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The Collation

An exercise in collaborative editing: Anthony Bagot's letters and Nathaniel Bacon's pirate depositions

As part of their paleography training, my paleography students always spend a bit of each afternoon working in pairs on transcriptions. It gives them a break from being in the “spotlight” as we go around the room reading manuscripts line by line, and allows us to shift from reading out loud to the detail-work of semi-diplomatic transcription. Two or three sets of eyes are much better than a single set in terms of efficiency and accuracy, and students learn from each other in a way that they can’t learn from me. They enter their team transcription (after selecting a team name) into a text box in our in-house online paleography program (designed by Mike Poston), and then we collate all the transcriptions against each other, analyzing the differences in interpretation. 


Great post!

The manuscript team at the William Blake Archive ( also does a lot of collaborative transcription. But we don’t have such a great program for testing readings against each other and comparing differences! We end up using Google documents as a way to discuss variations in our readings of Blake’s hand because it’s easy to insert clipped images of the word, phrase, or line in question.

Rachel — October 4, 2012

A fantastic and rewarding project! Thanks, Heather, for guiding us through. Can’t wait to hear if any ideas come in on the missing words…

Miranda Garno Nesler — October 4, 2012

Re the second transcription problem, I would think it is yrh which is “your humble”
The first is surely not James. I think it may be not Sir either but servant. The tail of the supersript ‘r’ after the S extends rather than being the ‘dot’ of an ‘i’ and thus the next letter could be ‘v’ then ‘a’ with a superscript ‘t’.
Cliff Webb

Cliff Webb — October 4, 2012

That’s a possibility: so it could be “your humble Brand,” as in torch, possibly. I’ve never seen this sort of abbreviation before.

“Sir James” was lifted from the finding aid description, but I agree with you. I had flagged it because I didn’t think it looked like “James” at all! But I’m not sure if I could convince myself that there is a “v” in it, since what you describe looks like all the other spurred “a” graphs in the letter.

But now you’ve prompted me to look at it more closely, and I’m pretty sure it must be an abbreviation for “Serjeant Major” [Sriat, with a tilde above the a and t, and the i/j graph]. Now we just have to figure out which of his brothers or brothers-in-law was a serjeant major!

Heather Wolfe — October 4, 2012