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Manuscripts Transcription

How to Join

Are you interested in transcribing manuscripts for the Clements Library? Please follow the steps below to sign up.

  1. Go to the Clements Library projects on FromThePage.
  2. Click the Sign Up link at the top of the page.
  3. Enter a user name, email address, and password to register.
  4. Browse the list of Clements Library projects to get started with our collections. Enjoy!

Contact us at if you have any questions.

Getting Started

Go to the list of Clements Library FromThePage projects to get started.

  1. Select a collection to work on.
  2. On a collection page, select an item to transcribe by clicking the “Pages That Need Transcription” button.
  3. In the item view, click the About tab to see a brief description of the item. This information may help with identifying subject matter and proper names.
  4. In the Read tab, click an image title link to start working on an individual page. This opens the transcription window.
  5. Select viewing options from the buttons at the top of the window. Toggle “fullscreen” on or off, and choose whether the image will be to the left, right, top or bottom of the text box. Use the page controls to zoom in and out or rotate the image.
  6. Begin transcribing the page by entering text in the text box next to the image.
  7. Transcribe as much as you can on a page, but feel free to move on if a particular page is too challenging. Someone else can take over where you left off.
  8. Click the Save Changes button when you are done.
  9. Keep the “Needs Review” box checked so that another transcriber can check your work.

Reviewing Transcriptions

Any user can build upon another’s work by adding to or editing a transcription. We encourage experienced transcribers to review existing pages to make additions or improvements. Sometimes it takes several passes to fully transcribe a difficult page.

  1. Use the “Pages That Need Review” button to find transcriptions ready for review.
  2. Read the original closely and compare it to the transcription. Make any needed corrections and save changes.
  3. Keep the “Needs Review” box checked for final staff review.

Questions or Comments?

Use the comments feature at the bottom of the page to leave notes or questions for library staff to review. You can also contact us at with any immediate questions.

Guidelines for Transcribing

The goal of transcription is to reproduce the text as close as possible to the way it appears on the original letter or document.

  • Spelling: Use original spelling if possible.
  • Capitalization: Do not modernize for readability.
  • Punctuation: Reproduce punctuation as it appears in the original manuscript. Often, writers will use a dash to represent a pause; please reproduce these as ” – “. Do not add punctuation that does not appear in the original manuscript.
  • Line Breaks: Hit return/enter once at the end of each line. Two returns indicate a new paragraph, which is usually indented in the original.
  • Underlines, strikethroughs, and other text styles: Use standard html text styles. Examples:
    • <u>Underline</u> = Underline
    • <strike>Strikethrough</strike> = Strikethrough
    • <i>Italic</i> = Italic
  • Special characters: Special characters and letters with diacritics can be inserted using your computer’s character map (Windows) or character viewer (MacOS).
  • Editorial comments: Place editorial comments regarding marginalia, crosshatching, etc. in curly brackets { }. Examples:
    • {The following text is crosshatched over the previous text}
    • {The following text is written perpendicularly in the margin of this page.}
  • Illegible text: Indicate illegible readings in single square brackets. If you have an educated guess, please place it in brackets with a question mark. Examples: [ ], [?], [possibility?].
  • Tables: Some documents and letters may contain tabular data that needs additional markup to display correctly. Please see Encoding Tables for an explanation of encoding for tables.