Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Czech Land Record Transcription Process

I want to publicly pat myself on the back for correctly transcribing and translating page one (of two) of a 1799 Czech land record written in German current script, in Czech. This record is like a cross between a deed and a will; it has lots of information about the land, and who was going to "own" it next, including names of family members, family relationships, occupations, and debts and credits. 

These land records are really hard. 

Here is a break down of my transcription and translation process: 
Divide the text into manageable chunks. In my case, this meant 13 paragraphs, some which were not at natural breaks.

Then I do a quick first transcription. It's very quick, very rough, looking for patterns and obvious words.

Then I print the document out and trace it. For this one, it was super slanty, so I purposefully distorted the image to make the letters less slanted. I mark up this physical copy, circling similar words).

Then, I go back and do a first "real" transcription, sans dictionary.

Then I do a second transcription, with my 1890 Czech English dictionary, google translate, and my brain. I type it next to the first transcription. By now, the words are starting to make sense in a context. I bold the words I'm still unsure of. There should not be more than one or two per paragraph.

That's where I am with page one.

Next, I think I will try to write a comprehend-able translation, guessing from the context the meaning of the unknown words. Probably some will become known at that point, by simply walking away for a while, seeing other words in the document, and  referring back to the unaltered image.

I feel confident I can do this well this way, but I'm looking for other ideas for the actual process of deciphering difficult to read texts. 

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