the many-headed monster

Free online palaeography resources

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Brodie Waddell

Palaeography – the art of reading old handwriting – is a very specialized skill that will not be any use to 99.9 percent of the population. However, if you want to explore original sources produced before c.1750 for a dissertation, genealogy or local history, it may be essential.

The problem is that the script below was a perfectly normal way to write in the seventeenth century.

‘For six Minst Pyes of an Indifferent biggnesse’ (The National Archives, SP 14/189, folio 7)

 

Luckily, for those of you who would like to learn the basics of reading early modern documents, there are a huge number of helpful resources available, including many that are free and online. They are widely scattered, so this post is an attempt to collect them in a single place.

My one piece of advice is this: the only way to learn palaeography is through practice. There are lots of helpful tricks and techniques mentioned in the resources below, but ultimately it takes at least a few hours of slow, painful transcription before it becomes remotely straightforward.

I would love to hear additional suggestions in the comments.

 

Online resources

 

Offline training

 

Books

 

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