When it comes to transcription and crowdsourcing, one of the biggest challenges becomes the task of reading and figuring out old handwriting, also known as paleography. But the good news is, this is something that can be improved, and whether you are a project owner or a transcriber, the resources below can help you and your team become more successful, and most importantly -- more confident -- in transcribing materials.
The video below from the Library of Virginia covers various tips, tricks, and things to look out for while working on tricky transcription. The general tips in the video may be helpful for many eras of old handwriting, though the content may be best for handwriting from the Colonial era and later.
You can download the presentation as a pdf here.
The video includes some helpful resources:
- State Archives of North Carolina Style Guide: A Reference for Reading Historic Documents
- The Natural History Museum in London's "How to Decipher Unfamiliar Handwriting"
In addition, we've published a few articles on the blog over the years that include some helpful resources for learning to transcribe older handwriting styles.
In this post, we compiled a list of books that can help you begin to feel more comfortable with various kinds of old handwriting styles. Books include Kip Sperry's Reading Early American Handwriting, and which focuses on 18th and 19th century handwriting, Harriet Stryker-Rodda's Understanding Colonial Handwriting, which focuses on 17th and 18th century handwriting, specifically of the North American British colonies. For those interested in work as early as the 15th century, Hilary Marshall's Palaeography for Family and Local Historians, covers a large chunk of time, from the 15th to the 18th century. Other books mentioned focus on Tudor handwriting in the 16th to 18th century, and handwriting from 1250-1500, handwriting from antiquity to 1600, and Latin paleography from antiquity through the middle ages.
In this blog post, we discuss M.B. Parkes' classic English Cursive Book Hands, 1250-1500, first published by Clarendon Press in 1969. This book is a foundational text for students of medieval English paleography, and includes actual-size reproductions of 24 manuscript extracts to provide examples and better understanding of older handwriting over time.
This post shares a list of online courses and other resources that can assist with training and practice to better understand old handwriting. Some of the resources are offered as classes through universities, and others are self-paced and guided online courses. Many of the courses listed focus on Medieval and Early Modern handwriting types, while some span further, like "Paleography: Reading Old Handwriting 1500-1800, a practical online tutorial," offered at The National Archives UK. Other courses focus on particular languages or cultures, like the Spanish Paleography Digital Teaching and Learning Tool at the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute, and the French Renaissance Paleography course at the Newberry Library.
What other resources have you created or do you know about? Leave them in the comments below.