Practical Paleography

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Practical Paleography is an informal series of ten paleography sessions meeting every two weeks. Series One ran from November 2014 through March 2015. Series Two ran from May 2015 through to September 2015. These sessions are sponsored by Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO) for the staff and readers of the Folger Shakespeare Library. Each session will focus on transcription and mark-up (i.e. XML encoding) of a few 16th and/or 17th century manuscript pages from the Folger collection – announcements with information about particular manuscripts to be transcribed will appear a week or so before each session.


No experience or registration is required, and you can attend as many or as few sessions as you like. Short handouts will be provided, and full transcriptions of the manuscripts we examine will appear here on this Folgerpedia page following the session. You may want to bring a laptop to try your own transcriptions or take notes.

Here's a link to some introductory pages on the early modern alphabet and common abbreviations: Alphabet Book.

We are particularly eager to work on manuscripts suggested by participating staff and readers. If you have a manuscript page or two that you would like to have the group examine, please contact Heather Wolfe, Paul Dingman or Sarah Powell in advance of the session(s) you’d like to attend.

This initial series of Practical Paleography has concluded; it ran every other Tuesday from November 18 until March 24 (10 meetings) in the Board Room, 3:30 PM – 4:30 PM, right after tea. The second series of Practical Paleography has concluded; it ran every other Tuesday from May 5 until September 8. See manuscript details about individual sessions below and full transcriptions. Practical Paleography Series Three begins October 20th 2015 in the Board Room, 3:30 PM - 4:30 PM.

Practical Paleography Series Three

Oct 20 2015

The first of ten sessions in the third series of Practical Paleography. A brief explanation of secretary hand, minuscule and majuscule letter forms and some common abbreviations. Then a look at V.a.307, a poetical and prose miscellany. People will also be encouraged to participate remotely and the manuscript will stay open and accessible to the Folger's paleography community, for remote transcription.

V.a.307 - Poetical and Prose Miscellany Transcription

Nov 3 2015

Beta Test in collaboration with Zooniverse.

Practical Paleography Series Two

May 5 2015

The first of ten sessions in the second series of Practical Paleography running through summer 2015. A brief explanation of secretary hand, minuscule and majuscule letter forms and some common abbreviations (eg. which, with, you, your, the, that). Then a look at two interesting family letters, one from the Papers of the Bagot family and the other from the Bacon-Townshend collection.

L.a.161 – Bagot Family Papers Transcription
L.d.18 – Bacon-Townshend Collection Transcription

May 19 2015

A recap of how to use dromio, the Folger's online transcription-collation tool, including a brief overview of its tag set. Then an opportunity to transcribe L.a.63, a letter from Walter Bagot's eldest son Lewis to his father. Lewis is writing from commons [at one of the Inns of Court]. He mentions The Kynnersley-Trew case, being followed hard by Sir Walter Chetwynd and Mr. Wolseley (Wouslye).

L.a.63 – Bagot Family Papers Transcription

June 2 2015

An examination of numbers, both Arabic and Roman. Also covered will be days, dates and Regnal years (including how to modernize dates), with worksheets providing examples.

June 16 2015

A look at a probate copy of the will of Edward Grant dated April 25th, St Mark's day, 1601. After declaring himself sound in mind and perfect in memory Grant goes on to bequeath a house lease, goods and money to his wife and children. He leaves money to the poor of Toppsfield and Barnet and a copy of Ortelius' book of maps to Westminster's College Library. Not forgetting his friends, he leaves a little silver cup to his affectionate friend Mr Samuel Haslewood.

Z.e.40 (4) – Probate copy of Edward Grant's will Transcription

June 30 2015

Latin Part I: A look at some Latin snippets taken from the Folger's manuscript collection, including lines copied from Virgil's Aeneid and Eclogues and Ovid's Metamorphoses, Tristia and Heroides. There will be an opportunity to transcribe and translate Latin into English.

July 14 2015

Latin Part II: A further look at Latin taken from the Folger's manuscript collection, including Latin snippets from the Macro Plays: Castle of Perseverance [ca.1440], Henry Oxinden's miscellany [ca.1642-1670], Letter from John Parker at Dublin Castle to Thadeus O'Carroll [1548], Letter from Harvey Bagot at Oxford to his father Walter Bagot [1609], The Smith family miscellany [ca.1620-1655] and annotations by Gabriel Harvey in Facetie, motti, et burle di diversi signori et persone privat [1580-1608]. There will also be an opportunity to use dromio, the Folger's online transcription tool, to transcribe and tag a Latin excerpt from V.b.26, Book of magic, [ca.1577-1583].

V.b.26 -The Book of magic V.b.26 Transcription

July 28 2015

An opportunity to transcribe an interesting page written in English secretary hand from the Diaries of Richard Stonley, 1581-1598, including Latin citations from Book 3 of Cato's distichs on the need to balance work with pleasure. There will be a further opportunity to compare these transcriptions at the end of the session, using dromio, the Folger's online transcription-collation tool.

V.b.460 - Diaries of Richard Stonley V.a.460 Transcription

August 11 2015

A look at drama in manuscript form, using the seventeenth-century play The Inconstant Lady. Transcriptions will be collated and compared at the end of the session.

J.b.1- The Inconstant Lady J.b.1 Transcription

August 26 2015

An opportunity to transcribe two pages from the Commonplace book of Matthew Day ca.1650 using Dromio, the Folger's online transcription-collation tool. Transcriptions will also vetted in the latter part of the session.

V.a.160-The Commonplace book of Matthew Day V.a.160 Transcription

September 8 2015

A look at a page on Italy and the Medicis of Florence, taken from Edmund Tilney's Topographical Descriptions, Regiments and Policies. Transcriptions will be collated at the end of the session to produce a final version, using dromio, the Folger's online transcription-collation tool.

V.b.182 -Topographical Descriptions, Regiments and Policies by Edmund Tilney V.b.182 Transcription

Practical Paleography Series One

Nov. 18 2014

Brief introduction to secretary hand and common abbreviations. Intriguing recipes from the following manuscript collections:

V.a.430 – Cookery and medicinal recipes of the Granville family Transcriptions
V.b.301 – Cookbook of Grace Blome Transcriptions

Dec. 2 2014

Quick review of alphabet then a look at some interesting letters from the following manuscript:

X.c.61 – Papers of the Rattray family of Craighall Transcriptions
X.c.61 (119) – Letter from John Ogilvy of Balfour to James Rattray of Craighall, … 1674 September 9 ⇒ Transcription
X.c.61 (137) – Letter from John Ogilvy of Balfour to James Rattray of Craighall 1677 April ⇒Transcription

Dec. 16 2015

Further examination of secretary hand and review of alphabet before working with a volume of a poetical miscellany:

V.a.245 – Poetical miscellany (manuscript) Transcriptions

Dec. 30 2015

A very brief review of the alphabet and some of the common abbreviations used in secretary hand and then a look at two letters with seasonal references from the Papers of the Bagot Family Transcriptions

L.a.156 – Letter from Walter Bagot to an unnamed knight ⇒ Transcription
L.a.176 – Letter from William Bagot (Walter's son), Oxford, to Walter Bagot, 1619 November 7 ⇒ Transcription

Jan. 13 2015

Introduction to Dromio, the Folger's online transcription/collation tool, and semi-diplomatic conventions and then a chance to practice both transcribing and encoding secretary hand with some poetry from a volume of poetical miscellany :

V.a.245 – Poetical miscellany (manuscript) Transcriptions

Jan. 27 2015

A quick refresher on the use of Dromio and conventions of semi-diplomatic transcription, and then practice transcribing a mixed secretary/italic hand with a newsletter about some maritime matters:

L.c.2102 – Newdigate family collection of newsletters Transcriptions

Feb. 10 2015

An introduction into the way numbers were written in manuscripts of the time, and then an opportunity to transcribe some interesting lists of items (with numbers) in :

V.b.147 – Inventories of the Townshend family Transcriptions

Feb. 24 2015

An educational experience with quill pens, iron gall ink, and rag paper followed by a turn at transcribing an early modern recipe for black ink.

V.a.159 – A Miscellany (sometimes known as Giles Lodge's Lute-Book)⇒ Transcriptions

Mar. 10

A quick review of numbers and then a more specific look at how numbers are used in references to money in early modern manuscripts. Several examples of amounts will be shown in snippets from the Bacon-Townshend collection, then a transcription of a bill/receipt to Lady Stanhope.

L.d.101–775 – Bacon-Townshend collection Transcription

Mar. 24 2015

A brief review of features in Dromio and then a chance to transcribe some chivalric romance, specifically a few pages about the adventures of St. Denis and his horse from V.a.139 – Gawdy Brampton's rhyming version of Richard Johnson's very popular literary work.

V.a.139 - The Famous Histories of the Seven Champions of Christendom Transcription