Practical Paleography is an opportunity to learn how to read secretary hand in a completely informal setting. These sessions were originally sponsored by Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO) for staff and researchers at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Each session will focus on transcription and mark-up (i.e. XML encoding) of 16th or 17th century manuscript pages from the Folger collection in Dromio, the Folger's transcription platform.
No experience or registration is required, and you can attend as many or as few sessions as you like. Handouts will be provided. Please bring a laptop if possible.
Here's a link to some introductory pages on the early modern alphabet and common abbreviations: Alphabet Book.
Questions about Dromio? Check out Dromio Frequently Asked Questions to see if your question is covered there.
Also see resources developed by EMMO partners for using Dromio during transcribathons:
Some transcriptions from Practical Paleography will appear on EMMO.
See below for manuscript details about individual sessions and transcriptions.
Practical Paleography Series Nine: Still Virtual
Folger archivist Sara Butterfass Schliep and Folger docent Nicole Winard will lead the fall 2021 Practical Paleography series. It will meet on Thursdays 1pm to 2pm (EST) from September 9 to December 16, for 13 sessions. We will have two breakout rooms: Nicole will run the beginners room (for people who want an introduction or refresh of the alphabet, abbreviations, and Dromio) and Sara will run the mystery manuscript room (for people who want to explore the collection and transcribe in Dromio together, with a new manuscript each week).
The sessions are:
Sep 9, 2021 01:00 PM Sep 16, 2021 01:00 PM Sep 23, 2021 01:00 PM Sep 30, 2021 01:00 PM Oct 7, 2021 01:00 PM Oct 14, 2021 01:00 PM Oct 21, 2021 01:00 PM Oct 28, 2021 01:00 PM Nov 4, 2021 01:00 PM Nov 18, 2021 01:00 PM Dec 2, 2021 01:00 PM Dec 9, 2021 01:00 PM Dec 16, 2021 01:00 PM
Interested people should contact Sara (sbschliep at folger.edu) for the Zoom link and calendar invite.
Practical Paleography Series Eight: COVID Series
Updated May 11, 2021: Well, we are still going strong! We now meet on Thursdays at 1pm. Please contact Heather Wolfe for the Zoom invitation. We are currently divided into two breakout rooms: one group works on a mystery manuscript each week, and another group is working on John Ward's diary, V.a.294. A beginner Tuesday morning group may begin in June, but beginners are always welcome at Practical Paleography as well. Let Heather Wolfe know if you are interested in the Tuesday group.
Updated June 2, 2020: Practical Paleography Series Seven has extended well beyond its typical six session format, and we have decided to continue meeting at the same time/same Zoom indefinitely. We meet every Tuesday at 2pm to review manuscript "homework" transcriptions and/or learn new concepts. Please contact Heather Wolfe for the Zoom invitation. The group is about 15 people right now and is at the intermediate level, and welcomes new participants. If there is interest in a beginner group, open to anyone, please reach out to Heather Wolfe.
Practical Paleography Series Seven
Update: After session 1 on March 10 we are going virtual! Next meeting will be March 24 via Zoom. We will meet
in the Foulke Room in 301 from 2 to 3pm, for six weekly sessions: March 10, 17, 24, 31, April 7, 14, 2020. These sessions are open to all! Folger staff and Folger docents. Please contact Heather Wolfe for the Zoom invitation.
March 17: week off
March 24: transcription of V.a.140, fol. 28r
April 7: Dromio tutorial (transcribe.folger.edu); introduction to Joscelyn font developed by Prof. Peter Baker, University of Virginia
Practical Paleography Series Six
We will meet in the Board Room from 2:30 to 3:30 on October 8, 15, 22, 29, and November 5, 2019. On November 5, we will be participating in an EMROC transcribathon of Folger MS V.b.400. The transcribathon starts at 10am, so feel free to spend the whole day with us!
Practical Paleography Series Five
We will meet in the Board Room from 3:30 to 4:30 on the following dates: Oct 2, 16, 30 2018; Nov 13, 27 2018; Jan 29 2019; Feb 12 2019; March 12, 26 2019, April 9, 23 2019.
Oct 2 2018
Series Five will include ten sessions led by Dr. Heather Wolfe, Curator of Manuscripts. An introduction to minuscule and majuscule letters of the early modern alphabet will be followed by an opportunity to identify their usage in a manuscript.
Oct 16 2018
After a review of the early modern alphabet, Dr. Wolfe will lead the group in reading a letter by Sir Charles Cornwallis (1621) with attention on abbreviations and brevegraphs.
Oct 30 2018
During session three the group will set up their accounts on Dromio, the transcription program. Dr. Wolfe will cover review the meanings of the tags used in transcribing these manuscripts and the group will read the death certificate of Edwin Rich from 1648. Dr. Wolfe will use this certificate to discuss how early modern documents were addressed.
- X.d.451 p. 6-7 - Certifies Edwin Rich died 25 Feb 1639 [i.e. 1640]. Signed by the mayor of Hartlepool, Durham.
Nov 13 2018
Dr. Jack Bouchard, Folger Institute Postdoctoral Fellow, will lead the group in a reading of an early modern recipe for gingerbread. This will provide an excellent opportunity for paleographers to become acquainted with the upcoming exhibit, First Chefs.
Nov 27 2018
Jan 29 2019
Session postponed due to snow.
Feb 12 2019
Dr. Owen Williams, Associate Director of Scholarly Programs will further celebration of the First Chefs exhibit by transcribing a recipe from a 1690 pharmaceutical and recipes for seasonal soups from a book divided into two parts with part II being inverted and reversed.
- V.b.286 p. 56-57 - Pharmaceutical recipes [manuscript].
- V.a.612 - Manuscript cookery book containing more the four hundred and fifty recipes. [manuscript]
Practical Paleography Series Four
Oct 25 2016
The first of ten sessions in the fourth series of Practical Paleography. Curator of Manuscripts Dr Heather Wolfe & EMMO Paleographer Sarah Powell will be on hand to lead the group in transcribing a bargain and sale (L.b.356) from the Loseley Collection, specifically one involving the sale of seven upper rooms to James Burbage. These rooms would become the famous Blackfriars Theatre. The session will start with Dr Heather Wolfe introducing the early modern alphabet.
- L.b.356 - More, Sir William. Bargain and sale of seven upper rooms in the Blackfriars to James Burbage ⇒ Transcription
Nov 8 2016
Dr Heather Wolfe will give a brief review of the early modern alphabet and common abbreviations. In the first half of the session the group will transcribe more from L.b.356 (see October 25th session). In the second half of the hour Dr Hillary Nunn will give a short introduction to Lady Grace Castleton's booke of receipts from which the PracPaleo group will transcribe a seventeenth-century recipe for chocolate cream! EMMO Paleographer Sarah Powell will transcribe & tag this transcription on site using Dromio, the Folger's online transcription tool. This special session will serve as a preparation for the Early Modern Recipes Online Collective (EMROC) "transcribathon" at the Folger on Wednesday, November 9th.
Nov 22 2016
In the third session of Practical Paleography we will transcribe L.a.190, from the Papers of the Bagot Family collection. The group will practice writing their own early modern alphabets by copying letters from the manuscript. Dr Heather Wolfe will also explain early modern letter folding. All are welcome.
Dec 6 2016
This special session of Practical Paleography will be a "Paleography Pub Night" from 5.00 - 7.00pm in the Foulke Conference Room, in tandem with the Folger Institute's Introduction to English Paleography lead by Dr Heather Wolfe. We will look at wine & ale recipes over pizza & beer! EMMO Paleographer Sarah Powell will be on hand to transcribe these transcriptions in Dromio, the Folger's online transcription tool.
Dec 20 2016
In the fifth session of Practical Paleography Dr Meaghan Brown, Dr Lizzie Williamson, Dr Owen Williams and Dr Heather Wolfe will lead the group in transcribing a page of J.b.3, the Women's Prize. We will use Dromio, the Folger's online transcription tool.
Jan 17 2017
In the sixth session of Practical Paleography Curator of Manuscripts Dr Heather Wolfe & EMMO Paleographer Sarah Powell will be on hand to lead the group in transcribing a letter from V.b.333, Papers of the Goodricke family of Ribston Hall, Nidderdale, Yorkshire.
Jan 31 2017
In the seventh session of Practical Paleography EMMO Paleographer Sarah Powell will lead the group in a transcription of a warrant from V.b.333, Papers of the Goodricke family of Ribston Hall, Nidderdale, Yorkshire. We will also further explore Dromio, the Folger's online transcription tool.
- V.b.333 (20) - Warrant from Richard Boyle, Earl of Burlington, to Sir Henry Goodricke⇒ Transcription
Feb 14 2017
In the eighth session of Practical Paleography EMMO Paleographer Sarah Powell and Curator of Manuscripts Dr Heather Wolfe will lead the group in a transcription of L.a.97, a letter from Walter Bagot to Richard Bagot describing a ' very strange wedding'. We will also go over the homework from last time; a letter from V.b.333 (34), the Papers of the Goodricke Family, Nidderdale Yorkshire. We will use Dromio, the Folger's online transcription tool, to collate these transcriptions.
