Thursday, April 7, 2011

How to Read Transcriptions of Manuscripts Part I

Transcriptions of ancient manuscripts, often posted or printed in books can be a difficult problem for beginners and amateurs, because of many unconventional symbols and methods of layout, as well as the non-standardization between different authors and editions.

Codex Delta:  Click to Enlarge
 Transcription of First Line...

αυτον. \ eum / νυκτος. \ nocte / ...

Above we write the main word in Greek, followed by the Latin translation above the word in slash-brackets:  \ latin / .   The dots represent the dots used in the manuscript to separate words.  This is done word by word, just as the Latin interlinear text has been done.  See below for an explanation of the symbols.  

Here we offer a popular and detailed system with an example (Brown, Guide to Western Historical Scripts):

Method of Transcription

"The symbols here used are a conflation of the 'Leiden' system, devised for papyrological and epigraphic use described by E.G. Turner, Greek Papyri, an introduction (Oxf. 1968) and the 'Scriptorium' system, devised for use in the journal Scriptorium.  This conflation was produced (unpublished) by Julian Brown, but is modified here:

Expanded abbreviations:  expansion in round brackets.  For example, notu(m) for notu_, (et) for &.  On the rare occasions where brackets are actually used in the text, entailing confusion, this is commented upon by a footnote.  Another common form of expansion is by italicization, but this may be open to confusion with the practice of italicization of rubrics and titles.

Unexpanded abbreviations:  the apostrophe.  Where the transcriber cannot or will not expand or where the original abbreviation is otiose.

Textual omission by the scribe:  angled brackets or half square brackets.  Empty where the omission is not made good.  < >.  Occupied where it is made good .  Where another source has been used and the supplement is not conjectural, half brackets [square brackets]  may be used; [est].

Textual interpolation by the scribe:  braces. Where the transcriber wishes to cancel, {est}. 

Problematical readings:  obeli, alias [surrounding] 'daggers' ().  Used where the text is corrupt or obscure, or where the transcriber is unsure of the correct reading, est

Scribal Insertions:  slashes.  On the writing line,  / est \ ;  between the lines - \ est /    marginal -  \\ est //

Cancellations:  square brackets.  By washing, scraping or pouncing, cancelled letters illegible [ ], or legible [ est ].  By crossing out, illegible [-], legible [ - est ].  By expunctuation (i.e., a point placed beneath the letter to be cancelled by the scribe), [ est ].

Substitutions:  square brackets and a slash.  Actually on letters cancelled by washing, scraping or pouncing, illegible cancellation, [ /est ], legible [ et / est ].
Above letters cancelled by crossing out, illegible [ - \ est ], legible [ - et \ est ].
Above letters cancelleb by expunctuation, [ et \ est ].
By transformation  (where the original letter is adapted to form another letter) [ o > a ].
By simple addition (where new letter is imply written over or above original), on a suppressed letter, [o + a], above a suppressed letter [ o +\ a ].

Accidental loss (trimming rodent act., staining etc.) : double square brackets.  Number of lost letters unknown [[ ]] estimated, [[ *** ]] or [[ 3 ]] or approx est. [[ +-10 ]] .

Letters doubtful or illegible owing to damage:  asterisk.  On the line for illegible letters, quod *** demonstrandum.
Below the line for doubtful letters, quod est demonstrandum..

Ends of MS lines: vertical bar |.

Rubrics, titles, lemmata etc. italicization.

Punctuation and capitalization:  modern pauses of equivalent or near equivalent values are substituted for the numerous punctuation systemns of the period.  Capitalization follows that of the manuscript wherever possible.

Later Corrections, etc.:  these are indicated using the symbols outlined above, but dating and any other observations are commented upon in a footnote.

Numbering of lines:  original line numbers have not been cited, other than when specified in the commentaries.   Marginal numbers accompanying transcriptions are imposed to assist in reference during reading.

Example Transcription:

Expliciunt Capi\tula D(e)o Gratias Semp(er) Amen.

Here in line one, the letters missing from the manuscript
in a full spelling are shown in brackets.

| Pater. \ .pater./Ymen.\ .noster. / Oentis.
\.qui es. / Uranis. \ .in caelis. / . Agiasti.
\ s(an)c(t)ificetur. / Toto. \ .nomen. / |

Above, the interlinear translation above the line in smaller letters
is indicated word for word, so Pater (in transliterated Greek is below, followed by what is above the word in smaller letters inside \.../ . 
The extra periods transcribe the dots between words, used instead of spaces.


represent dots

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