The Folger Shakespeare Library


Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO) is a project of the Folger Shakespeare Library, funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), to provide scholars and the general public with convenient web access to transcriptions, images, and metadata for manuscripts from the sixteenth  and seventeenth centuries.

EMMO provides high-quality images and consistent transcriptions for a variety of manuscripts, such as  letters, diaries, wills, coats of arms, literary pieces, recipe books, miscellanies, and more. Making the rich  content of these manuscripts available online enhances research capabilities in many disciplines by  adding important sources for scholars to examine and also promotes the learning of paleography (the  study of pre-modern handwriting methods).

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Our Approach

Three types of transcription — diplomatic, semi-diplomatic, and regularized — are available in EMMO, to support different types of discovery and analysis. Transcription is a subjective act, and even the most faithful representation of a manuscript cannot fully represent its layers of complexity. Diplomatic EMMO transcriptions represent abbreviations as they appear in the manuscript, as well as original spelling (including u/v, i/j, and ff/F), lineation, and punctuation. However, we do not attempt to exactly mirror the layout of the page, nor are we able to reproduce every brevigraph (symbols, strokes, or modified letter forms), mark of punctuation, or symbol accurately. Semi-diplomatic EMMO transcriptions are similar to diplomatic transcriptions, with the exception that abbreviations and brevigraphs are expanded, with the supplied letters italicized. They are easier to read than diplomatic transcriptions, but the inconsistent spelling can be distracting if you are attempting to read quickly for content. Regularized EMMO transcriptions allow for rapid reading and keyword searching because they have modernized spelling.

The original text of the manuscripts is our focus; as such, any textual additions clearly made at a later date (e.g., pagination, foliation, or additions by later collectors, booksellers, or catalogers) do not appear in the viewable transcriptions on the site. However, these additions are included and encoded in the XML version. Endorsements added in a later hand will appear in gray text rather than the regular black text in transcriptions on the site.

EMMO transcriptions include transcriptions from participants in paleography classes at the Folger Shakespeare Library, from Folger interns and staff, and from EMMO-sponsored “transcribathon” events with partners as well as contributions from the community of transcribers on Shakespeare’s World. All three versions of the transcriptions have been vetted for accuracy and consistency. Source code for Dromio, EMMO’s transcription software, is available for download here.

Any transcription, of course, is an imperfect representation, and paleography is not an exact science. EMMO’s combination of images, associated metadata, and consistent, encoded transcriptions, however, will provide online users easy access to the wealth of information contained in manuscripts for reading, searching, and analysis.

Structurally, the EMMO beta site is comprised of a WordPress site linked to a custom-designed site with various tools for accessing manuscript transcriptions and images. The WordPress site displays general information about features, news, and project-related documentation. The custom-designed site uses standard web technologies (PHP, Javascript, HTML, CSS) along with XML and XSL to present transcriptions and associated metadata; it also incorporates a web-based viewer, OpenSeaDragon, that supports several image protocols, including IIIF.

Image References

Images used on this site were sourced from the Folger Shakespeare Library Catalog. Click on a link below to view more information about each image.

Esther Inglis, Octonaries upon the vanitie and inconstancie of the world, 1600/01, Folger Ms. V.a.91
Hugh Alley, A caveatt for the citty of London, 1598, Folger Ms. V.a.318

Contact Us

Have a question  about the project or a comment on one of our transcriptions? Send us a note and a member of our team  will respond to you as soon as possible.