Archive | December 2015

What is EMMO?

Some may well ask what is EMMO, and what does this acronym have to do with Shakespeare’s World? To give a short answer first, EMMO (pronounced “eh’-moh” not “ee’-moh”) stands for Early Modern Manuscripts Online.

EMMO Logo

The EMMO logo

Essentially, EMMO is a broad paleography project funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and based at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC. EMMO has two main goals, the first of which is to build a compilation of vetted transcriptions to accompany images of manuscript pages from the Folger’s collection. To give an idea of the numbers involved, EMMO currently has over 41,000 images to transcribe and encode. The second — but certainly not secondary — goal of EMMO is to promote the general study of early modern paleography. Serendipitously, Zooniverse was branching out from the sciences and looking into the humanities at about the same time that the EMMO project began, so a crowd-sourcing website pertaining to paleography and enlisting the skills of citizen humanists seemed an excellent way to accomplish many goals at once.

In early 2015, members of the respective EMMO and Zooniverse teams reached an agreement about the site, and development work began in earnest over the summer. By September of 2015, we were ready to try a limited alpha test.

Something we discovered during the alpha was a way to make the Shakespeare’s World transcription interface match the way paleography is taught and practiced at workshops and events sponsored by EMMO, such as transcribathons. Taking a cue from the Folger’s online transcription tool, Dromio, and the list of common abbreviations in our “Alphabet Book,” the Zooniverse team crafted a substantial number of shortcut buttons to help citizen humanists transcribe these shortened forms quickly.

common-abbreviations from alphabet book

Sample of common abbreviations from Alphabet Book that are available in the Shakespeare’s World interface

Feedback was received from the alpha, observations made, and a beta test followed in November. One of the suggestions was to have sample alphabets available for users on the site. The EMMO team found examples of individual letters, both minuscule (lower case) and majuscule (upper case) and sent these to the Zooniverse team who integrated the alphabets into the main interface.

picture of alphabet feature

Sample Alphabet – Minuscules

alphabet picture - majuscules

Sample Alphabet – Majuscules

Originally, manuscript page images from a wider variety of genres were planned for the launch, but we decided to focus on just two genres for the start, specifically letters and recipes, as these materials would likely be more recognizable, and the Folger’s entire collection of these genres could be included. In all, the EMMO team identified and transferred just under 8700 distinct images to Zooniverse for the launch. So far, we been pleased with the way users have taken to these manuscript pages so readily! The discussions on “Talk” have been quite lively and most interesting.

In the months ahead, we plan to transfer additional genres of manuscript images from the Folger collection to Shakespeare’s World, including miscellanies, literary works, newsletters, diaries, coats of arms, sermons, and more. Watch for announcements in 2016.

After we receive aggregated transcription data back from Zooniverse (a conglomeration of the contributions by all the citizen humanists on Shakespeare’s World), the EMMO team will check the data and encode the transcriptions into TEI-P5 compliant XML that will eventually be fully searchable via the free, online EMMO database. When this database is implemented later in 2016 or early 2017, scholars and the general public will have much greater accessibility to these rare manuscripts and a new research tool for analysis.

For more about EMMO and our transcribing events, see the links below:

We may try to do some virtual or in-person (or combination) transcribathons with the Shakespeare’s World community of citizen humanists in 2016, so stay tuned!

By Paul Dingman @pding001

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A Christmas Damson Plum Tart Recipe

Recipe for Damson plum tart

Much as we do today, Shakespeare’s contemporaries craved all sorts of sweet desserts at festival times. This entry for “a receipte for damsons to bake at Christmastide or anie other plum” from Folger MS V.a.21, fol. 146 explicitly mentions that this plum tart was to be prepared during the Christmas season, which lasted twelve days from Christmas Eve (December 24) to the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6).
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Ten Transcription Tips

Hello my fellow transcriber! If you are reading this hopefully you’ve already caught the transcription bug. If not, perhaps these ten tips will help persuade you to keep calm and carry on.

  1. Watch out for abbreviations. There are a few that occur regularly (with, which, etc). We’ve included shortcut buttons to make transcribing them easier for you.
    blog pic 1


  2. Watch out for spelling as it was not standardized. You’ll encounter all sorts of crazy and wonderful spellings. Perhaps you’ll even discover a new word for entry in the Oxford English Dictionary! [see Philip Durkin’s blog post on December 17th]. Sometimes it helps to say the word out loud as you see it… and remember we transcribe what we see. We don’t modernize spelling.
    blog pic 2wendsday (wednesday)        blog 3saterday (saturday)


  3. Count your minims. Use the rest of the word to decide if it’s an ‘i’, ‘u’, ‘m’ or ‘n’.                                                                                                                                                                                                           blog pic 4minded

  4. Don’t be put off if there’s something you can’t do. Remember the beauty of Shakespeare’s World is that you can leave out a word, a line, or even a whole chunk of writing if you simply don’t like the look of it! It might be right up the next transcriber’s street…

  5. Be prepared to encounter both majuscules (capital letters) and minuscules (lower case letters) where you wouldn’t expect them.