Feb 28 2017
In the ninth session of Practical Paleography Curator of Manuscripts Dr Heather Wolfe will lead the group in a transcription of L.a.857, a letter from Sir Thomas Skrymsher to Walter Bagot. In it he protests a privy seal for 10 that was left for him at Aqualate, since he now lies at Shrewsbury and has a privy seal for Salop (Shropshire), which he will pay. We will use Dromio, the Folger's online transcription tool, to collate these transcriptions.
- L.a.857 - Letter from Sir Thomas Skrymsher, Aqualate to Walter Bagot, circa 1610 March 23⇒ Transcription
March 14 2017
Session postponed due to snow.
March 21 2017
In the tenth session of Practical Paleography Curator of Manuscripts Dr Heather Wolfe will look at the use of numbers in early modern manuscripts. The session will also go over the homework from last time; L.a.990.
April 4 2017
In this extra session of Practical Paleography Curator of Manuscripts Dr Heather Wolfe & EMMO Paleographer Sarah Powell will help the group pick a manuscript to continue working on remotely. These transcriptions will be added to the EMMO corpus in due course (available on emmo.folger.edu).
- Please note this will take place in Deck A meeting room.
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 and Dromio, the Folger's online transcription-collation tool. Then a look at V.a.307, a poetical and prose miscellany. People will be encouraged to participate remotely and the manuscript will stay open and accessible to the Folger's paleography community for remote transcription after the end of Tuesday's session.
Nov 3 2015
A further look at V.a.307, a poetical and prose miscellany. We will transcribe 29v and 31 in the session. People will be encouraged to participate remotely to transcribe the subsequent pages. The manuscript will stay open and accessible to the Folger's paleography community for remote transcription after the end of Tuesday's session.
Nov 17 2015
Continuing with our target to transcribe V.a.307, a poetical and prose miscellany. We will transcribe 30 and 29 in the session. People will be encouraged to participate remotely to transcribe the subsequent pages. The manuscript will stay open and accessible to the Folger's paleography community for remote transcription after the end of Tuesday's session.
Dec 1 2015
A further look at V.a.307, a poetical and prose miscellany. We will transcribe 86 in the session. People will be encouraged to participate remotely to transcribe the subsequent pages. The manuscript will stay open and accessible to the Folger's paleography community for remote transcription after the end of Tuesday's session.
Dec 15 2015
A special Practical Paleography evening session today: 'Transcription Night 2' will take place at the Big Board, H street, DC. From 5.30pm - 7.30pm we will be transcribing selections from different manuscripts with pitchers of beer as prizes! Come join us!
Jan 12 2016
We will use Dromio, the Folger's online transcription-collation too to transcribe part of X.d.428 in the session. People are encouraged to participate remotely, if they wish.
Jan 26 2016
Session did not take place. The Folger was closed due to a winter storm.
Feb 9 2016
We will transcribe one page in V.a.307, a poetical and prose miscellany, and a section of an early modern newsletter. Newcomers are welcome and no registration is required.
Feb 23 2016
We will transcribe and tag some mid-seventeenth-century letters in this session as part of a special request by Dr. Patrick Tuite of the Department of Drama at Catholic University of America. Dr. Tuite supplied the images and will be joining us for the session. He is working on letters by Arthur Bennet (Earl of Arlington) and Captain Bartlett (who ran the packets sent between Dublin and Holyhead) for an upcoming paper.
Mar 8 2016
We will transcribe and tag a mid-seventeenth-century letter in this session as part of a special request by Dr. Patrick Tuite of the Department of Drama at Catholic University of America. Dr. Tuite supplied the image and will be joining us for the session. He is working on letters by Arthur Bennet (Earl of Arlington) and Captain Bartlett (who ran the packets sent between Dublin and Holyhead) for an upcoming paper. In addition we will transcribe one page in V.a.307, a poetical and prose miscellany, and a section of an early modern newsletter. Newcomers are welcome and no registration is required.
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.
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).
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.
June 30 2015
Latin Part I: A look at some Latin snippets found in the Folger's manuscript collection. EMMO Paleographer Sarah Powell will lead the group in transcribing and translating Latin found in early modern manuscripts, copied from Virgil's Aeneid & Eclogues and Ovid's Metamorphoses, Tristia & Heroides.
July 14 2015
Latin Part II: A further look at Latin taken from the Folger's manuscript collection. EMMO Paleographer Sarah Powell will lead the group in transcribing and translating Latin, 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 , Letter from Harvey Bagot at Oxford to his father Walter Bagot , 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].
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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 :
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:
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 :
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.
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.
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.