern readers almost inevitably need additional facts to understand those words or images as they were intended by their creators and as comprehended by their original readers" (232).

Most big transcription projects have an annotation policy to ensure uniformity across documents and ensure that endnotes do not too aggressively overwhelm the source text. or our project, we will have more annotation than many digital editions largely because our goal is to learn about the modern publishing industry with this assignment. You should add an annotation under the following circumstances:

  1. Any reference to a person, a place, date, etc. that seems incomplete should have a note discussing what is said. If a clear explanation cannot be established, the note should discuss what is unclear.
  2. If the note refers to an ambiguous person, an attempt to locate the person online should be made. A link to the person’s Wikipedia entry or similar should be included whenever possible.
  3. If the note refers to an ambiguous location, as exact a location as possible should be established
  4. For other unnamed things, the question is whether the author’s reference requires explanation or might be enriched by historical context.


These assignments will be graded on a check-minus, check, check-plus scale. To get a check plus (A range), you must do a complete and careful transcription that reflects the guidelines I've assigned. You should also have several annotations showing that you are engaging critically with the document. Satisfactory but non-exemplary work will get a check (B range). Very sloppy or incomplete transcriptions will receive check-minuses (C or lower).

Works Cited

Kline, Mary-Jo and Susan Holbrook Perdue, A Guide to Documentary Editing . 1987. Charlottesville: U of Virginia P, 2008.