Monday, May 10, 2010

Amanuensis - Why?

It's been awhile since I posted this explanation of Amanuensis Monday.  Since there has been an uptick in participation recently, and since it is Preservation Week, I thought I would do it again.  With some small additions to what I've said in the past. 

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

* Is there a letter, journal entry, speech, other document, or audio recording, written or delivered by or about an ancestor you wish to transcribe for future generations?
* Are you engaged in a transcription project of an historical document?

This is what Amanuensis Monday was created for. Amanuensis is an obscure word, but it derives from the Latin, ‘Manu’ meaning ‘hand’.

Why transcribe?

1) Handwriting fades over time. As long as one continues to back up digital documents, they won't fade. (This is an advantage to both scanning and transcribing.)

2) Text can be searched. If you have word documents on your computer that contain transcribed letters, and you put a name into your computer's search function, it will find the name in the letter. This won't happen if the letter is a scanned image. Nor will it work for an audio recording.

3) You may find while transcribing, that you notice important details you overlooked when reading/listening to the original.  The act of transcription forces you to focus on every word.

These are the primary reasons that are compelling me in my transcriptions, and why I encourage others to do so as well.

(Before posting your transcriptions to your blog/website, please consider published works are possibly under copyright if originally published after 1923 in the US. The current minimum in countries adhering to the Berne Convention is fifty years after an author's death, though several nations go beyond this minimum. The copyright status of unpublished works such as letters can vary, though it is the author who retains the copyright, not the recipient.)

One final note. For anyone wondering where the definition I use at the top comes from.  Almost fifteen months have passed since my first Amanuensis post.  However, it's possibly a hybrid of the definitions in The National Standard Encyclopedia (1888) and A Scholar's Companion (1873).

1 comment:

Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith said...

Congratulations on Top 100 Recognition!

Bill ;-)
Author of "Back to the Homeplace"
and "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories"