Reflection on Transcription

One of the major challenges of transcribing the diary entry was understanding Linn’s handwriting. His words sometimes appear crossed out and his letters are unusual in shape. One of the strange things about Linn’s handwriting is its ampersands and punctuation. Beyond the peculiar way he writes his words, Linn’s use of dashes and sentence structure make it difficult to gain a continuous understanding of his message as one transcribes, making it more difficult to reveal words based on context alone.

The instance of names and  outdated vocabulary also contributed to the challenges of transcribing a diary entry. The word “colors’ appears several times and only from context can it be understood that these are  flags. When Linn talks about Shortley I first assumed it was a misspelling of the the word shortly. Based on context after finishing the sentence I was able to deduce this was a proper noun. The instances of misspellings produce problems as Linn’s handwriting is already so difficult to transcribe.

Additionally, losing place within a line of the diary was a significant problem. As I would have to scroll and zoom in, I often lost my place within a sentence and would have to go through an entire paragraph to arrive at my previous point. Overall, Linn’s diary transcription process produced many challenges, but a variety of techniques could be utilized to overcome them.

A capture of my screen during the transcription process.

A capture of my screen during the transcription process.

Linn’s Diary


Linn’s Diary page 33

This is the first time I transcribe any documents. It is a good experience to see how difficult it is for people to transcribe and study old documents. Transcription is the way to efficiently study a person’s life. While transcribing a person’s work, especially diaries and unpublished works, we can dive into his/her stream of thoughts and understand them at a deeper level. All the informations written are this person’s thoughts and observations. It is interesting to see what is happening in their lives and how they choose to write down informations that seem crucial to them.

The process was very simple. I opened a page of the diary on one side and use TextEdit on one side. For every word that I can’t read, I put a question mark, [?]. In the beginning, most of the texts were question marks. As I read more and more of his hand writing, I started to recognize the letters and eventually the actual words.

Overall, transcribing Linn’s diary can be fun but frustrating at the same time. Many words have became obsolete and unable to read.

There are names on the page that is hard to read without any previous knowledge. Below is an example of such. This is the name of an artist of the London Illustrated News. I can make out that his name is Frank but I couldn’t read his last name.

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Frank [something]

There are days in the diary that are just extremely hard to read. We can tell that Linn was having a bad day when his writings are all over the place. In this part, he was talking about the harsh conditions of the troops. He mentioned people getting sick so perhaps Linn was also sick.

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Example of Linn’s absurd handwriting

Although his handwriting is hard to read, this is a lot easier to read compares to the documents I have seen from Bentham Project. Overall, this has been a fun experience to transcribe his diary. There are a lot to be learned from this. The everyday life of a civil war soldier is harsh. Living in terrible conditions in the midst of a war is not something we can fathom.

Transcription Reflection

In this blog post I will talk about my experience transcribing the letter I was assigned in James Merrill Linn’s diary. While transcribing this letter, I had the TextEdit and preview apps open side by side. I would read one word at a time in the diary and then write that word I transcribed into the text edit document. Once I got to the end of the line I would then hit enter and start my new line of transcribing. Sometimes I would scroll over and highlight the line I was on so that I wouldn’t get lost.

One of the difficulties I had was understanding Merrill Linn’s handwriting. I am not good at reading cursive to begin with so messy cursive was much harder to read. He was probably writing this while on the battle field and under tremendous stress. Another one of the difficulties I had was losing where I was when I would go from one line to the next. I would sometimes highlight the line but then sometimes I would double click on the page and the highlight would become un-highlighted. When I was following a sentence it was sometimes crooked because he was writing on unlined paper which made it harder to read. Another challenge I had was understanding the context because some words have different meanings and usages when compared with the  current usage of certain words.

Below is an example of a word that was giving me trouble. I was torn between the word being in fact and in doubt but I went with in fact because it was most appropriate with the context.

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Below is another example of where I had no idea what the word was. The word looked most like stump but I was a little confused because it didn’t really go with the context of the sentence. Part of the sentence read : However beaver a shepherd on a stump

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I found the handwriting on this page very inconsistent. Some lines were very easy to read and others weren’t. When I got midway through the page I started to understand the context of the page which definitely helped to make the transcribing a little easier. Overall I believe this project helped to give me a greater understanding of the interpretive skills that are essential when working with the humanities.



Transcription Reflection

It is after this assignment that I can truly appreciate just how far language has come over the years. For me, trying to decipher this diary page was like reading Chinese.

For starters, I am completely new to reading cursive for an extended document such as this one. Cursive was something I learned in fifth grade and then never thought about it again after the unit was over. I was forced to recollect which letters look completely different compared to their print form, while at the same time, figure out words that were popular back in the 1800s but not today.

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Fighting through ink stains is just another obstacle in the transcription.

Linn’s grammar and dialogue is very unlike what we use today, so it was very tough to piece together the meaning of particularly confusing sentences. I noticed that at times Linn’s writing would be very clear and legible, but then as the diary entry would carry on, his writing would get messier. This made me think of whether or not he would get tired of writing and become careless, or find himself in uncomfortable positions in which writing on paper was tough.

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An example of Linn’s writing getting careless towards the end of the page.

Overall, I believe that transcribing documents is a trade that one must repeat over and over to become a master. By seeing that style of handwriting constantly, one will become accustomed to it; therefore, making it easier to get through documents faster and with better accuracy.


Diary 61 Reflection

This reflection will be about my experience transcribing entry 61 of James Merrill Linn’s diaries. This diary entry started with the continuation of Friday, April 18, 1862 and ended on Saturday, April 19. At the start, the transcribing process was very difficult because I was not familiar with his handwriting yet. But about halfway through it became a lot easier, and I really started to enjoy transcribing this diary entry. It was such an accomplishment to finally figure out a word after looking at it for a long time! Every time I got stuck I would put a question mark in the place of the word. Then, I went back through and tried to fill in all of the question marks. However I was still left with quite a few at the end.

There were phrases that I could nScreen shot 2014-09-14 at 4.28.13 PMot decipher at all without some help. This was one of them. I could not figure out the first word in this line for a while but then I thought it looked similar to “shortly”, but the “t” and “l” did not look right. The other word I could not get was the one after “was”. Going over the most difficult words in class really helped me. I showed the first word to another student who told me that it’s a name, “Shorkley”. And then it was brought to my attention in class that the other word is “adjutant”.

One other word that caused me trouble was the one after “canister”. I thought tScreen shot 2014-09-14 at 4.31.55 PMhe letters looked like “stuithing”, and even though I know that is not a word I still looked it up, hoping it was a common word in the 19th century. However it was not so I’m not sure what that word actually is or if it’s “stuithing” and had meaning to him and his family.

A very helpful part was when we met with Isabella O’Neill at the Bucknell Special Collections/University Archives room. Seeing my diary in person was not particularly beneficial, but rather some of the other archives she had. I asked Isabella to help me with some names I could not understand and she showed me a book of all of the Privates, Corporals, Sergeants, Lieutenants, etc. in Linn’s regimen, which was very useful in my transcribing process.