Palaeography, (British), or paleography (American) (from the Greek _gr. παλαιός "palaiós", "old" and _gr. γράφειν "graphein", "to write") is the study of ancient handwriting, and the practice of deciphering and reading historical manuscripts. ['palaeography', "Oxford English Dictionary.]

Palaeography can be an essential skill for historians and philologists, as it tackles two main difficulties. First, since the style of a single alphabet has evolved constantly it is necessary to know how to decipher its individual characters. Second, scribes often used many abbreviations, usually so that they could write more quickly, and sometimes to save space, so the palaeographer must know how to interpret them. Knowledge about individual letter-forms, ligatures, punctuation and abbreviations enables the palaeographer to read the text as its producer intended it to be read. The palaeographer must know the language of the text and the historical usage of various styles of handwriting. Knowledge of writing materials is also essential to the ancient study of handwriting and the identification of the periods in which they are written.Robert P. Gwinn, "Paleography" in The Encyclopaedia Britannica, Micropaedia, Vol. IX, 1986, p. 78.] An important goal may be to assign the text a date and a place of origin: this is why the palaeographer must take into account the style and formation of the manuscript.Fernando De Lasala, Exercise of Latin Paleography (Gregorian University Rome, 2006) p. 7.]

The first time the term "palaeography" was used was perhaps in 1703 by Bernard de Montfaucon, a Benedictine monk. During the 19th century palaeography fully separated from the science of diplomatics. Wilhelm Wattenbach and Leopold Delisle greatly contributed to this separation with their studies of the relationship between the human hand and writing. Their efforts were mainly directed at reconstituting "the ductus" — the movement of the pen in forming the letter — and to establish a genealogy of writing based on the historical developments of its forms.R. Marichal, “Paleography” in New Encyclopaedia New York: Gale-Thomson, 2003 Vol.X, p. 773.]

Ancient Near East

*cuneiform script
**Hittite cuneiform
*Egyptian hieroglyphs
*Anatolian hieroglyphs
*Middle Bronze Age alphabets

Greek palaeography

*"Inscriptiones Graecae"
*Epichoric alphabet
*Cumae alphabet

Indian palaeography


North Indian palaeography


outh Indian palaeography

The earliest attested form of writing in South India is inscriptions found in caves, associated with the Chalukya and Chera dynasties. These are in variants of what is known as the Cave character, and their script differs from the Northern version in being more angular. Most of the modern scripts of South India have evolved from this script, with the exception of Vatteluttu, whose exact origins are unknown, and Nandinagari, which is a variant of Devanagari that developed due to later Northern influence.
*Grantha script
*Tamil script
*Malayalam script
*Telugu script
*Kannada script
*Chalukya script
*Chera script

Aramaic palaeography

*Aramaic alphabet
*Syriac alphabet
*Mandaic alphabet
*Sogdian alphabet

Latin palaeography


See the following articles:

* Old Italic alphabet
*"Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum"
*Roman square capitals
*Roman cursive
*Rustic capitals

Middle Ages

Prior to the time of Charlemagne several parts of Europe had their own handwriting style. His rule over a large part of the continent provided an opportunity to unify these writing styles in the hand called Carolingian minuscule. Simplistically speaking, the only scripts to escape this unification were the Visigothic (or Mozarabic), which survived into the twelfth or thirteenth century, the Beneventan, which was still being written in the middle of the sixteenth, and the one that continues to be used in traditional Irish handwriting, which has been in severe decline since the early twentieth century and is now almost extinct (the printed form was abolished by the Irish government in the 1950s).

In the twelfth century Carolingian minuscule underwent a change in its appearance to bold and broken Gothic letter-forms. This style remained predominant with some regional variants until the fifteenth century when the humanistic scripts revived a version of Carolingian minuscule and it spread from the Italian Renaissance all over Europe.

Further medieval scripts

*Beneventan script
*Gaelic script
*Insular script
*Merovingian script
*Uncial script
*Visigothic script

Modern period

These humanistic scripts are the base for the antiqua and the handwriting forms in western and southern Europe. In Germany and Austria, the "Kurrentschrift" was rooted in the cursive handwriting of the later Middle Ages. With the name of the calligrapher Ludwig Sütterlin, this handwriting counterpart to the blackletter typefaces was abolished by Hitler in 1941. After World War II it was taught as alternative script in schools only in some areas until the 1970s; it is no longer being taught.

ee also

*Historical Documents
*Jean Mabillon
*List of New Testament papyri
*List of New Testament uncials
*Ludwig Traube (palaeographer)
*Scribal abbreviation

External links

*'Manual of Latin Paleography' (A comprehensive PDF file containing 77 pages profusely illustrated, August 2008).
* [ 'Palaeography'.] "Encyclopaedia Britannica", 1911.
* [ Palaeography: reading old handwriting 1500 - 1800: A practical online tutorial] , from the National Archives (UK)
* [ A comprehensive survey of all the important aspects of medieval palaeography] .
* [ A scholarly maintained web directory on palaeography] (in German).
* [ Another scholarly maintained web directory on palaeography] (200 links with critical comments, in French).
* [ Comprehensive bibliography] (1,200 detailed references with critical comments in French).
* [ Online Tuition in the Palaeography of Scottish Documents 1500-1750]
* [ An introduction to Greek and Latin palaeography by Thompson, Edward Maunde] - Outdated (published 1912) but good and useful illustrated handbook, available as facsimile.
* [ Free palaeographical fonts]

Further reading

Western palaeography

*Bernhard Bischoff, "Latin Palaeography: Antiquity and the Middle Ages", Cambridge University Press, 1989.
*E. A. Lowe, "Codices Latini Antiquiores: A Palaeographical Guide to Latin Manuscripts Prior to the Ninth Century", Clarendon Press, 1972.
*Sir Edward Maunde Thompson, [ "An Introduction to Greek and Latin Palaeography"] Clarendon Press, 1912.

Indian palaeography

*cite book |last= Burnell|first= Arthur Coke|title= Elements of South-Indian Palæography, from the Fourth to the Seventeenth Century A.D., Being an Introduction to the Study of South-Indian Inscriptions and MSS.|url=|edition= Second enlarged and improved edition|year= 1878|publisher= Trübner & Co|location= London
*cite book |last= Ojha|first= Gaurishankar Hirachand|title= The Palæography of India/Bhāratīya Prācīna Lipimālā|edition= Third edition|year= 1959|publisher= Munshiram Manoharlal|location= Delhi|language= Hindi


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  • Palaeography —     Palæography     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Palæography     (palaia, ancient , graphe, writing )     The art of deciphering ancient writing in manuscripts or diplomas. It is distinguished from epigraphy, which provides rules for reading carved… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • palaeography — (US paleography) ► NOUN ▪ the study of ancient writing systems and manuscripts. DERIVATIVES palaeographer noun palaeographic adjective …   English terms dictionary

  • palaeography — From Greek words ‘old’ and ‘writing’; it is the rigorous discipline of deciphering ancient handwriting on codices [[➝ codex]] and papyri. The styles of writing determine the dates of MSS. So palaeography is an essential stage in textual criticism …   Dictionary of the Bible

  • palaeography — noun a) Ancient forms of writing, as in a manuscript or document. b) The study of ancient forms of writing …   Wiktionary

  • palaeography — n. research and study of ancient forms of writing …   English contemporary dictionary

  • palaeography — [ˌpalɪ ɒgrəfi, peɪ ] (US paleography) noun the study of ancient writing systems and the deciphering and dating of historical manuscripts. Derivatives palaeographer noun palaeographic adjective palaeographical ə grafɪk(ə)l …   English new terms dictionary

  • palaeography — /pæliˈɒgrəfi/ (say palee ogruhfee), /peɪ / (say pay ) noun 1. ancient forms of writing, as in documents and inscriptions. 2. the study of ancient writing, including determination of origin and date, decipherment, etc. Also, paleography.… …   Australian English dictionary

  • palaeography — n. (US paleography) the study of writing and documents from the past. Derivatives: palaeographer n. palaeographic adj. palaeographical adj. palaeographically adv. Etymology: F paleacuteographie f. mod.L palaeographia (as PALAEO , GRAPHY) …   Useful english dictionary

  • Minim (palaeography) — Page from a 14th century Psalter, with blackletter sine pedibus text. In palaeography, a minim is a short, vertical stroke used in handwriting. The word is derived from the Latin minimum, meaning least or smallest . A minim is the basic stroke… …   Wikipedia

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