A Guide for Using the New Testament Virtual Manuscript Room (Part 2)

In my previous post on how to use the New Testament Virtual Manuscript Room (NTVMR), I walked through the process of selecting a manuscript to transcribe. In addition, I mentioned some tips on ensuring you have the best images possible for making a transcription. In this post, I will continue this guide by explaining indexing manuscripts, how to make a transcription, and more tips.

I mentioned in my last post that sometimes, the manuscript you are transcribing might need to be indexed and that you should take the opportunity to remedy this. The NTVMR takes an open-source approach to indexing by inviting users to help with this endeavor. If you click on the Welcome tab of the menu bar and scroll down on the right side of the screen, you will see a couple of graphs with statistics on the manuscripts.

As you can see, most of the Papyri and Majuscles have been indexed. However, there are still plenty of Majuscles that need to be indexed. In addition, the vast majority of the Minuscles and Lectionaries also need to be indexed. In total, only 17.61% of the pages of manuscripts have been indexed. Therefore, if you plan to transcribe a manuscript that has yet to be indexed or want to help, please index manuscripts!

To do so, simply click on Status on the menu bar, and you will be redirected to a page containing every manuscript in the database ordered by the prefix type from one to four. As a reminder from the last post, 1 indicates papyrus, 2 indicates a Majusclue, 3 indicates a Minuscle, and 4 indicates a Lectionary. This list of manuscripts will also present a percentage of how much each manuscript has been indexed and a button labeled Claim Responsibility if it has not been selected. Otherwise, the screen name of the user who has signed up to index the manuscript will appear.

Simply scroll until you find the manuscript you want to index and click Claim Responsibility. After confirming your selection, your screen name should appear in the place of the button. To begin indexing, click the View link beside the index completion percentage. As an example, I have selected manuscript 30120 to index. After clicking on view, you should be redirected to a webpage with every page of the manuscript ordered by PageID. 

Clicking inside the box of an individual PageID will highlight the box in grey, leaving the text boxes white. These boxes are where you will record your information. To index, simply input the biblical text that appears on the page inside of the Index Coverage. For every page, include the book name following the abbreviations in the SBL Handbook of Style, chapter, and verse numbers. If a page contains multiple chapters, separate the chapters with a semicolon repeating the book name. For example, a page that includes the text of Matthew 2:6-3:7 would be recorded as Matt 2:6-23; Matt 3:1-7. Click the button with the floppy disk to save the index information.

Other things can also be recorded, such as the folio number of the page, illuminations, canon tables, colophons, etc. There is even a space to leave notes for others who may investigate why you indexed the page the way you did. With that in mind, sometimes you may encounter manuscripts that have been indexed incorrectly. You can change the indexing on manuscripts you claimed from the status page, but you cannot change manuscripts others have claimed. To draw attention to these errors, click the button with speech bubbles to post within the forum for others to see.

The Bible view on the right side of the screen is a helpful aid for indexing the manuscript. The text of Nestle Aland28 is available for comparison. A search box is also available that can be especially helpful when transcribing a lectionary. By way of example, the top of the page on PageId 120 looks like this:

I ran a search in the search text box from just a bit of text on the first line, which yielded several possibilities.

The more text that you add will further refine the search. However, I have enough here to identify my text as Matthew 1:2. Following the rest of the page, I input Matthew 1:2-16 and click the save button. I can continue this process until I have indexed every page for the text I want to transcribe or, even more helpfully, until the entire manuscript is indexed. 

The next step is to transcribe the manuscript. To do this, follow all the steps from the previous post to find your manuscript from the Transcribing tab on the menu bar. After navigating to the manuscript you want to transcribe, click on a page to begin, and the transcription editor will populate the screen. The transcription editor is an easy-to-use WYSIWYG (“what you see is what you get”) tool for making TEI-compliant XML transcriptions. The editor will be empty, so you must click the button From Basetext to populate it with a base text to compare the text of the manuscript with. If the page has been indexed, which you should do if it has not been, the text indicated will populate the editor. Otherwise, you must select the text with which you wish to populate it with. Keeping with manuscript 30120 as an example, I indexed the first two pages and loaded the editor and base text for DocId 120

Now I can begin my transcription. The editor allows users to record several features of a manuscript, including corrections, deficiencies, marginalia, ornamentation, etc. Users can decide which features must be recorded for their research purposes. For example, the International Greek New Testament Project (IGNTP) keeps updated guidelines for how and what volunteers will transcribe on their website. You can find these guidelines under Resources and Documents. However, the editor can record far more than the IGNTP wants in their transcriptions. So rather than explore each of these features in detail, I will leave it up to the user to explore and decide which features best fit their research goals. 

A couple of aids exist to help in transcribing especially difficult ligatures. First, a little search box beside the chi-rho ligature is at the bottom of the Transcription Editor box ☧. If you search for letters and words that you think the text in question might be, suggestions and images populate the screen for you to compare. For instance, typing in και provides some pictures of known ligatures for this word.

However, another tool exists for decoding ligatures developed by the Center for Research of Biblical Manuscripts and Inscriptions (CRBMI) at Shepherds Theological Seminary. This tool is developed on Airtable and can be found here. This tool is similar to the one built into the Transcription Editor, but users can scroll through and see all the different ligatures. Scrolling is very helpful, especially if you have no idea what your ligature might be. Instead of guessing and randomly searching texts until users find an example, users can scroll through and see all the ligatures at a glance. Searching is still possible with this tool as well, though.

This post has given you the basic steps and resources to index and transcribe manuscripts. The NTVMR is flexible enough to adapt to many aspects of your Greek New Testament manuscript research. Resources exist on the IGNTP and NTVMR that delve deeper into how to transcribe, especially concerning the underlying TEI XML that the editor abstracts away for users. I encourage you to look through these resources to understand the NTVMR better and how it may fit your individual project. In a later post, I will explore some of the next steps for analysis once your transcription is complete.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s