  6. Watch out for interference from letters above and below the line.

  7. Note the ‘y’ thorn, and the abbreviations it comes with: the, them, that…                                                                                                                                                                                                     blog pic 5the

  8. Use context to help you. If you work out 5 of 6 letters, you might be able to guess the rest. Once you’ve done so check your letter choice in the alphabet. Beware of getting too carried away with guesswork though; if you feel you are guessing a lot move on to a different image.

  9. Picking up on number 8: USE YOUR ALPHABET. Check your letters. It’s easy to use and it’s located in the side bar.                                                                                                                                         blog pic 6           blog pic 8
  10. Finally, and most importantly, enjoy it. Do as much or as little as you like. We are a transcribing community and we are all working together towards the same end. Thanks for contributing!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Sarah Powell is the EMMO Paleographer at the Folger Shakespeare Library: @S_Powell

To make marmalade of pepkins

Or not, as the case may be! I tried gentle reader, I did, but I think I’ve made an applesauce instead.

The original recipe says: R: [as in rinse?] your pepkins pare them & quarter them in 5 or 6 peeces then coare ym / & take to a pound of pepine a pound. of suger & 3 quarters of a pint of water / or more when you haue Clarifyed your suger put in your Pepins, when / your water boileth apace then with a rolling pinne stampe you downe / to ye bottone in your stirring to breake them, you must be carefull for feare of Burninge they boiling a greate pace, when it groweth thicke as you thinke it will Cet, put it up in Boxes

Screen Shot 2015-12-20 at 12.39.35.png

I began by trying to figure out what apples would be best to use from the selection at a local farmer’s market in Oxford, England. The farmer suggested a tart cooking apple. I got enough to make a double quantity of the marmalade, hoping (well, I still intend) to give them as gifts to family at Christmas.

The recipe/what I did:

I peeled and cored 2 lbs of apples

10 oz white sugar

6 oz brown (though I would omit the brown in future!)

1 1/2 imperial pints of water

lime juice, enough to cut through the overpowering sweetness

I added the sugar and water to the pot, and warmed them enough to dissolve the sugar. I then added the apples and let the mixture boil for a while until the apples started to become translucent. Once this happened I mashed the apples using a potato masher and then cooked for a further 10-15 minutes. When I tasted it and found it overpoweringly sweet, I added a dash of lime juice. I then decanted the sauce-oulade into sterilized jars, and began contemplating how to spin this as a desirable food item for Christmas.

The result: Porridge compote. I’ll be printing out a copy of my favorite porridge/oatmeal recipe (a modified version of this recipe, using jumbo oats), along with a picture and transcription of the Marmalade recipe above, and tying these around necks of the jars with some string and a nice fabric over the lid.

2015-12-20 12.46.22

Have you had better luck cooking from Shakespeare’s World recipes? Thinking of swapping your Christmas goose for Mutton served with oysters, lemon and white wine. Tell us all about over on Talk or in the comments field here.

Our First Discovery! And a brief history of the Oxford English Dictionary

Everyone at the OED is really excited about Shakespeare’s World and the potential that the project offers for making new discoveries about Early Modern English, i.e. the English of Shakespeare and his contemporaries.

The Oxford English Dictionary is a very large historical dictionary of the English language. The ‘historical’ part of this means that it documents words, meanings, and spellings from the past as well as the present, and it puts all of this information together in a structure that presents the historical development of each word. The dictionary presents a selection of its most important evidence for the past and present use of each word in the form of dated quotations: more than 3 million of these appear in the full dictionary. But the full resources that the dictionary draws on are far larger: a key role for dictionary editors is identifying instances of word usage that help explain and illuminate the milestones in the history of each word.

