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English Palaeography: Academic Year 2021-22

Photograph by Andrew Buchanan of an old letter

(photograph by Andrew Buchanan)

Convenor: Dr Aidan Norrie

This course will familiarise students with English handwriting from the period 1500 to 1700. It will give students the skills to work with a range of English primary sources from the early modern period. Students will build a strong knowledge of early modern hands. The course will cover secretary, italic, and mixed scripts, both formal and informal. Students will learn common abbreviations used in handwritten documents, as well as the idiosyncratic letter forms that make primary sources from the period initially seem so difficult to transcribe.

You should finish the course feeling secure in your ability to engage with handwritten documents of the period. You should also feel confident to go forward and transcribe primary sources relevant to your research.

Seminars will involve individual and group work on a wide range of documents such as literary texts, religious texts, letters, parliamentary documents, financial accounts, and recipes.

The course will culminate in an informal exam.

Useful online resources and bibliography can be found on this page (right) and will be updated periodically.

All classes will be taught virtually via interactive seminars on Microsoft Teams on Mondays, 3:00-4:30pm (British time). Please note that the UK changes from BST to GMT on 31 October, so classes from Week 5 onwards are GMT. There is a minimum (and also a maximum) enrolment for this course. Classes will start on 11th October.

This course, run by Warwick's Centre for the Study of the Renaissance, does not confer university credits. However, on the basis of students' performance in the final test, the CSR can issue a certificate of completion and of having passed the course.

Students not enrolled in Warwick's Renaissance Centre pay £100 for the course at the beginning of term. Participants whose institution belongs to the Newberry Library Consortium may be eligible to receive CRS Consortium Grants to cover the cost of the course. (Contact your local consortium representative for details.)

Course Structure:

Week of Term Date Topic


11 Oct. Introduction to Palaeography and Printed Texts
3. 18 Oct. Introduction to Secretary Hand
4. 25 Oct. Abbreviations and Numbers in Secretary and Italic Hand
5. 1 Nov. Parliament/Government Documents in Secretary Hand
7. 15 Nov. Parliament/Government Documents in Italic Hand
8. 22 Nov. Letters in Secretary Hand and Italic Hand
9. 29 Nov. Miscellaneous Week (Mixed Hands)
10. 6 Dec. Conventions of Transcriptions and Test
Please note: the course will begin in Week 2 of Term 1, and will not meet during Reading Week (Week 6).
Participants accepted onto the 2021-22 course, should familiarise themselves with the applicable Terms & Conditions.

Early Modern English Palaeography at the National Archives


Early Modern English Palaeography Bibliography


Bodleian Library Tudor/Stuart Palaeography




Renaissance Palaeography iOS/Android app


English Palaeography 1350-1500:

1350-1500 Bibliography


Medieval Manuscripts app for iPhone and Android:


Late Medieval English Scribes


The Auchinleck manuscript:


The Cotton Nero A.x Project:


The Piers Plowman Electronic Archive: