Newberry Transcribe


Transcribing Modern Manuscripts allows users to transcribe over ten thousand manuscript pages drawn from the Newberry’s Modern Manuscripts collection, making these manuscripts accessible for the first time to scholars and the public. Best of all, anyone can participate. This page provides participants with instructions and guidelines for getting started.

How to Transcribe

To get started, click on a manuscript—either a diary or a collection of letters—that interests you.

You will be taken to a page that displays the manuscript’s individual pages. Click on a document page labeled “Not Started.”

The page will appear in a viewer, with a text box below. You can use the tools in the upper left corner of the viewer to zoom in and out and to move the document page around. If you can’t make out the words, just zoom in until you can.

Below the viewer is a text box. Put your cursor into the box, and then simply begin typing what you see on the page.

Make sure to save your work frequently.

Keep in mind that any user can build upon another user’s work by adding to or editing an incomplete transcription. To do so, click on a page labeled “Needs Review” and then just follow the instructions above.

Optional: Create an Account

Though it's not required, users are encouraged to create accounts, which will enable users to track their own progress and gather updates on recent revisions by other users, among other things. To create an account, navigate to a page image in any collection and click the 'Log In (optional)' button above the image. You'll be redirected to a new page that will allow you to create an account by following some simple steps.

Transcription tips

Save your work - After completing any transcription, remember to hit the save button to ensure that your work is preserved.

Transcribe what you see - Simply type what you see on the page, preserving spelling errors, punctuation, and so on. Resist the urge to modernize spelling or to correct mistakes. Type words exactly as they are presented, including capitalization, abbreviations, names, and dates.

Use complete words - Often, a writer will break and hyphenate a word when moving from one line to the next. Don't preserve these breaks; just write the complete word. This will better enable researchers to run effective word searches.

Use brackets to indicate that a word or phrase is unclear - When you encounter words or phrases that you can't make out, just use double brackets to indicate this (i.e., "[[unclear]]"). If can propose a reasonable guess, place your guess in double brackets with a question mark following it (e.g., [[barn?]]).

Indicate the presence of sketches or doodles with a note - If you encounter a sketch or doodle on a manuscript page, indicate this by placing the word image in the double brackets (e.g. "[[image]]"). If you feel that you can make out what the image is, place your guess in the double brackets as well (e.g. "[[barn--image]]").

Transcribe as much as you can on a page and then move on - In general, you should try to finish page transcriptions if you can, but if you feel bored or confused by a particular page, just move on to a different one. Somebody else will take over where you left off.

Don't attempt to format text - The program will not allow you to use italics, insert columns, indent text, and so forth. Special characters and letters with diacritics (such as ¿ and ΓΏ) can be inserted using your operating system’s character map (Windows) or character viewer (MacOS). Characters that are not available through your device’s operating system may be described in double brackets (e.g., [[small square with three dots above it]]).

Rely on context to decipher words - Handwriting can be difficult to read. Look for similar words or letters in the document that may help you to decode the handwriting.


If so, contact the Newberry's Department of Digital Initiatives and Services at

This page references:

  1. login
  2. zoom feature
  3. haywood transcribe
  4. save work
  5. Guidelines figure 1
  6. Guidelines figure 2
  7. Guidelines figure 3