Transcription for the computer is a fundamentally interpretative activity, composed of a series of acts of translation from one system of signs (that of the manuscript) to another (that of the computer). Accordingly, our transcripts are best judged on how useful they will be for others, rather than as an attempt to achieve a definitive transcription of these manuscripts. Will the distinctions we make in these transcripts and the information we record provide a base for work by other scholars? How might our transcripts be improved, to meet the needs of scholars now and to come? (Robinson and Solopova 1993, 19)

Transcription is both decoding and encoding; the text in the computer system will not be the same as the text of the primary source.

Accordingly, transcription of a primary textual source cannot be regarded as an act of substitution, but as a series of acts of translation from one semiotic system (that of the primary source) to another semiotic system (that of the computer). Like all acts of translation, it must be seen as fundamentally incomplete and fundamentally interpretative. (Robinson and Solopova 1993, 21)

Transcription. In textual or scholarly editing, translation of a source text into typescript or machine-readable form. More generally, transcriptions are copies made substantially later than a document‘s composition (Kline 1998, 274).

Transcription is the seemingly simple conversion of handwriting into print, a presumably mechanical matter. But the manuscript text before mee soon became an object that defied perception. Such a vexatious ‘not-me’ challenges our self-satisfied assurances that text-objects are definable, much less interpretable. […] In deciphering this and other scribbles, one has no recourse but to speculate upon intended meanings, to take leaps. Not only did I find that I had to take leaps to identify words, I also found myself hypothesizing about hidden words suggested by ‘false starts’ or partially executed words on the manuscript page, and partially or totally obscured words lurking beneath cancellation lines. And with a myriad of cancellations and insertions on each manuscript page, aI also confronted the issue of revision and the sequence of Melville’s revisions. The difficulty of ‘mere’ transcription gave me new insight into the problematic physicality of words. (Bryant 2002, 19).

Transcription is the clear (and publishable) transposition of deciphered, “restored” manuscripts and their major characteristics. It is accomplished thanks to a code that allows the situation (linear, interlinear, marginal, etc.) to appear along with the status (written, added, crossed out, added and then crossed out, etc.) (de Biasi 2004, 56).

To use the TEI approach you need to believe in transcription. It is impossible for a transcription to reproduce the original object; it is always a selection of features from that object: the words but not their size on the page or the depth of the chisel marks, major changes in type style but not variations in the ink’s darkness from page to page or over time. Features that seem essential for a particular transcription can be encoded; what’s impossible is notating everything. And it may be that the creation of a digital description of a feature has little value for analysis: what you really want may just be the opportunity to see an image of the original, if the limitations of digital images are less damaging in your case than the limitations of transcription. A transcription might be regarded more as an index of words in page images than as a reasonable working representation of the text in works intended as mixtures of words and images and in very complex draft manuscripts where the sequence of text or inscription is difficult to make (Lavagnino 2006, 338).

Cela dit, nous considérons qu’il est très souhaitable de doter une édition génétique de transcriptions pour les trois raisons suivantes: 1) dans les cas des manuscrits d’écrivains, souvent mal calligraphiés, la transcription diplomatique ou linéarisée est une ‘stratégie de facilitation’, un instrument qui permet un accès plus confortable au texte, même s’il ne dispense pas du recours ou fac-similé pour appréhender les éléments graphiques (tracé, disposition de l’écriture sur la page, dessins, etc.) qui peuvent contribuer à expliquer la genèse; 2) l’existence d’une transcription linéarisée permet d’exploiter toutes les possibilités de recherche textuelle, depuis la simple recherche de mots jusqu’aux recherches sémantiques de type linguistique, génétique ou autre, surtout dans le cas où le texte transcrit a été balisé de manière appropriée; 3) d’un point de vue théorique il me semble souhaitable que, en plus du fac-similé et d’une transcription diplomatique, l’édition génétique offre également non seulement une transcription linéarisée, mais un véritable texte critique (D’Iorio 2010, 49-50).

As already discovered by Huitfeldt and Sperberg-McQueen (2008, 296) the term transcription has been used to denote both an act (the act of transcribing) and also ‘the product of that act, that is, a document‘, or even ‘the relationship between documents – one document may be said to be a transcription of another document’. This ambiguity has lead to some confusion in the literature. Meulen and Tanselle (1999) have used the word transcription in opposition to critical text as possible parts of an edition (203). Similarly Gabler (2007) seems to imply that transcriptions and diplomatic editions are the same thing, speaking as he does of ‘diplomatic transcription‘ (204). In contrast, it is argued here that the terms transcription and diplomatic edition identify two different objects: one a derivative document that holds a relationship with the transcribed document, and the other a formal (public) presentation of such a derivative document. The editor will first transcribe a primary source, thereby creating a transcription; this transcription will be corrected, proofread, annotated, and then prepared for publication. Once published, this new object will become a diplomatic edition. The two products will possibly contain the same text, but while the first will be a private product, the latter will be a publicly published one. These two objects therefore represent two different stages of the same editorial process, although the first can exist without the second (Pierazzo 2011, 464).

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