Paul Dingman: Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO)

MEDEA Spring Meeting, Wheaton College, Norton, Mass.
Thursday, April 7, 2016 [return to program overview]

Paul Dingman
Folger Shakespeare Library

Based at the Folger Shakespeare Library and funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO) project is roughly half way through its initial three-year phase. To date, the focus—in addition to teaching paleography—has been on gathering transcriptions for thousands of pages of digitized manuscripts from the Folger’s collection using various means, including OCR scans of printed transcriptions, in-house transcriptions made with word-processors using images or the originals, and transcriptions generated from applications designed specifically for the task such as Dromio and the crowd-sourcing website Shakespeare’s World. Transcriptions from these sources will be vetted, encoded in TEI-P5 compliant XML, and published to the world via an online database.

Diary of John Ward being transcribed in Dromio (from "The Collation," the Folger Shakespeare Library blog)

Diary of John Ward being transcribed in Dromio (from “The Collation,” the Folger Shakespeare Library blog)

The tag set for EMMO has been kept small and straightforward so as not to overwhelm the predominantly volunteer network of transcribers. Some of the codes are a simplified version of XML, but all are TEI-focused for a relatively smooth transition to fully compliant XML in due course. The basic encoding is done at the same time as the transcribing since a certain degree of paleographic skill is required for much of the work, e.g., marking expansions, identifying brevigraphs, and differentiating various types of numbers. Easy-to-use web tools such as Dromio help transcribers and have proven popular at transcribing events.

The EMMO team recognizes that additional encoding (beyond the transfer to TEI-P5) XML will be necessary to leverage the digital potential of these transcriptions—especially in the case of complex manuscripts like account books. The MEDEA workshop should be an excellent forum to discuss best practices for rendering these materials on the web, to learn more about the current scholarly questions pertaining to account books, and to make connections among the network of people who work with these documents regularly. The issues described as central to the workshop, such as establishing resources for measuring currencies and showing the value of money in respect to the time period and geography, are fascinating possibilities. Representing the significance of space and the accompanying divisions in online transcriptions are additional topics of great interest. At the recent EMMO Advanced Paleography Workshop, a group of expert paleographers weighed the pros and cons of using tables for account book page transcriptions (e.g., MS V.b.308), so a more in-depth discussion on how appropriate and feasible tables are for such representations in XML would be informative.

Brief demonstrations of Dromio and Shakespeare’s World will be included in the EMMO presentation along with an introduction to our semi-diplomatic approach to transcription and the current tag set. Both of the online tools pair high-resolution images of manuscript pages with facilitated, basic XML coding. Transcribed text appears in a simple editing interface with buttons that apply tags and activate certain coordinated display effects. Dromio also has an XML window that shows the actual (simplified) encoding with angle brackets in use. Participants may try the interfaces out themselves if they wish by transcribing part of an early modern account book manuscript.


Image credit: From Paul Dingman, “EMMO: Advancing and Expanding,” The Collation: Research and Exploration at the Folger, March 3, 2015.

OpenEdition suggests that you cite this post as follows:
Daniel Becker (March 16, 2016). Paul Dingman: Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO). MEDEA. Retrieved July 21, 2024 from

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