An Invitation to Readers: Letters from Korea

I’ve finished transcribing the letters from Korea. All the pages are open to comments, although I must approve all comments before they are published.

Let me say a word about my transcribing methods/choices:

Mostly, I want the letters to be readable, so I did not, for example, indicate where words are misspelled—I just assumed that readers would understand what word was meant and that I probably know how to spell them correctly. I don’t think there are any cases where misspellings affect understanding.

The author often corrected his own misspellings, usually by putting parentheses around them and then crossing them out. I did include those in the transcriptions, just for an accurate picture. I don’t think they affect understanding, but in some cases they show how the author changed his mind in a sentence.

A few words were illegible, like the name of the silk scarf purchased in Tokyo, and some words that were completely scratched over with ink. Rather than skip over them, I did write illegible in square brackets.

And about all those dashes. I wrote a blog post a while ago about the colon + dash in so many of the WWII letters: “the dog’s bollocks, you say.” But it doesn’t stop there. There is a dash between almost all the sentences in these letters, even if a period is used. At some point, I had to make the decision of whether they should be represented by a hyphen or a dash and whether there should be spaces around them, as it may look in his handwriting. I decided to go with dashes with no surrounding spaces, just for consistency and my sanity, and because dashes do grammatically separate complete sentences—just not so often, please.

My own mistakes: I noticed that I often typed food for good, and while I think I caught them all, please let me know if you spot one I missed. My father often wrote tho for though, sometimes with a period indicating an abbreviation. For some reason, I started typing an s on the end, resulting in thos, so correct me on that as well.

If you aren’t interested in old war letters, please refer them to your friends. You can find a link to the letters from Korea here or individual links here

Batch Converting PDFs to JPG

In order to post images of the scanned letters, I need to convert the PDF scans to JPG files, one for each page, and my PDF viewer, Preview, will only convert one page of a PDF at a time. That would be a time-consuming task when you have hundreds of PDFs that may each be 5-6 pages or more, so I’m looking for a batch converter for my iMac. I’m narrowing it down to a couple, leaning toward one that automates the process and puts each letter bundle into its own folder.

4/24/2020: Well, that didn’t work. In the end, all the image files were created one by one in Apple Preview.

Yes, it means I finally started creating pages for the letters.

Site Activity

I’m doing a little rearranging of menu items on the site, grouping some and setting a priority for the letters section. That’s because, as I mused in a recent post, I’ve decided to post the letters on this site, with a page for each letter that shows the scanned pages of the letter, followed by a transcription. That starts with exporting the PDF scans to JPEGs of each page in each letter, and then uploading those JPEGs to the site. I’ll do the transcribing after that. I’m starting with the 1951 letters and then going back to the WWII years.

At one point, I thought I would try to put it all into a book, but I have no expertise in how to do that and it was a weight I don’t need, so I’m casting it off. On the other hand, I have plenty of expertise blogging and writing online, and making this decision gives me new purpose in finishing the project. So the site may change in the future, but I think I’m pretty satisfied with the look of this site for the purpose of posting letters without extraneous decoration.

Why Not Transcribe the Letters Here?

I’ve been going round and round about what software to use for the transcriptions, from simple text editors to open-source word processing software to Microsoft Word (the least attractive). I’ve looked at a number of academic transcribing systems, but I am this close to not being associated with any academic institution and, so, will not have an opportunity to work where I could publish the work on an academic server, nor have the human resources to help me work with such software. Here’s an example of such software, although it is primarily for sites where a community of users can help transcribe your items: Scripto. I don’t want that sort of project, but the software options and results are interesting. You can see under the User’s guide menu that Scripto can be used with a WordPress installation (the org not the dotcom WordPress).

So, that got me thinking and doing some more wandering around the web looking at how other people handle letters. Then out of the blue and thanks to the D-Day anniversary, @neinquarterly tweeted a link to one of Kurt Vonnegut’s war letters:

Letters of Note is an attractive site and I like the presentation of the letter images and their transcriptions. Why don’t I just transcribe them here on this site? Initially I was going to provide the transcriptions on a password protected page on the site for family, anyway, but I had been knocking around a weird  process of transcribing them in Word, pasting them in iBooks Author, then pasting them here—that never sounded good. Why not just do the transcribing here, treating the site as a content management system?

I had hoped and still do hope to put the letters in a book with essays I will write about them, but I don’t know anything about publishing books, having only published a few scholarly articles long ago, and am likely to just do some kind of self-publishing in the end. Until then, I ask myself again, “Why not just do the transcribing right here in this site?”

13 July 2020: For me this was the best idea, and there will be no book. Blog writing is really all the writing I want to do.

Next step in moving the project home

My 24″ iMac from 2008

Stage two, moving the computer home. I bought this iMac I’m typing on in the late summer of 2008 after I lost my job, betting that being able to keep current and active online and using technology would help me find another job. It did. So in November of that year I brought it to Cleveland and it has now grown old here and close to out of date. In the last five years, they even discontinued the 24″ model, so a new one will either be smaller or larger. Still, it has survived being upgraded to the Mavericks iOS and I think it will be good for a while.

I have scanned and recorded all the letter data on this machine to date, and although all the files are in the cloud, this machine has been the warhorse. After this post, I’m shutting it down and boxing it up–yes, I saved the box–and taking it home. Desk and file cabinet soon to follow.

The smaller setup
The smaller setup

My little MacBook will sit in as my Cleveland computer, mostly for evening amusement, while all the work on this project will be done at home on weekends.