First, however, we must make clear that by “transcription” we mean the effort to report—insofar as typography allows—precisely what the textual inscription of a manuscript consists of. Obviously a transcription cannot exactly reproduce the relative precision or carelessness with which handwritten letters are formed, or their relative sizes, or the amount of space between words and lines; but it can aim to record every ink or pencil marking of textual significance on the manuscript—all letters, punctuation, superscripts, canceled matter, lines linking or excising passages, and so on. Judgment is necessarily involved in deciding what is in fact present, as when an ambiguously formed character resembles two different letters; but the transcriber’s goal is to make an informed decision about what is actually inscribed at each point. This definition of transcription will seem obvious to many people; the reason we make a point of insisting on it is that numerous discussions of the subject, including some of the most influential, allow for making certain classes of alteration when transcribing manuscript texts, as if a conscious program of alteration is compatible with the concept of transcription.

Contributed by Jesse. View changelog.