Edinburgh OS 25 Inch Transcription Project - Help

Welcome to the Edinburgh OS 25 Inch Transcription Project, organised by the National Library of Scotland and the Machines Reading Maps team at the Alan Turing Institute.

Update - 4 June 2022. We are very grateful to everyone who helped gather all 30,043 transcriptions during the initial phase of this project, from 17 May - 3 June 2022. This phase has now ended, and the dataset is currently being edited and revised.

In the meantime, you can browse and search the initial raw data in our Demonstration Viewer. You can also keep up with news and updates on the OS Edinburgh 25-Inch Transcription Project Forum.

This page contains the following information:

Recogito interface showing transcriptions of OS 25 inch Edinburgh mapping


This project aims to to transcribe all of the text on the Ordnance Survey's 25-inch to the mile mapping for Edinburgh environs (1890s). The project is using a simple interface to draw boxes around names on the 25-inch mapping, transcribe the text, tag or categorise it following a simple set of terms, and link to modern gazetteers where possible. The results will be released as an open dataset for onward use, allowing new search possibilities for street names, public buildings and industrial facilities, as well as related map features in Edinburgh. The transcribed written content will also be used as a test dataset for machine learning approaches to identify text on maps, which are being actively developed.

In order to cover the whole extent of the wider built-up area of Edinburgh today, our geographic area in this project is based on the County of the City of Edinburgh, which was in use as an administrative unit from the 1890s through to the 1970s. For practical purposes in this project, we have split this area up into ten separate areas or documents, to maintain good responsiveness in Recogito.

Project Launch Help Video

Watch our project launch video on the OS Edinburgh Transcription Application. It covers getting started with the project home page and choosing a map for editing. It then covers how to login to Recogito, add transcriptions, group them, and add tags. It finishes up with useful related additional information and a brief Question and Answer dialogue.

Getting Started: Annotation Guidelines

To start, create a free account on Recogito at https://recogito.uksouth.cloudapp.azure.com/ then access the map of Edinburgh using our homepage.

The map has been divided into segments. Please, choose an area to start transcribing.

Please note that the work has been divided into two phases. Phase 1 covers the four stages below. A second phase, step 5 will add geotags to a small number of transcriptions - those for streets and selected buildings. We will release full details of this when Phase 1 is nearing completion.

Phase 1

Step 1: Creating Bounded Boxes

Recogito interface showing how to create a bounding box

Select the most appropriate drawing tool from the menu on the right. To annotate text, we would recommend using the straight box or the tilted box.

For more complex shapes, you can use the polygon drawing tool. In general, the simplest box is always preferred. You can find more information on the various drawing tools here.

If a name is made of two words, like "Edinburgh Castle", please create one box for each word.

TIP: be sure to enclose all the relevant letters in the box, and, if possible, try not to include anything else (like tree icons or other symbols). It's ok if these are in the background "behind" the text, but eliminating extra features beyond the text characters is best.

TIP: its a good idea to regularly refresh the Recogito document before adding a new transcription. When you refresh, the latest annotations are reloaded into your viewer, so this reduces the risk of adding a duplicate transcription.

Step 2: Transcription

Recogito interface showing Sch. abbreviation

The annotation pop-up has a "transcription" field. Here is where you are supposed to write the word that you are annotating from the map. Please, transcribe the word exactly as you see it, even if it is an abbreviation, or if the current name may have changed. Use upper or lowercase as they are printed on the map. This information about former names is actually very interesting to us. For any characters which cannot be typed (for example, the arrowhead symbol for War Office property arrowhead symbol for War Office property ) please just use an askerisk: W*D.

For Bench Marks with a 'B.M.' abbreviation, it is fine for these to be transcribed as they appear on the map, sometimes with full stops and sometimes without, sometimes with a space between the 'B.M.' and height number, and sometimes without. The height number can be entered as '142.7' or '142·7'.

If your transcription is an abbreviation, please spell this out in the "comment" field - so 'Sch.' in the transcription should have 'School' in the Comment field. Please consult our Guide to abbreviations. Please add the abbreviation in the Comments field in Proper Case form - ie. with an initial capital letter: 'School'.

Step 3: Grouping

Recogito interface showing grouping transcriptions

If the label is made of two or more words (for example "Royal Hospital"), you should have created a box for each word (one for "Royal" and one for "Hospital"). Now you can join them using the grouping feature. When you group the annotations, please always start from the first word (in our example: "Royal") and then tick the "ordered" option. Tags (see below) should be added to each word in a group.

If the spacing between words or characters is larger than the font size, please annotate each character instead of the whole word/phrase and group them. Read further information. For transcriptions with more than one word, to signal that they are two words instead of a single one you can add a _ sign after the last letter of the first word. But this is optional, just all the characters in one group is okay.

You can read more about how to group annotations here.

Step 4: Tags

The annotation pop-up has a field for tags. Creating tags is very easy, just type in the "Add tag" area and then press the 'Enter' key to confirm. If you see the tag encased in a rectangle, then you have successfully added a tag to your annotation. In this event we ask you to add only one tag to each annotation, related to the kind of place or object the text is describing or naming. Please, select one option from this list of five:

Recogito interface showing example of area transcription tag
Recogito interface showing example of street transcription tag
Recogito interface showing example of building transcription tag
Recogito interface showing example of natural transcription tag
Recogito interface showing example of other transcription tag

TIP: If there is anything you are not sure about, and you want to flag the annotation to the attention of the organisers, you can add the special tag "check".

TIP: Recogito will autocomplete the tag when you start typing one of the words listed above.

For more information, please read the full annotation wiki.

Phase 2

Step 5: Geotagging

A second phase, step 5 will add geotags to a small number of transcriptions - those for streets and selected buildings. We will release full details of this when Phase 1 is nearing completion.

Additional Information


To look up abbreviations on the OS maps, please consult our Guide to abbreviations – an alphabetical list of standard OS abbreviations.

Characteristic Sheet

The zoomable graphic below shows a legend of symbols for features on the OS 25 inch mapping:

This legend, dating from 1923, is also available at:
Conventional Signs and Writing Used on the 1/2500 Plans of the Ordnance Survey.

Further information

Read further information on the OS 25 inch maps of Scotland (1890s-1940s)

OS Edinburgh 25-Inch Transcription Project Forum

For this project, we have also set up a Forum for participants to ask others for help and share thoughts on the transcriptions and tagging process.

To join the forum, you will have to sign-up with your email address and then wait for approval. Once approved you will be able to login, view and add posts to the forum.

View Related Pages:

If you have any other questions, please contact us at maps@nls.uk.