In textual genetics, deciphering accompanies each stage of research, from the first contact with a new manuscript dossier to the last corrections of detail in the edition and the critical study. To constitute a dossier and to authenticate, identify, specify, and classify its elements presupposes, to varying degrees, localized, partial, or exhaustive recourse to deciphering. Rapid explorations of the folios, precise forays in to the depths of the rough drafts, continuous deciphering of draft documents: geneticists spend the largest amount of research time reading the manuscripts, becoming familiar not only with the handwriting and its internal codes, but also with the way the author appropriates the medium. Authors individualize themselves by their form of writing, their particular use of abbreviations, their personal way of using the material space of the pages they write on, and their manner of progressively organizing the growing set of written pages.
To read or to decipher is to reduce the illegible to the legible (using the appropriate technical and theoretical means), but it is also to reconstitute (on a given folio, or from one folio to another) the capricious and unpredictable line of microchronology of writing. Often the line is broken by cross-outs and suppressions or unsettled by a juxtaposition or divergence of additions … sometimes the very space is clogged by several rounds of corrections