Reference Guide

Nitty Gritty of Full Text Transcription
The point of the attention we lavish on our Full Text transcriptions of Darwin's scientific manuscripts is that we are trying to capture Darwin's texts as he composed & revised them. He often later added to his texts as he sorted & reused them for new purposes. 'Later' could mean very close to the original time of composition or it could have been years afterwards. In some cases he evidently wrote with a contrasting marking crayon, pencil, or pen immediately to hand. So the essence of transcribing Darwin— beyond just reading his handwriting— is to detect & to clearly record the layers or streams of writing.

The two most important revisions found in the base layer—that is, in the original composition layer, are deletion and interlineation. We record these revisions by using twin symbols in the running line of text: ‹deleted text› and «interlined text». (Interlining is explained below.) Any portion of text that we have good evidence was a new or added inscription, is transcribed in bold. This is a very simple and unobtrusive way of recording the basic revision process. But besides these three fundamental actions: deleting, interlining, and adding, there are usually other textual features or physical characteristics to record. We do this by means of textual notes (t1, t2) that appear in the traditional way at the end of the page of manuscript. If notes apply to the whole of a page, they appear before the numbered tnotes.

Full Text uses a number of defined terms. These are explained below along with our rationale for using these terms.

textual notes

editors' comments on a text's details & revisions


text to be dropped, cancelled


new text introduced, typically by means of a caret (^)

Typically interlined means placed above, & sometimes below the writing line. But this should not be taken literally, as CD's writing can trail off down the edge of a page and he can 'interline' in the margin. Also he does not always use a caret to interline. The interlining symbol « » captures all the foregoing cases. Darwin sometimes writes a caret without interlining anything. This is the only case where the caret is transcribed.


represented by bold face text and used for text thought to be additional to an initial passage.
Best used where the writing material changes (ink, pencil, brown crayon), rather than just the size or direction of the handwriting. Added text is frequently interlined: «text». It can of course include deletions.


block of text inserted, usually by letters or numbers such as (AA) (1), from a verso, another sheet, or loose slip.


block of text transposed within a single page, usually by bubbles, lines, & carets


After CD used, or else wanted to reject, a passage or a page, he would draw one or more straight or wavy lines through it. No meaning is ascribed to the number or geometry of crossings.


passage marked off by one or more vertical lines, usually in the margin.

Ms, Mss, MS, MSS

Ms p 1
a page numbered (1 by CD

one side of a piece of paper

sheet, leaf, folio
synonyms for a piece of paper

recto (r), verso (v)
top & bottom sides of a sheet

modified image (-mod)

designates an image that has been rotated or inverted
e.g. DAR 1: 1-mod

writing material
brown ink is the silent default

upright:  |
marks line break in a list
(uprights used for page breaks are being removed)