Palaeography

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Palaeography, also spelt paleography (from Greek παλαιός palaiós, "old" and γράφειν graphein, "to write") is the study of ancient writing. Included in the discipline is the practice of deciphering, reading, and dating historical manuscripts,[2] and the cultural context of writing, including the methods with which writing and books were produced, and the history of scriptoria.[3]

Contents

Application

Palaeography can be an essential skill for historians and philologists, as it tackles two main difficulties. First, since the style of a single alphabet in each given language has evolved constantly, it is necessary to know how to decipher its individual characters as they existed in various eras. Second, scribes often used many abbreviations, usually so as to write more quickly and sometimes to save space, so the specialist-palaeographer must know how to interpret them. Knowledge of individual letter-forms, ligatures, punctuation, and abbreviations enables the palaeographer to read and understand the text. The palaeographer must know, first, the language of the text (that is, a 21st-century English or French speaker must become expert in the relevant earlier forms of these languages); and second, the historical usages of various styles of handwriting, common writing customs, and scribal/notarial abbreviations. Philological knowledge of the language, vocabulary, and grammar generally used at a given time or place can help palaeographers identify ancient or more recent forgeries versus authentic documents.

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