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Transcribing Old Documents

A transcript is a full text of an original manuscript. The aim is to provide a faithful representation of the original document.

In order to transcribe a manuscript accurately, and ensure a consistent approach, a number of rules and guidelines need to be applied. Please don’t be put off by this. Careful application of the rules alongside careful reading of the manuscript will ensure an accurate, and extremely useful, finished product.

This section is intended as guidance on how to approach documents. We also have a page with detailed guidance on how to tag documents and a Frequently Asked Questions section. 

Transcript Appearance

The transcript should look like the original. This means keeping:

  • Line length and line arrangements
  • Headings
  • Margin notes
  • Notes between the lines 
  • Any words that are crossed out (showing them as such)
  • Process notes (this means recording numbers and notes added later as they appear on the documents)

Spelling, Punctuation and Capital Letters

The spelling, punctuation and use of capital letters given in the original manuscript (even if incorrect) should be kept in the transcript.

It can be difficult to tell whether capital letters have been used. For consistency, all forenames, surnames and place-names in the transcript should begin with a capital letter. The transcript in general however should reflect the variations in spelling of place and personal names that occur in the manuscript (correct , conventional, and or other variant spellings may be included in the comments section below the transcript). The practice of representing a double ‘s ‘ as ‘fs’ , often occurring in manuscripts, can be retained in the transcript.


A manuscript may contain many abbreviations for commonly occurring words. Where a word is abbreviated this should be extended in the transcript using square brackets to indicate the extension: e.g. Ja[me]s for Jas Nov[embe]r for Novr af[ore]s[ai]d for afsd.


Additional text written vertically across the main text is sometimes  found in these manuscripts. Where this occurs, vertical text can be recorded below transcript. It can be tagged as an addition (see tagging the documents) with an indication given in the discussion/notes box of its place in the text. 

Marginal Notes and Annotations

These should also be recorded as additions, but the system doesn't allow for these to appear in the margin. Please record them below the main text with an indication given in square brackets of where this occurs in the text e.g. [pencil notes top left]

Subtracted Text

Any deleted words or ‘strikethroughs’ occurring in the text should also be recorded. You can tag these so that they are  reproduced in the transcript exactly as they occur in the manuscript (see tagging the documents). If the deleted word is unclear it can also be tagged to show this.

Deletions to sections of text may also have been made by the use of vertical lines through the text. Rather than mark all the text as deleted (which makes it harder to read) you can note that particular sections are deleted in the comments section.

Between the Lines

Sometimes additions to the text are made above or below the line.  These can also be tagged to show exactly where they appear (see tagging the documents). 


You can tag text to show that is has been underlined (see tagging the documents). This only shows one underline however. If you find words that are underlined more than once, or that have vertical marks for emphasis, please note this in the discussion/notes section.

Superscript Characters

You can tag characters to show that they are in superscript in your transcript e.g the 's' in Ja[me]s (see tagging the documents).

Process Notes

Notes added after the creation of the original text should be identified and transcribed where possible. These include  library processing marks and other entries that clearly post- date the original.

Where it is certain that the annotation does not form part of the original text this can  be indicated in the transcript with the use of angled brackets surrounding the text. <… >. Sometimes there will be uncertainty. For instance pencil and other annotations may be contemporary or may be the result of later interference in the text.  The easiest way to record this is to make a note in the discussion/notes section.

We hope you enjoy transcribing the documents. Find out about tagging the documents here. It may also help to look at our FAQs section. If you have any questions, you can contact us at Gwent Archives.