On this page I do not present yet another online tutorial for palaeography, probably the most used and certainly most practical historical auxiliary science. Palaeography is the discipline aiming at the study and decipherment of old scripts and transferring texts into modern writing systems. Some tutorials provide very rich materials for exercises. The websites presented here are alphabetically ordered by country and period. I indicate also their focus on manuscripts or archival records.

You will need palaeographical skills not only for reading manuscripts and archival records. Abbreviations and peculiar letter forms are also present in printed books and documents. You can find here information about books and tools dealing with abbreviations. Knowledge of palaeography also helps to determine the date and origin of documents without an indication of time and location. You will be able to depend less on existing editions, transcriptions and translations. It will bring you closer to written sources, their content and the history of writing.

Legal abbreviations are the subject on my page Abbreviationes.

Palaeography as one of the historical auxiliary sciences was founded by the Benedictine monk and scholar Jean Mabillon (1632-1707) in his work De re diplomatica libri VI (Paris 1681; online, Landesbibliothek Oldenburg). With other monks belonging to the Congregation of St. Maur – see the blog Analecta Maurina – which was led from the abbey of St. German-des-Prés he made extensive travels to libraries in France and abroad to investigate historical sources. Another monk of this congregation, Bernard de Montfaucon (1655-1741), coined the neologism palaeography in the title of his study Palaeographia Graeca (Paris 1708).

A growing number of institutions invoke the help of the public to transcribe or index digitized resources. At portal sites such as Zooniverse, Citizen Archivist (NARA), Smithsonian Digital VolunteersEuropeana Transcribe, DigiVol and From The Page you will find a wide variation of projects. For the Netherlands the portal Vele Handen (Many Hands) is home to many projects. Zooniverse, too, has a number of Dutch projects at Wikiscripta Neerlandica II.

General sites

  • Ad fontes, Universität Zürich – a tutorial for medieval and Early Modern archival records from several countries, with also transcription rules; you can register as a user; interface German, English and French
  • School, Virtual Hill Museum and Manuscript Library, St. John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota – with currently tutorials for European, Syrian and Arabic manuscripts; there is also further information about scripts and languages, and a lexicon for terms concerning manuscripts
  • EPHE Palaeography Tutorial, École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris – a tutorial with exercises, not only with texts, but also with coins from many periods and countries in a variety of languages; interface French and English
  • L’aventure des écritures, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris – an educational website about book history, the history of scripts and writing supports, with a bibliography
  • 5300 Jahre Schrift, Materiale Textkulturen, Heidelberg – the web version of a book on the history of scripts with fifty chapters
  • Palaeography, The Schøyen Collection – a tour of scripts all over the world in seven sections, with also filters for several themes such as the law
  • Alte Schriften, N. Bartz – a huge collection of historical scripts
  • READ: Recognition and Enrichment of Archival Documents – an international platform for electronic character recognition of handwriting
  • MONK, