In Brief

Finally, an App for Transcribing Medieval Manuscripts

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(screenshot by the author of Medieval Handwriting App/iOS)

A new app allows medievalists, aspiring medievalists, or medievally minded scriveners to try their hand at transcribing 26 manuscripts on their smartphones. “I’ve been looking for an awesome medieval app like this for ages!,” says one Google Android reviewer, and we can’t help but agree.

Called simply “Medieval Handwriting App,” the iOS version worked as smoothly as one might expect, its utilitarian ethos a respite from the over-designed pablum churned out by Silicon Valley. The app features primer pages mapping letters to their various handwritten versions and manuscripts ranging from Bede’s In Epistolas Canonicas to Manuel des Péchés. The scanned texts are divided into two categories: “Religious manuscripts” and “Other documents”; some of the manuscripts, like the Book of Hours (use of Utrecht) are illuminated.

Conceived by Andrew Booth, David Lindley, and Oliver Pickering with manuscripts from the Leeds University Library, the app is, like its subject matter, pleasingly monastic. The transcriptions do not go into “the cloud,” nor are the results “crowdsourced” or tweetable, and, beyond the game of life itself, there is no competition between would-be transcribers — but users can, for their solitary betterment, access prior saved attempts on their phones. Once a transcription is finished, Boethius is soon divided from Bartleby as errors are revealed with the push of a “Check” button. Spoiler alert: transcribing medieval texts is not for dilettantes.

h/t Jo Livingstone

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