Learning to write the alphabet is one of the first stages of writing literacy. For early modern English children, this meant first learning to read the letters of the alphabet (printed in black letter) from a hornbook.
They then learned to write the letters of the alphabet in one or both of the two main handwritten scripts, secretary and italic. For this, they relied on manuscript or printed copybooks or exemplars, usually supplemented by instruction from a writing master at a writing school, a private tutor or family member, or usher in a grammar school. ((See Herbert C. Schulz, “The Teaching of Handwriting in Tudor and Stuart Times,” The Huntington Library Quarterly (4), August 1943: 381-425.))
Below are two plates from Jehan de Beau-Chesne’s and John Baildon’s A booke containing diuers sortes of hands, as well the English as French secretarie with the Italian, Roman, chancelry & court hands (London, 1602 [first ed. 1570]) (Folger STC 6450.2) that depict versions of secretary and italic hand:
On both of these leaves, someone has tried to imitate the letter forms. In the top example, the brand new writer got through some of the minuscule and majuscule forms of the letter A (“a a a A A [upside down!] a a a”) before smudging out his or her work. Further progress is made on the “Italique hande” leaf, where the letters A through J (and perhaps an attempt at the letter K) are awkwardly and painstakingly formed underneath the exemplar. (By the way, the aphorism on this leaf is from Cicero.)
Children learned their letters by repeatedly tracing and copying strokes, letters, alphabets, pangrams (sentences that contain all the letters of the alphabet), and aphorisms. Beau-Chesne’s copybook was not the only one to contain the verse instructions, “Rules made by E.B. for children to write by,” that describe the ideal quill, ink, and posture for a child’s first experiences with writing. The instructions even advise on how the teacher should prepare the paper:
… Scholler to learne, it may do you pleasure,
To rule him two lines iust of a measure:
Those two lines betweene to write very iust,
Not aboue or below write that he must:
The same to be done is best with blacke lead,
Which written betweene, is cleansed with bread.
Your pen from your booke, but seldome remoue,
To follow strange hand with drie pen first proue:
(copied from Folger STC 6450.2)
That is, use a graphite pencil to rule a piece of paper with sets of double lines for the child to write between. Then write some exemplar letters for the child to copy. He or she can trace them with an inkless quill in the first instance, and then proceed to use ink. The pencil lines can be erased with bread.
The result might be something like below, in which one Stephen Poynting, possibly a student at the Free School in Gloucester, practices a pangram, “Job a Righteous man of uz waxed poor Quickly” (i/j and u/v counting as single graphs). He writes it twenty-one times, and his spacing between words grows larger and larger so that he can no longer fit the last word of the sentence (he appears to be writing one word of the sentence at a time, in columnar format). If you look closely at the piece of paper, you can see that it is blind-ruled; that is, guidelines have been made with an inkless quill to help him write in a straight line.
by Heather Wolfe @hwolfe
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.
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.
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.
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:
- A post from The Collation about the first “transcribathon” sponsored by EMMO
- A post from one of the participants in the EMROC transcribathon about the sense of community
- Our “Folgerpedia” page on EMMO and the Practical Paleography series at the Folger
- A post from The Collation about EMMO activities in late 2015
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
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).
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.
- 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.
- 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.
wendsday (wednesday) saterday (saturday)
- Count your minims. Use the rest of the word to decide if it’s an ‘i’, ‘u’, ‘m’ or ‘n’. minded
- 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…
- Be prepared to encounter both majuscules (capital letters) and minuscules (lower case letters) where you wouldn’t expect them.
- Watch out for interference from letters above and below the line.
- Note the ‘y’ thorn, and the abbreviations it comes with: the, them, that… the
- 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.
- Picking up on number 8: USE YOUR ALPHABET. Check your letters. It’s easy to use and it’s located in the side bar.
- 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
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
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.
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.