The first edition of the OED was published between 1884 and 1928. The existing text was substantially supplemented during the twentieth century, but it became increasingly clear to the dictionary’s editors and users that the existing text of the dictionary was in need of review, to ensure that each word history was brought up to date with all of the relevant information available today, and also that definitions and other explanations were presented in language that works for today’s readers. All parts of the dictionary—including definitions, dates of use, quotation evidence, spelling history, etymologies, and pronunciations—are now being reviewed and revised. Since 2000 the results of this revision work have been published in quarterly releases, which now cover more than a third of the original text of the dictionary. The scope for revision does not stop here: new evidence continues to come to light even for words that have already been revised, and OED’s editors endeavour to act on the most significant new evidence with rolling updates to the text. For much more information about the OED and its history see www.oed.com

At all points in the OED’s history, contributions from the reading public (aka crowdsourcing) have been welcomed with open arms, partly because lexicographers love to have some contact with their readers, but also because experience shows that such contributions can often make all the difference in opening up new perspectives on a word’s history.

Excitingly, we already have at least one example of this from Shakespeare’s World. Earlier this week, a number of project participants, including @kodemunkey, @jules and researchers @S_Powell, @LWSmith and @VVH discussed this recipe “To make the best Taffetye Tarts”:

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 16.44.34

A bit of eagle-eyed research identified Taffytie as very likely a variant form of taffeta, i.e. the name of the fabric. The OED entry for taffeta (which is one of those not yet substantially revised since it was published in the first edition, in 1910) records use from the eighteenth century in the name of a rather different sweet dish:

The entry also records various figurative uses of the fabric name from Shakespeare and his contemporaries:

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 16.48.52.png

The meanings ‘dainty’ and ‘delicate’ seem very plausible starting points for the name of a dessert dish—and the 1720 quotation refers to taffity-tarts, which the original editors of the OED had maybe taken to be a one-off reference to ‘dainty tarts’, but which it now appears more likely was the established name of a dish. Another project participant has already drawn attention to another recipe for taffity tartes, so hopefully we will soon have a healthy file of examples. Plus, the exact spelling taffytie is not yet recorded in the OED (although taffitie and taffity are), giving us further valuable data about genuine language use in Early Modern English.

The sources featured in Shakespeare’s World are particularly interesting and valuable for OED lexicographers. We have relatively easy access to a good deal of printed material from this period, now increasingly searchable in electronic collections. It is much harder for OED’s lexicographers to survey patterns of use in manuscript sources from this period, which often differ in interesting ways from printed sources—this can be in small features like spelling (as for instance taffytie), as well as in reflecting aspects of life (such as culinary recipes) that are relatively under-represented in the printed sources, or only appear there in a rather different light. This project therefore offers a new way in to some material that has previously been underexploited in tracing the history of English.

Help us find new words, variants, older spellings and more at Shakespeare’s World, and get in touch on Talk to share ideas, raise questions and keep your finger on the pulse of the early modern world!

-By Philip Durkin @philipdurkin of the OED

And …why we love recipes

In the inaugural post of the series, Heather Wolfe made a passionate case for why we need to transcribe and study the tens of thousands of early modern letters in our libraries and archives. Today, we turn to the wonderfully rich world of early modern recipes. Recipe books, like letters, are common finds in archives and the Folger Shakespeare Library has an exceptional collection of these fascinating texts.

122071

In this recipe booking compiled by Margaret Baker in the 1670s, we can see how she wrote down a medicine against the plague on one page and recipes for almond cakes on the other.

In Shakespeare’s England, many households had a notebook in which they jotted down culinary, medical and household recipes. These short texts gave readers instructions to make a wide range of products from roasted pike to cough medicines and sustaining broths to ways of keeping linen white. The miscellaneous nature of these texts reflects the multifaceted role taken on by householders and household managers in the period. The close juxtaposition of culinary and medical recipes, reminds us of the close association between food and medicine; for example, you might see a remedy for a fever listed next to a recipe for a pie. This is due not only to the holistic nature of humoural medicine, but also to the crossovers between the spaces, technologies and materials used to produce food and medicines.

Baker, fol. 97 (folger v.a. 619)

Useful for the holiday season – recipes to bake a rump of beef and to make sausages.

Recipes to make a range of foodstuffs—cheesecakes, pies, stews—give us an idea of the kinds of foods served on early modern tables. By transcribing a large number of recipes, we can track food fads and fashions, continuity and changes in the country’s food staples and much much more. After all, with Christmas coming up, you might be interested in learn that turkey (roasted, in pies or as turkey hash) also graced tables around this time in seventeenth-century England. Recipe books also open a window into other “housewifely” tasks such as the making of different kinds of cheese and the brewing of beer and ale. As many of the recipe books that we’re transcribing in Shakespeare’s World were created by well-off gentlewomen, one might imagine that these tasks were done by teams of housekeepers, dairy maids and cooks rather than a lone housewife in the kitchen.

Folger v.a. 619 fol. 54v

Fearing a fever? This is the recipe for you!

