Options for 19th-century handritten document
Thread poster: Neil Coffey

Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:51
French to English
+ ...
Apr 24, 2010

I've been approached by a client to translate what turns out to be several pages of (French) handwritten text from the early 1800s. Whilst the actual linguistic content isn't a problem per se, the flowery 19th century handriting would effectively make the job impractical for me on my own. This has happened very occasionally in the past, e.g. I've had an enqury about an indecipherable 19th century handwritten birth certificate or the like, and have always just said "sorry, I don't deal with this kind of document".

In this particular case, the volume involved could juuuust about make the project viable. So I wondered: has anybody either had experience of having a separate "old handwriting" specialist transcribe the document, and how that worked out and who to approach, or alternatively any good advice that I could tell the client as to who else they should approach? In truth, I'm really not that desperate to take on the project-- I just want to be able to give some kind of vaguely helpful answer to the client. Any feedback appreciated!

[Edited at 2010-04-24 04:28 GMT]


Elisabeth Kissel  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:51
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
out-sourcing the transcribing part of the job Apr 24, 2010

I've had similar issues in the past: The old German script can be very tricky to decipher, too. After spending hours and hours (literally) on one particular document, I started looking online for people who specialized in transcribing this type of script. I found someone who could transcribe the whole document overnight and found that her rates were very reasonable. We've collaborated a few times since then. Although I don't make 'a killing', I quite enjoy it and the work is easy. So, as far as I am concerned, I can recommend out-sourcing the transcribing part of the job.


Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:51
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Yes, outsource at least some of it Apr 24, 2010

I have problems with Russian handwriting, and cooperate with a native Russian speaker on the transcription. I try to transcribe as much as I can myself, which varies from most of it to hardly any of it, and he helps me out with what is left. He is particularly helpful for ships' logs (he was a merchant seaman for several years) and doctors' handwriting, which is just as bad in Russian as in English (he comes from a family of doctors). He charges on a time basis. On the last job, he got 75% of the fee, and I was quite happy with that.


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