Paleography Resources, compiled by Michael Ullyot (who?)

Online Resources in Early Modern Paleography

Resources in paleography tend overwhelmingly to favour medievalists above those researching later periods. It’s still possible, though, to glean helpful information from the following sites: guidelines for transcription, conventions of MS description, and online catalogues (often indexed by the work's first line).

English Handwriting 1500-1700: An Online Course
A resource from the University of Cambridge's English Faculty, this course presents model transcriptions and (most usefully) alphabets in English secretary hand, along with "an extensive archive of manuscript images," and "a range of pedagogical materials--transcription conventions, tips on dating, a bibliography and list of links."

Literary Manuscript Analysis (LIMA)
"An advanced introduction into the study of manuscripts, especially literary manuscripts. It considers the various physical features of a manuscript that can provide information; methodologies and methodological problems; and how evidence should be evaluated."

The Perdita Project (Nottingham Trent University)
Aims to assemble “a comprehensive microfilm collection of about 400 manuscripts compiled by women in the British Isles. These manuscripts were compiled during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and consist of poetry, religious writing, autobiographical material, cookery and medical recipes, and accounts.” MSS images are available online, with transcriptions and research papers (in precious few cases).

The Labyrinth: Manuscripts, Paleography, Codicology page
The Labyrinth (housed at Georgetown University) is one of those longstanding, enormously helpful sites designed for and by medievalists, again proving that the earlier your specialty, the better-organised your colleagues tend to be. This is its page for manuscript studies, constituting a large network of links: online catalogues, online images, links to research libraries, &c. The Bibliothèque Nationale de France site alone has a thousand images on offer.

Medieval Manuscripts on the Web: by Albert Masters (University of Toronto Library)
A survey of search engines, subject directories, & individual web sites of interest – including online image banks & transcription sites. Useful for medievalists, but also suited to early modern studies. The links pages are very comprehensive and recently updated, making this page a very good place to start.

University of Pennsylvania: Texts, Manuscripts, and Paleography page
A list of links, without commentary or (it seems) any organizing principle. Of occasional use.

The remainder of these sites are primarily for the use of genealogists, and make suggestions accordingly (including essential tips on reading your ancestors’ recipes). But given the scarcity of online resources in early modern paleography, they’re certainly worth considering.

How to Read 18th Century British-American Writing
Tends to dwell on rather elementary information: for example, you may be prone to the common error of assuming that "people in the past thought about and experienced life in the same ways that we do today." The site also has some facsimiles and an outline of "Steps in Deciphering Handwritten Documents."

Examples of Letters of the 17th Century Found in Parish Registers
Images of -- well, exactly what it promises.

Early English Handwriting
Brief facsimiles and transcriptions, from an English ‘family historian.’

Cyndi's List of Genealogy Sites: Handwriting & Script
The Cyndi empire (with "over 84,050 links!") annexes new territory. If you avoid the banner ads selling genealogical books and merchandise, this page can actually be a useful resource. (Though you may be lured by audiotapes on such subjects as "Interpreting Symbols and Abbreviations in 16th and 17th Century English and American Documents." Ponder that for a moment: audiotapes that teach paleography.)


This site, first assembled on 14 December 2000, remains in development. Some of the links may become outdated; the last time I checked them was 13 January 2004.

Grateful acknowledgments to Albert Masters for many of these suggestions, particularly in the latter half.

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