Modernization of the original ballad text is the first step in making facsimile transcriptions. Deciding just how much to "modernize" the original text was difficult and time-consuming. The EBBA team consulted other modern editions of early broadside ballads, such as William Chappell and Joseph Woodfall Ebsworth's Roxburghe Ballads edition, and concluded that they were often too free in altering the punctuation and spelling of the original, or in not indicating when words were being guessed at or reconstructed from another edition of the ballad. In the end, we decided that it was important to preserve most of the original spelling of the ballad, so as to capture a "feel" of the original text, while at the same time converting to modern print the features of black-letter and of other early modern typefaces that impede readability for the non expert. After extensive discussion by members of the EBBA team, extending over more than a year, a set of rules were adopted for transcribing early modern print to modern roman font detailed below.

Rules for Transcription

  1. Capitalization and punctuation are left unchanged.
  2. Spellings are retained, with the following exceptions:
    • Letters that appear inverted, misplaced, or dropped (below the line of type) are corrected
    • "long s" becomes "s"
    • "u" becomes "v" when it is meant to stand in place of a "v"
    • "i" becomes "j" and "I" is rendered as "J" when they are meant to stand in place of a "j" or "J"
    • "vv" is changed to "w" and "uu " to w
    • diphthongs are modernized to "ae" and "oe"
    • "ée" (with an accent over the first e) is typed simply "ee"
    • "=" is rendered as a hyphen when it is being used as such
    • abbreviations are typed out in full: e.g. "&c" is written as "etc."; "y" followed by a raised "e ” is typed as "the" or "thee" as appropriate; "y" followed by a raised "t" is typed as "that"; "cōmand" (with a horizontal line above the "o"), is typed as "command," "qd." is spelled out "quod," etc.
    • But “viz “ is typed out as "viz", "&" remains "&" (not "and"), and "Esq." is not spelled out as "Esquire" as these abbreviations are still in regular use today
  3. Spacing is retained when it indicates indentations for new stanzas, for certain lines of the stanzas, and for refrains, but
    • cramped or large spaces between words are not imitated; these are typed normally unless, in the latter case, the spacing is exceptionally large
    • when a last word of a line is printed above or below the line with a "( " or "[ " placed in front of it, the whole line is placed on the same line of print.

Hard to decipher words and phrases:

  • If a section of the print is blurred, blotched, or faded, but is still somewhat discernible, and if the obscured letters can be logically deduced based on the context of the text (or by consulting an available printed transcription of the ballad or a printed edition of another version of the ballad or by consulting other online facsimiles in EEBO or ECCO), the transcriber simply makes the transcription without drawing attention to the problematic area.
  • But if the original text is so faded or blotched as to be undiscernable (that is, there is no trace of letters for this part of the text), even if the transcriber can make a good guess as to the missing text based on the methods listed above, the words should be placed within square brackets, [like this].
  • And if some word or phrase clearly existed in the text but is entirely missing from the text (i.e., the page is torn or the ink not visible), and the transcriber cannot make out what that text might be (based on the methods listed above), that fact is rendered simply by [?].
  • Handwriting is transcribed only when it completes torn or damaged text, and is placed in square brackets. See below for font rules.


In transcribing from black-letter to roman font:

  • If the title or imprint is not in black letter (they are often in early modern "white letter" or roman font), we type the words in roman italics; any italics within the typing are then rendered in bold italics.
  • If a word or phrase appears in the ballad in the original in roman font, it is also rendered in italics. Place names, personal names, and the imprint in the original ballad are usually in roman font.
  • Handwriting is transcribed in Monotype Corsiva and placed in square brackets, except in the Pepys collection, where handwriting was rendered in Lucida Calligraphy.