Palaeography  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Palaeography, also spelt paleography, Template:Lang palaiós, "old" and Template:Lang graphein, "to write") is the study of ancient handwriting and the practice of deciphering and reading historical manuscripts.

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.

Knowledge of writing materials is also essential to the study of handwriting and to the identification of the periods in which a document or manuscript may have been produced. 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 and the handwriting used in it.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Palaeography" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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