Blog Post

Launch of Shakespeare's World

Launch of Shakespeare's World

A new project called ‘Shakespeare’s World’ was recently launched, with the mission to transcribe manuscripts created by Shakespeare’s contemporaries in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. All of these manuscripts live at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, home of the world’s largest collection of materials relating to Shakespeare and his works.

Reading handwriting from Shakespeare’s lifetime is not always easy, but I bet everyone reading this message can pick out a few words or phrases on any given page and develop their ability to read old handwriting over time. The interface allows you to transcribe as little as a word at a time—you don’t have to do a whole page—and you can go at your own pace. Everyone can take part and learn as they go along, and all contributions are welcome. You don’t need to be an expert, and there are plenty of experts and resources on the project to help you.

2016 marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, so it’s an opportune time to explore the world in which he lived. The research team is comprised of Zooniverse, the Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO) project at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, and the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) at Oxford University Press. We plan to make transcriptions available to researchers and anyone who is interested in this fascinating period, and to find new (unrecorded) words and variants for the OED, the most authoritative English dictionary.

In anticipation of the holiday season, when many of us are dreaming up holiday meals, fending off colds, and frantically writing letters to friends and family, we’re showcasing two kinds of manuscripts: recipes (both culinary and medicinal) and letters. Discover how people in the past cooked and kept their families healthy; delve into letters to read the gossip, politics, and news of the day, centuries ago.

Get involved today at


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