EMPOP awards

Thank you, one and all, for participating in EMPOP’s first transcribathon on October 25th (and 26th, thanks to Piers Brown keeping the party going at Kenyon College). Across at least six countries, we started transcribing nearly 100 openings of Folger MS V.a.339, completing more than 40 transcripts of over 30 unique images. Several transcribers deserve special recognition for their considerable efforts. Here, therefore, are some of the winners of the first-ever EMPOP awards:

The Wolfgang Musculus award in reformed theology goes to Philip Allfrey for expanding the aggressively abbreviated Latin prose on 3v-4r.

Micha Lazarus wins one of two Josuah Sylvester awards for transcribing the verse on 18v-19r.

The winner of the Sir Thomas More award is Meghan Kern for 23v-24r.

Water poet awards go to Aileen Liu (US category) and Jason Scott-Warren (UK) for (unwittingly?) joining forces to transcribe almost all of 26v-31r.

Mary Learner wins the Nathanael Carpenter award for 38v-39r.

The EMPOP / ROC star award goes to Liza Blake for transcribing the recipes on 100v-101r.

Heidi Craig, Marta Leshyk, and Karol Pasciano each won John Payne Collier awards.

The Richard II award goes to Martine van Elk for 205v-206r.

The winners of the pedagogy awards are Carlo Bajetta and Ileana Sasu.

And the award for the largest transcription site goes to Megan Heffernan and Nora Gabor.

Not all winners have claimed their awards. If they do, their names will appear here also.  Please join me in congratulating all the winners—that’s any of us who got a little better at reading English or Latin writing.

Where to start

Once you click on “EMPOP” at transcribe.folger.edu, you need to select an image before you can begin transcribing. If you can read the words in the image below, you should feel free to select virtually any image that hasn’t already been started by 3 people.

V.a.339, 2v || 3r

This reads:

De Abrogatione legalis Sabbathi.

movent nonnulli quæstionē de observantia legalis Sabbathi

That’s Latin, isn’t it? It appears to be a copy, in the hand of the manuscript’s primary compiler, of Wolfgang Musculus’ 1553 In decalogum praeceptorum. If you find this daunting, you’re not alone. In that case, why not try skipping ahead to some English prose?

V.a.339, 9v || 10r
mor: pray:

O most mercifull & eternall god who art the creato, Guidor, governor &

This looks like the start of a morning prayer in English. If you can make out those words, you should be able to handle any of the images in between folios 9v and 18r and indeed most of the manuscript. You could choose an image within the range of fols. 33v and 39r (for the primary compiler’s copies from Nathaniel Carpenter’s Achitophel). If you’re an EMROC star, you could start on the recipes on fols. 100v-107r, and 179v-184v. If you fish, go for an fol. 185r-v. If you make ink, learn about color on fol. 186r. If the prose written in the primary hand gets too dense, though, it might be more productive to begin with poetry.

V.a.339, 18v || 19r
The ffather:   Alpha, and omega, God alone

Eloi my God, the​ holy one

For more English verse in this hand, choose fols. 26v-31r (John Taylor the water poet’s poem on the books of the Bible), 98v-99r, 186v-197r, 198v-200r, 201v-204r, 205v-210r, 210v, 222v-224v, 212r-214r (the folio numbers are out of order due to a mistake in rebinding the book in 1960) . Now that’s what I call EMPOP.

But if all of this is still difficult to read, you should try the forgeries that John Payne Collier added to blank pages of the manuscript in the 19th century.

V.a.339, 107v || 108r
The Pinnace

A pinnace riggd with silken saile

What is more louely then to see

Now isn’t that easier to read? You can find more of the same in between fols. 107v and 179r (and elsewhere in the manuscript). Why not start there? If that becomes easy, you can graduate on to the manuscript’s genuine 17th-century handwriting.

Instructions for beginners

Several instructors are leading students through the transcribathon on October 25th (stretching from Carlo Bajetta and Ileana Sasu at Università della Valle d’Aosta to Megan Heffernan at DePaul University). One of these instructors, Faith Acker, has written extensive directions for her students at Northern Virginia Community College. These are suitable even for students who plan to get started on their own. So they can also help most anyone with questions about how to get started. Especially if the introduction offered elsewhere on this site leaves some of your questions unanswered, check out  Faith Acker’s more detailed instructions.

EMPOP at the Folger

The Folger Shakespeare Library is also hosting a site for the first EMPOP transcribathon this Thursday—all day long (from 9:00 to 4:30)! The designated room, on Deck B, is accessible through the reading room. Participants who are not yet Folger researchers should contact institute@folger.edu for directions and an escort (through this place). At 2:00, Team Folger will run a (metaphorical) sprint, and then pause for tea at 3:00. (Can you see how amazing this is going to be?) Check out the Folger EMPOP poster. Thank you, Heather Wolfe, Owen Williams, Liza Blake, and Heidi Craig.


Cambridge University Library and the Centre for Material Texts are joining the EMPOP transcribathon from 10:00 to noon in the Aoi meeting room. There will be “FREE CAKE for all transcribers.” If you can join them there, sign up at https://bit.ly/2Ah34Rz (so that they know how much CAKE to buy). Here’s the poster. Thanks very much to Suzanne Paul, Keeper of Rare Books and Early Manuscripts, for arranging this.


At the Folger Shakespeare Library’s 2017 conference celebrating the library’s “Early Modern Manuscripts Online” project (EMMO), the Curator of Manuscripts, Heather Wolfe, called for other groups of manuscript scholars, organized on the model of EMROC: the “Early Modern Recipes Online Collective” (https://emroc.hypotheses.org/). She suggested, in particular, a group that would focus on poetical manuscripts. At the end of the conference, on Heather’s rooftop patio, Garth Bond came up with the perfect name for a group that would complement EMROC by focusing on another genre: EMPOP, the Early Modern Poetry Online Project. In the summer of 2018, the co-founders of EMPOP began sharing their scholarship, in draft, in the first ever EMPOP videos. In the fall, they plan to host their first transcribathon, focused on a lengthy, closely-written manuscript miscellany of verse and prose (Folger MS V.a.339, shown above). This event will have sites at National University of Ireland Galway (hosted by Erin McCarthy), DePaul University (Megan Heffernan), Virginia Commonwealth University (Joshua Eckhardt), Northern Virginia Community College (Faith Acker), and the Folger. To let us know that you’d like to join, whether in person or online, leave a comment or email empopstars@gmail.com.