Module 6: Primary Sources

2. Primary Source Material

The text we use as an example throughout this module is a fragment of “There and Back Again,” a story by the promising young talent Hannah Renton, in response to a writing assignment at school.

Figure 1. Some pages from a sample manuscript.Figure 1. Some pages from a sample manuscript.Figure 1. Some pages from a sample manuscript.Figure 1. Some pages from a sample manuscript.
Figure 1. Some pages from a sample manuscript.

A first look at the document facsimiles above reveals that it is a prose document, with as most prominent structural features: a date, title, a graphic, and paragraphs. It could be transcribed as follows (for more details of prose transcription, see Module 3: Prose):

<body xmlns="">
<pb n="1"/>
<date when="2008​-08​-26">26​/8/08</date>
<head>There and Back Again</head>
<p>I can​'t believe it. Carl has not written to me or sent me a postcard once since he​'s been away in Egypt. It would be easier if our phone was working. It​'s been broken for ages! Dad can​'t fix it at the moment, and we can​'t afford to buy a new one. I would write to him, but he didn​'t tell me the address of the villa he was staying in. If only I had a mobile, I could phone his mobile number. Eureka!!! I could use next door​'s phone, oh, actually, Mr and Mrs Crooel won​'t let me use it (they​'re my next door neighbours). I know. I​'ll use the phone box!!! (I think I​'ve got some change).</p>
<p>Goodness me, this phone box stinks. E​EAW, I don​'t even want to know what that is. Anyway, I hope his phone is switched on. What​'s it again??? Oh, yeah, 1312632. Arrgh!! What​'s happening!!! Who​'s shaking the phone box!! Who turned out the lights!!!</p>
<p>W​OW!!! Where am I? Why is everything so smokey? Everything is silver except the air around me, it​'s black, and I​'m standing in a silver pod, with something that looks like a phone. When you look up there are millions of metal poles, and some of them have what look like funny shaped cars whizzing along attached to the metal poles at the top.</p>
<graphic url="phonebox​_scan​.jpg"/>
<figDesc>the phone box travelling through time</figDesc>
<pb n="2"/>
<p>There seems to be no​-one around the phone box. Yuk! Someone has just walked past. All their skin is black and crusty and in the side of their neck are gitt like things. The whites of his or her eyes are grey and he, or she has no hair. I also notice that he, or she has a clear gas mask. It​'s from all the smoke.</p>
<p>Goodness me! I just stepped outside the phone box and I couldn​'t breathe. It was like a king cobra was wrapped around my neck and if I was to get a little bit of air in it was horrible, like when you stop at red man beside the traffic lights and a bus is stopped beside you and you​'re getting breaths of carbon dioxide. But this was 100x worse. Now I know what all the black air is: all the pollution. But that doesn​'t help me figure out where I am.</p>
<p>What​'s that? It​'s a big poster, saying: Monday 26th May 1312632. I​'ve gone into the future!!! Wait, I recognise the date. It​'s Carl​'s number! When I typed it in on the key pad in the phone box, that must have taken me into the future: I must get back and warn everyone! I​'ll type in 2008. Nothing was happening. Then,
<quote>Hello, dearie</quote>
, an old woman answered.
<quote>Who is it?</quote>
I hung up. Uh, oh. How do I get back then?</p>
<pb n="3"/>
<p>I​'ve been thinking for ages about what to do. There only seems to be one good option, fix and stop all the pollution. This sort of seems like a dream, but a fun dream. I​'ll just have to find out where the city​'s power source is.</p>
<p>I got round the corner and there was a B​IG sign saying C​ITY'S P​OWER S​OURCE. It​'s very oily and extremely big. Ah, this will be the switch.</p>
<p>Everything has gone dark and I can​'t see where I​'m going. I keep on banging into long bars and wires and knobs. Yess!! The door!!!</p>
<p>There is uproar outside. I sealed the door with stones on the ground so no one could get in to turn the switch back on.</p>
<p>I​'ve been thinking. If I​'m going to suck out all the pollution I​'m going to need help. Which is not going to be easy.</p>
<p>Everyone keeps on staring at me. It​'s very annoying. I hope people will help!</p>
<p>OK. I think this will work. I​'ve put up posters everywhere. They say...
<quote>M​EETING B​ESIDE P​HONE B​OX BE T​HERE AT 2pm</quote>
. I hope they read English. And English time.</p>
Example 1. A “normalised” encoding of the sample manuscript.

...or could it? When you compare the facsimiles and above transcription, you’ll notice that a lot of phenomena of this particular hand written text have been filtered out or abstracted in the transcription. Mind you, it could be a plausible transcription that strives for a representation of the contents, rather than a faithful record of its actual realisation, provided these editorial choices are stated explicitly in the header’s <editorialDecl> element.


Take a close look at the document facsimiles above, compare it to the transcription above, and make a list of things you observe that are specific to the non-published character of this document.

When you’re done, click the arrow! When you’re done, click the arrow!


  • Additions
  • Deletions
  • Different hands
  • Colour of ink
  • Notes
  • Errors
  • Corrections
  • Damage
  • Unclear text
  • Lacking text