Saturday, May 3, 2008

Introductions to Palaeography

“Palaeography means, in the strict sense, the study of ancient handwriting, and its basic objects are these: first, to read ancient texts with accuracy; secondly, to date and localize their handwriting.”
--Julian Brown

Palaeography can be an immensely challenging and rewarding study. With the advent of the internet, it has become a field more easily accessible to the general public. Below are some articles, online texts, and interactive tutorials to introduce you to palaeography.

I. Medieval Writing: History, Heritage and Data Source
This website contains tutorials (you’ll need at least Flash 5 for some of them) that involve real manuscripts from the 4th-15th centuries. There are also many introductory level articles, glossaries, and an excellent set of links to other resources.

II. Palaeography: reading old handwriting 1500-1800
The UK National Archives also has a Palaeography tutorial, but it should be noted that the examples are not medieval but renaissance and early modern texts. However, using this tutorial provides an good introductory basis for studying palaeography.

III. Medieval Manuscripts in Dutch Collections
These pages contain a variety of images, organized by script and accompanied by a glossary and an extensive bibliography .

IV. A. Cappelli’s "Dictionary of Latin and Italian Abbreviations"
Cappelli’s Dizionario is a standard work on palaeographical abbreviations. If you intend to work on medieval manuscripts, Latin abbreviations are very common and this text is very useful.

V. M. P. Brown’s “Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts: A Guide to Technical Terms”
M. P. Brown is one of the Curator’s of Western Manuscripts at the British Library, and has written widely and well about palaeography. This is her glossary on palaeographical terms and it is a popular reference book at universities.

There are also various other explorations of codicology (the study of the codex, or book) and palaeography attached to specific projects, like the Aberdeen Bestiary, the Ormulum Project, the Nero A.X. Project, Labyrinth, and the Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies. And this is just to name a few!

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