Where Old, Unreadable Documents Go

📜COOL CAREER! Can you read any of these letters? It’s not easy! For nearly all our history we have written and over the hundreds of years our language has changed and so has our handwriting. Some people are also just really messy writers! A lot of these documents are important though – maybe for law cases or maybe historically for us to keep and understand – and we need to know what was written on them. This is a job!⁠

🗞️Who does this? Linda Watson sits at her desk in the Isle of Man in the UK and deciphers these incredibly difficult letters. She runs a translation company do this for historical notes and they do anything from handwritten letter from one soldier to another, a list of convicts transported to Australia, or an original Jane Austen book manuscript. Linda said “I see the job as a cross between a crossword puzzle and a jigsaw puzzle.”⁠

Fun fact: Linda says she has only failed at transcribing the work given to her twice. One was an old Tibetan manuscript and she couldn’t find anyone who knew the alphabet. ⁠

🔍Read more on Atlas Obscura with a fantastic article called Where Old, Unreadable Documents Go to Be Understood and where these awesome photos are from.

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