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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies



This transcription project ran from 1st June to 31st October 2020 and is now concluded. Dr Moretti remains very keen to supervise graduate students who may be interested in working more on this topic. 

All the materials transcrived are now publicly available at the dedicated page on AI-powered transcription platform Minna de honkoku developed by Prof Hashimoto Yuya (National Museum of Japanese History). 


More about the project

Every year in August Dr Laura Moretti welcomes around thirty scholars for the Summer School in Japanese Early Modern Palaeography. Graduate students join more seasoned academics, museum curators, and librarians driven by the same desire: learn how to decode Japanese early modern documents. With the world hit by a pandemic of the proportions of Covid-19, we had little choice but to postpone the seventh summer school to next year. At the same time, though, we wanted to engage those who had been admitted to the 2020 summer school. We, therefore, decided to launch the transcription project “Tackling Pandemics in Early Modern Japan”, in collaboration with Prof Hashimoto Yuta (National Museum of Japanese History). Using the transcription platform Minna de honkoku, developed by Prof Hashimoto and powered by the use of Artificial Intelligence, the project enables participants to transcribe a sizable number of early modern materials dealing with measles, cholera, and smallpox. Started in June 2020, it will run until the end of the year with a view to make the transcriptions available publicly at that stage.

The project has attracted attention from media in and outside Japan, featuring on Yomiuri shinbun and in the series “Teaching Moments” co-presented by the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science ON CALL project and the Teach311 + COVID-19 Collective. You can read in detail our pedagogical choices and challenges in the series “Teaching Moments” and you can also enjoy more information in the videos available on our dedicated YouTube Channel “Japanese Early Modern Palaeography”.  Some of our graduate students, Elena Follador, Freddie Feilden, and Helen Magowan, as well as our fourth-year undergraduate student Joseph Bills have been extremely active and have produced an impressive number of highly accurate transcriptions. It was a joy to see them in action!

The project would not have been possible without the generous funding from Mitsubishi Corporation International (Europe) Plc and Jonathan Hills Antiquarian Bookseller. To them goes our heartfelt gratitude.


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More information about the project can be found on the dedicated webpage


Faculty Researchers