Darwin Online manuscript transcription policy v11

The manuscript transcriptions undertaken by this project serve the dual purpose of being readable and electronically searchable. They are published online in conjunction with facsimile images of the original manuscript when reproduction permission can be obtained. The texts are prepared in accordance with the XHTML 1.0 (Transitional) DTD. UTF-8 encoding is used for all content. A separate transcription guide is provided for the transcription of published or printed materials: 'Darwin Online print transcription policy'.

The general method of transcription is based largely on the example of the Correspondence of Charles Darwin. This means an essentially 'clear-text' transcription, which leaves the text mostly free of editorial symbols and comments. The spelling, punctuation and grammar of the original document is strictly retained.

The transcribed text follows as closely as possible the layout of the source, although no attempt is made to produce a type-facsimile of the manuscript: word-spacing and line-division in the running text are not adhered to.

Deletions which appear to have been made at the time of writing are rendered as struck-threw text.

Italic square brackets [ ] enclose conjectured readings and descriptions of illegible passages. To avoid confusion, in the few instances in which Darwin himself used square brackets, they have been changed to parentheses.

Underlined words are rendered as underlined text. A word or passage underlined two or more times is rendered double underlined.

Writing in pencil later overwritten in ink is rendered as bold.

Darwin’s insertions and interlineations are silently inserted where he indicated or where the editors have judged appropriate. (However some documents, as noted at the top of each, record insertions specifically.)

Footnotes, rendered in smaller red text, are numbered consecutively, though independently on each page. This makes the adding or deleting of notes easier.

Textual notes are given at the bottom of a transcribed page in smaller red text, below any footnotes. The text which the textual note pertains to is given first, followed by a square bracket, which is followed by the editorical comment in italics. This system is used in Charles Darwin's notebooks (1987).1 The textual notes can be ignored by readers not interested in the writing medium or details of the manuscript's composition or appearance.

The Beagle field notebooks are presented with slightly different conventions, as explained in the general introduction to the notebooks.

Paragraphs are often not clearly indicated. In these cases, and when the subject is clearly changed in very long stretches of text, a new paragraph is silently added. Special manuscript devices delimiting sections or paragraphs, for example, blank spaces left between sections of text and lines drawn across the page, are treated as normal paragraph indicators and are not specially marked or recorded unless their omission would make the text unclear.

The hand-drawn illustrations and diagrams that occur are usually omitted as facsimiles of the manuscripts are provided.

A standard metadata record is included with each document. The following is an example:

RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 'The position of the bones of Mastodon (?) at Port St Julian is of interest' (2.1835) CUL-DAR42.97-99 Transcribed by John van Wyhe. (Darwin Online, http://darwin-online.org.uk/)

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed and edited by John van Wyhe, checked against the microfilm by Gordon Chancellor 7.2007. RN7

NOTE: This 1300 word essay is written in brown ink on cream coloured paper, the few pencil insertions are noted. The pages which are crossed out are crossed in pencil. On p. 2 recto Darwin makes use of the suggestive phrase 'the gradual birth & death of species', a phrase used in Lyell 3: 33.

The first two pages of this manuscript were published in Hodge M. J. S. 1983. Darwin and the laws of the animate part of the terrestrial system (1835-1837); on the Lyellian origins of his zoonomical explanatory program. Studies in History of Biology 6: 1-106, pp. 19-20.

Reproduced with permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library and William Huxley Darwin.



[some text] 'some text' is an editorial insertion
[some text] 'some text' is the conjectured reading of an ambiguous word or passage
[some text] 'some text' is a description of a word or passage that cannot be transcribed, e.g, 3 words illeg
< > word(s) destroyed
<some text> 'some text' is a description of a destroyed word or passage, e.g., 3 lines excised
Text in small red font is either a hyperlink or notes added by the editors.

John van Wyhe


1 Barrett, Paul H., Gautrey, Peter J., Herbert, Sandra, Kohn, David, Smith, Sydney eds. 1987. Charles Darwin's notebooks, 1836-1844: Geology, transmutation of species, metaphysical enquiries. British Museum (Natural History); Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


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