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The Collation

The EMMO Conference on Manuscript Studies in the Digital Age

On May 18th & 19th, 2017, EMMO held the Early Modern Manuscripts Online: New Directions in Teaching and Research conference at the Folger, in collaboration with the Folger Institute. This conference was a culmination of the project’s initial three-year phase, funded by a generous grant from IMLS.

The conference began with welcoming remarks followed by a roundtable progress report on the Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO) project to date. Several presenters followed with reports about novel methods of teaching with manuscripts as well as doing research with digital manuscripts and associated tools. Over forty scholars attended the conference, traveling to the Folger from throughout the United States and beyond.

On the Thursday evening, several of the attendees took part in a Brews & Brevigraphs night in the Foulke Conference Room, EMMO’s fifth transcription night aided by beer (previously held at the Big Board on H Street). Blue Jacket brewery provided the ale. Pizza was on hand to munch while participants huddled into teams and competed against each other and the clock. Spot prizes were awarded for the most lines transcribed from a manuscript page with the fewest errors. Proving especially popular to transcribers on the event were A dreadful apparition at Salisbury to the tune of for he’s a jolly good fellow, and a bawdy poem by Henry Oxinden, with the leading line Come dance uppon my knee, & cut a caper here.

The conference ended on a high note with EMMO’s Fishbowl exchange. Our fish wranglers were Heather Wolfe and Owen Williams and the first fish foursome was comprised of Ruth Ahnert, Wendy Hyman, Ivan Lupić, and Heather Wolfe. For those who don’t know, Fishbowls are small group discussions in which initial participants sit and face one another in a circle, in the middle of the larger audience. Participants ‘swim’ in and out of the discussion, as others drop in or out of the inner circle. The discussion follows an organic path with a view to creating broader research dialogue, encouraging objectivity, and bridging perspectives. Or to put it another way—it’s an epic brain storm.

A sampling of tweets from the EMMO Conference…

(And, in case you were wondering, a cheese ladder is a structure resembling a ladder, used in cheese-making to support a sieve in which the curd is drained. Thanks, OED!)

In other news…
Shakespeare’s World:
We announced the launch of our collaboration with Zooniverse and the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) to create Shakespeare’s World in December 2015, and this exciting partnership continues. Our ‘volunpeers’ continue to tag transcriptions on Talk with themes such as #paper, #latin, #chocolate, #catholic, #womanwriter and others. These tags help scholars with their research drawing on manuscript sources. Anyone may access the Talk feature’s search function.

Snap shot of a tweet sent out on June 24th, 2016 noting our moderator @mutabilitie finding a earlier use of white lie than previously recorded in the OED

We’ve had interesting finds for the OED to check out since Shakespeare’s World started. Information from the tweet above went to Philip Durkin, Deputy Chief Editor at the OED, and changes are in the works as a result, see his post about the antedating of “white lie” for more. A full transcription of the manuscript in question along with images of the letter are available here: L.a.2.

As of May 2017 we have submitted approximately 8500 images of letters & recipe books for transcription on Shakespeare’s World. Most of the transcription sessions were completed in the US, UK, and Germany, but transcribers from all over the world have joined the effort (see table below for more details).

Image of slide used in EMMO’s progress report at Early Modern Manuscripts Online: New Directions in Teaching and Research conference

EMMO’s first ever transcribathon was held on December 4th, 2014 from 12 noon till midnight. Over the past two and half years EMMO has held ten more transcribathons all over the country, three transcription nights, and two Brews and Brevigraphs nights. In 2017 we held three transcribathons: at Wellesley College on March 8th, at the University of Virginia Commonwealth on April 7th, and at The University of Connecticut on April 17th.

Picture from the recent transcribathon held at Wellesley College, Massachusetts, on March 8th, 2107

Picture from the recent transcribathon held at University of Virginia Commonwealth, Richmond, on April 7th, 2017

picture of participants

Picture of participants at the conclusion of the mini-transcribathon on April 17 at University of Connecticut; the group of graduate students and faculty meets monthly to transcribe pages from a Notebook of John Ward (Folger V.a.284).

Our transcription gathering continues apace. Transcriptions come from EMMO staff, practical paleography participants, paleography students at the Folger, Mellon Summer Institute, and Rare Book School paleography students, pedagogical partners and their students, interns, docents, transcribathon participants, individual research projects, Shakespeare’s World and others. Special thanks this time goes to our wonderful docents who have diligently attended Practical Paleography 4 sessions fortnightly and transcribed many letters from the Bagot Collection.

Image taken from EMMO site, highlighting an exciting find on Shakespeare’s world; the earliest recorded use of a “white lie”, pre-dating the OED’s current record by nearly two centuries

All transcriptions go towards our growing EMMO corpus. Transcriptions are currently vetted, prepared and then posted on our beta site. In January 2017 we announced the launch of this EMMO site, where you can access semi-diplomatic, diplomatic & regularized transcriptions. Check it out! We’ve added 71 transcriptions of letters so far, with 243 digitized images. We’ll be adding more shortly so watch this space…

Image of EMMO’s beta site home page

What’s next for EMMO? We hope we get more funding to continue our valuable work. Fingers are crossed!




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