“Transcribathon” describes the full range of the Early Modern Studies Working Group’s efforts to teach and develop the skills of paleography. Critical to researching the early modern period is the ability to read manuscripts. This is not always so easy! Thus, our ongoing paleography workshop is designed to provide introductory tutelage and regular practice. The name itself derives from UConn’s connection to the Folger Institute, which hosts transcription-from-manuscript marathons, or “transcribathons,” at partner colleges and institutions across the country in connection with their Early Modern Manuscripts Online project. UConn was fortunate to host one of these events in September 2016, a gathering that served as kickoff to our regular sessions. Currently, UConn’s Transcribathon convenes bi-weekly and aims to make the experience fun and rewarding by providing participants an opportunity both to collaborate on a community project, and to receive useful research training for projects that require paleography. The present joint venture is a fully transcribed edition of one of the diaries of John Ward, a vicar and doctor who lived in Stratford-upon-Avon in the mid-seventeenth century and who left important comments about Shakespeare, early modern science, post-Reformation religion and English and European history and literature. Once completed, the edition will be freely available to all on the Folger Institute website. In addition to working on a selection from the Ward diary at each meeting, participants can circulate materials from their own research with which they might need some assistance. Reading such “guest” documents helps advance individual projects and introduces participants to a wider range of hands and styles. Periodically, the group works on other languages, for instance Latin, French, and Irish (the latter of which is linked to the development of an online paleography primer to be hosted on Léamh.org).
We welcome the curious and all are welcome. Whether you’re a student new to early modern manuscripts, a seasoned researcher looking for practice in a collegial setting, or simply curious to see what handwriting in the age of Shakespeare looked like, please don’t hesitate to be in touch!