The second-ever EMPOP awards

Thanks very much to everyone who participated in EMPOP’s second transcribathon last month. Stretching again into at least six countries (although not exactly the same ones as last time), over two dozen participants completed 166 transcripts of Harry Ransom Center, Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts 79. We also more than doubled our complete transcripts of Folger MS V.a.339, finally reaching the 100-number mark. In recognition of some particularly outstanding performances, here are the winners of the second round of EMPOP awards.

The winner of the Thomas Scott award is Akane Naito for transcribing four pages of “Vox populi” near the start of the Ransom Center manuscript.

Libel awards go to Faith Acker, Chris Alimenti, Laura Kolb, and Aaron Pratt for each completing between seven and twelve pages of political poems in the same manuscript.

Returning champions Martine Van Elk and Meghan Kern earn Essex nullity awards for (unwittingly?) collaborating on the Ransom manuscript’s copy of the divorce proceedings. Meghan Kern, by the way, transcribed twice as much of the Ransom Center manuscript as any other award winner.

Another repeat winner, Philip Allfrey, gets the Musarum Cantabrigiensium award for tackling Latin in both manuscripts, as well as an English prayer written by Cambridge fellow Lancelot Andrewes.

John Payne Collier awards this time go to Dylan Ruediger and two-time victor Aileen Liu for completing various openings in between 107v and 179r of the Folger manuscript.

Please join us in congratulating all of the winners — that’s all of us who learned something about these fantastic manuscripts.

New buttons

Mike Poston has added three new buttons to Dromio (the Folger’s online transcription tool)—for common abbreviations for the words “them” (ym), “then” (yn), and “Sir” (Sr).

The second transcribathon

EMPOP held its second transcribathon over April 10th, 11th, and 12th. Several participants carried on our collective transcript of Folger MS V.a.339. Philip Allfrey, starting each day early in New Zealand, tripled his award-winning effort on the Latin prose in the book (before turning to our next manuscript). His transcripts of V.a.339 make it easier to trace the principal compiler’s movement from one work by Wolfgang Musculus to another, and then to a prayer by Lancelot Andrewes. Students in a Shakespeare class at VCU continued work on 201v-206r, having read some of the same poems in print.

Most participants, however, turned to EMPOP’s new source, held at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin—Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts 79. About two dozen contributors joined forces to begin this project—from Australia, New Zealand, France, England, Canada, and the United States, at least (please let us know if we’re overlooking your country: empopstars at gmail dot com). Most concentrated on the poems that begin on p. 65, many of them libels and several of them unique. Check out one measure of their progress:

Behind those numbers are the efforts of several new contributors, several original EMPOP stars, and the members of a student group at VCU, the Superscripts:

This time, though, most contributors worked alone—more or less:

Thanks to everyone who worked with us to make a strong start on Ransom Center M&EM 79, and kept us moving forward on Folger V.a.339. 

New instructions for the EMPOP transcribathon

Faith Acker has done it again. Just like she did for the first EMPOP transcribathon (and for Folger MS V.a.339), she has written detailed instructions for the second EMPOP transcribathon (and Harry Ransom Center, Medieval and Early Modern MSS 79). Faith wrote the instructions principally for her undergraduate students at Northern Virginia Community College. That makes them perfect for someone who’s transcribing, or using the Folger transcription site (Dromio), for the first time. Check them out here.

Transcribathon April 10, 11, and 12!

The next EMPOP transcribathon is coming up on Wednesday through Friday, April 10-12. You can participate on your own or with a group. Just let us know you’re (going to be) with us by using #EMPOPstars on Twitter or emailing us at We will resume work on Folger MS V.a.339. And we’re going to start transcribing a generally easier-to-read manuscript: Harry Ransom Center, Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts 79. Check back here before joining the event for a little more information on this fantastic manuscript book.

All hail, Mike Poston

This is a big day for EMPOP and anyone who uses the Folger Shakespeare Library’s online transcription tool, Dromio. For today, the designer of Dromio, Mike Poston, added a IIIF viewer to the entire tool. This drastically improves image quality. In fact, it gives transcribers the same high-quality, super-zoomable image available the them on Luna, the Folger’s digital image repository. It eliminates, therefore, any need for transcribers to toggle between Dromio and Luna. It makes work a lot easier. And, especially for a small, closely-written manuscript such as V.a.339, it’s so luxurious.

Last fall, Mike added a IIIF viewer to VCU’s portion of Dromio just in time for the students there to use it to complete their transcript of V.a.345. Here are a few of them using the new and improved Dromio on its first day with the IIIF viewer:

Cameron Washington, Michelle Mead, and Gabriela Santiago test drive Mike Poston’s IIIF viewer on the new, improved Dromio at VCU in November, 2019.

Just look at that image resolution. Now every one can experience it here. Thank you, thank you, Mike.

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, 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 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 led students through the first transcribathon on October 25th, 2018 (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, wrote 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 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 (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.