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English Palaeography: Academic Year 2022-23

Photograph by Andrew Buchanan of an old letter

(photograph by Andrew Buchanan)

Convenor: Dr Esther van Raamsdonk

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 Wednesdays, 15:00-16:30, starting 12th October 2022.

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 Centre for the Study of the Renaissance pay £180 at the beginning of term. Participants from institutions belonging to the Newberry Library's Center for Renaissance Studies Consortium may be able to claim their fees back from local Newberry funds; ask your local representative for more information.

Places on the course are limited, so selection will be based on the details given in your brief application. Registration form can be found here.Link opens in a new window Deadline for initial applications is 1st September 2022.

Course Structure:

Week of Term Date Topic


12 Oct 2022 Introduction to Palaeography and Printed Texts
3. 19 Oct 2022 Introduction to Secretary Hand
4. 26 Oct 2022 Abbreviations and Numbers in Secretary and Italic Hand
5. 2 Nov 2022 Parliament/Government Documents in Secretary Hand
7. 16 Nov 2022 Parliament/Government Documents in Italic Hand
8. 23 Nov 2022 Letters in Secretary Hand and Italic Hand
9. 30 Nov 2022 Miscellaneous Week (Mixed Hands)
10. 7 Dec 2022 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 2022-23 course, should familiarise themselves with the applicable T&Cs, including cancellation policy. HERE

Early Modern English Palaeography at the National ArchivesLink opens in a new window


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: