On October 7th, students from PLU’s Book in Society class participated in a transcribathon—an international effort to type out the words of a complete seventeenth-century manuscript in just twelve hours. (The manuscript, a collection of recipes and medicinal treatments, originally belonged to Rebecca Winche, and it was recently acquired and digitized by the Folger Shakespeare Library. For a sample of the original manuscript, click here.) After getting comfortable with Winche’s early modern italic handwriting (and some features of the more complicated early secretary hand, as well), students were assigned to transcribe recipes for everything from pancakes to stewed pigeons. As they did this work, which was coordinated by the international organization EMROC (the Early Modern Recipes Online Collective), students were also able to tweet about their experiences, with many receiving a prompt response from EMROC coordinators.
Transcribing early manuscripts is particularly important because it creates a digitally searchable copy of each artifact, using XML tagging to enable future research. It also broadens public access to texts that have previously only been available to scholars working in archives. Thanks to the efforts of the 89 EMROC transcribers, including fourteen PLU students, the work of early writers will be able to reach a new audience.