As you work through our recipe selections, you’ll encounter scores of health-orientated recipes. Cough syrups, medicines for the jaundice or remedies for the ague are dotted throughout the recipe archive. These recipes reveal the everyday anxieties and health-concerns of men and women living in early modern England and the many ways in which they tried to ease their symptoms. While there were various options for medical care in the period, family and friends often served as the “first resort” for patients seeking to alleviate their ailments or sicknesses. Then, as now, men and women tended to mix commercially available medicines with those made in the home. After all, whom among us has not mixed an over-the-counter pain-killer with a home-brewed honey, lemon and ginger “tea” during bouts of cold and flu?

You might wonder from where householders gathered all this medical and culinary information. The answer here is, as always, a complex one. Much like how we might build up our own “family cookbook”, householders in the early modern period relied on their networks of family, friends and neighbours, contemporary printed books and encounters with experts—medical practitioners, farriers, tavern maids—to fill their recipe books. After all, who would better know how to keep bottles sweet smelling than someone who works in the pub?

Interested and would like to learn more?

  • Here is my feature story on recipes in early modern households.
  • The Recipes Project is a collaborative research network exploring histories of pre-modern recipes.
  • EMROC is a research-led teaching experiment where students work to create transcriptions and a database of early modern English recipe books.
  • For more on food in the period, see, for example, Joan Thirsk’s Food in Early Modern England (London, 2007).
  • A wonderful introductory text to medicine in early modern England is Andrew Wear’s Knowledge and Practice in English Medicine, 1550-1680 (Cambridge University Press, 2000).

All examples in this post are taken from the recipe book of Margaret Baker which was compiled around 1675 (Folger MS v.a. 619, fols. 81v-82r, 79r and 54v.) The manuscript is available in entirety here and is included in Shakespeare’s World.

By Elaine Leong @elaineleong

Welcome to Shakespeare’s World, and… why we love letters

Welcome to Shakespeare’s World! EMMO (Early Modern Manuscripts Online at the Folger Shakespeare Library), Zooniverse, and the Oxford English Dictionary are thrilled to partner on this groundbreaking project to transcribe the Folger’s amazing collection of manuscripts from Shakespeare’s era. The research potentials are endless—we can’t wait to see what people will find and learn and create once this treasure trove of thousands of manuscript texts is made available to all.

Our inaugural blog post touches on letters, one of the first two genres we are introducing to our Shakespeare’s World contributors. The second post will focus on recipe books, the other genre.

Letter from Jane Skipwith to Lewis Bagot, ca. 1610.

Letter from Jane Skipwith to Lewis Bagot, ca. 1610. Folger Shakespeare Library, MS L.a.852.

Here’s why we love letters from the 16th and 17th centuries: they are full of personal details and tidbits about the lives of real people with real problems and concerns and needs – information that you would never encounter in a printed work from the period. It turns out that then, like now, one of the biggest worries was… money.

Detail ("the money") from a letter from Ralph Adderley to Walter Bagot, 4 March 1607. Folger Shakespeare Library, MS L.a.7.

Detail (“the money”) from a letter from Ralph Adderley to Walter Bagot, 4 March 1607. Folger Shakespeare Library, MS L.a.7.

Here’s another reason: you can actually “hear” the voices of women, servants, college students, children, tradespeople, and other individuals who are not well represented in the printed world. The spelling is often phonetic in the letters of people who were not highly literate, which provides great insight into how certain words were pronounced in the period.

“i umbli tacke leue,” or, as we would write it, “I humbly take leave.” Detail from a letter from Elizabeth Cavendish to her mother, the formidable Bess of Hardwick. Folger Shakespeare Library, MS X.d.428 (50).

“i umbli tacke leue,” or, as we would write it, “I humbly take leave.” Detail from a letter from Elizabeth Cavendish to her mother, the formidable Bess of Hardwick. Folger Shakespeare Library, MS X.d.428 (50).

You can also witness queens and kings communicating with each other on an “unofficial” level, as in Elizabeth I’s intimate letters in her own handwriting to James VI of Scotland.

Beginning of letter to "My deare brother," from Elizabeth I to James VI, 16 March 1593.

Beginning of letter to “My deare brother,” from Elizabeth I to James VI, 16 March 1593 (they weren’t really brother and sister). Folger Shakespeare Library, MS X.d.397.

One could argue that the letter was the single most important genre in the Renaissance period, since it was the primary form of direct communication across long distances. Letterwriting was the means by which Shakespeare and his world established contact, kept in touch, swapped news and gossip, forged alliances, conducted business, asked for forgiveness, and fell in love. Letters can be funnier, richer, more bizarre, and more moving than anything that the fiction of the period has to offer.

–Heather Wolfe, @hwolfe

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