I have had experience with transcription before but the Linn letters proved to be quite a challenge for me. I had worked on transcription of print material but I did not expect handwriting would be so hard to transcribe. I referred to the transcribed letters we worked on in class in our groups when I was transcribing my letter. I asked people around me what they thought a word was and Prof. Jakacki helped a lot. To make sure I got the spelling of a person’s name right, I looked at the journal and checked. I found that it was easier for me to transcribe if I didn’t look so close up at a word. I actually found that the shorter the word, the harder it was for me to understand/transcribe it. For example, I had that “over” was actually “own” until Prof. Jakacki helped me. However, I had no problem recognizing “acknowledge.”
My first thought when I saw the real life letter was how small the handwriting/letter was. In retrospect, it makes sense as he had to save paper and ink. I didn’t find the real life document to be easier or harder to read than the digital facsimile. There are trade-offs of working with a digital facsimile instead of a real relic. One being that you lose a certain context of the writing. For example, you also lose a certain perspective or sympathy of the author when using a digital copy. With a real life document you get to hold, touch, smell, and etc. as the author would. When holding the Linn letter I kept on imagining myself as Linn writing amidst soldiers at New Bern and looking out at the sunset. With a digital copy, you lose that rich experience. Another reason why its important to have access to the original material is if the digital reproduction is poor. Luckily mine was okay but I know a couple of students had trouble with their digital copies.
That being said, digital facsimiles are helpful because you can resize them, take notes, print them out- where ever and when ever you want. However, using both a digital and original copy are ideal because it provides a rich context (original) while allowing a manipulation of the text (digital). If you only have access to a digital copy you can call the university or organization that has the original and discuss viewing options or access to their mark up or transcriptions. You could talk with an archivist who specializes in the Linn letters or in a particular letter and ask them your questions. You could also research about publications, papers, and projects that have involved the letters and refer to them for transcription help and see if they have good photos of the letter.
Can you find a pattern of expression, emotion, or experience that is the same or different (remember audience – when Linn writes for himself, does he reveal things that are different from when he writes to someone?)
My letter was interesting because in most of James Merill Linn’s letters he does not talk directly to his audience. In terms of content, my letter was straightforward: James wanted John to give money to the listed people, many of whom appear in other letters, such as Beaver. He doesn’t talk about his day at all and just gives John directions to hand out the money he sent with the letter and he asks John to send him back a receipt of the transactions. In Linn’s diary before my letter was dated, he was similarly straightforward but did not address an audience and just talks about the events in his day. He talks about mundane things in his day like the weather or receiving mail- there is not a lot of emotion in the immediate diary entries before the letter. However, farther back (around April 3-6th) Linn wrote in great detail. For example, on April 6th he wrote a lot about the beauty of the town and the surroundings. For example he remarks “There are many fine houses, but the beauty of them is in the large grounds around them and the shrubbery. Roses are blooming, & the lilac & locust are out.” He also laments, throughout his time at New Bern, about how nice the town must have been in the past. He seems generally interested in the history of the place throughout his diaries. Regardless of the unfortunate events around him, he seems to find solace in the beauty of his surroundings and the little things in life (he REALLY likes the weather) and seems to be optimistic. In terms of context, my letter fits into the previous diary entries because James talks about the paymaster- which James wrote about in his diary a couple days before. It also seems as if he had a fair amount of down time at Camp Franklin.
For a short time after my letter, he continues to write sparingly and in a cut and dry manner. He writes about troop movements and his daily military interactions. He also talks about getting sick and is relieved to find out that it isn’t small pox. It is strange that James did not talk about his letter to John in his April 13th entry, since he seems to recount his day so meticulously in his diary. Compared to the diary entries before the letter, the diary entries after have a more sober and anxious tone. This is probably because his unit had learned about the Battle of Corinth and because James was sick and thought he might have small pox. Linn writes less about nice strolls or the beautiful sunset. This makes sense as he was sick and the Union Army had to regroup and reorganize after Corinth.
The general difference between the Linn letter and his diary entries are that in the letter Linn doesn’t waste any time talking about himself or his day- he instead just asks his brother to give money to these people without explaining why. I don’t think he was so frank because he was busy or in a hurry because his hand writing was neat and according to his diary, he had some down time. It’s interesting that he doesn’t share much with his brother while he does go into detail in his diary. Perhaps this is because what Linn was saying is classified information or because the brothers’ relationship wasn’t super warm/close , or maybe they were in contact all the time and would talk about the stuff in the diaries in a different letter. In terms of my own relationship with my sisters, I often find myself only texting them when I have a specific question or thing for them to do for me. In that aspect I can relate to the straight forward letter to John. However, I can also see how it might be dangerous to write about how Gen. Burnside was anxious or the movement of Union troops over the mail.