Site: Postgraduate online research training
Course: Palaeography: An Overview
Book: Introduction
Printed by: Guest user
Date: Wednesday, 30 November 2022, 1:08 AM


Introductory issues on transcription

1. What is Palaeography?

Literally, Palaeography means ancient (from Greek 'palaeo') writing (from Greek 'graphos'). Therefore, it refers to the study ancient and medieval handwriting, using as sources for this any surviving texts found in papyrus, parchment or paper from a given chronological period. Its main aims are to read ancient documents so as to be able to assign them a historical date and place of origin. In order to do this, the palaeographer must:

  • have a good knowledge of the language in which the document is written
  • be familiar with the writing materials used during the chronological period under study
  • be able to identify the different handwriting styles used (as well as to assign them a date and place of origin)
  • recognise the abbreviations used
  • establish individual scribes

2. The Manuscript as Artefact

Even though the interest of those working with manuscript sources (palaeographers, historians, etc.) lies mainly with the textual content found therein, it is nevertheless crucial to keep in mind that a manuscript document has much more to offer than the text written on its surface centuries ago. For instance, its parchment may tell us whether a codex was meant to be a luxury item for, say, a member of the aristocracy (if vellum was used). If a late medieval item was copied on paper, its watermarks may inform us about the location where the material was produced and, therefore, establish (perhaps unexpected) links between text and geographical location. 

The idea of the manuscript as a physical artefact has become very widespread in the last few years and it serves to remind us of the importance of looking beyond the lines of text found on the page. More often than not, the exploration of the codex as an archaeological artefact helps one to better understand its origin, provenance and even its very raison-d'etre.

3. Navigating the tutorial

It is recommend that you initially follow the course in a linear way, working through each section in order. However, there will be times when you will want to cross-reference other sections.  

Each section contains various types of material. Each will have a handbook containing the core course information; in some cases there will be quizzes and transcription exercises as well. These will be explained to you as the course progresses.

In addition, Inscribe makes use of a specially designed transcription tool that will enable you to test your skills throughout the course. You can read more about this later in this module.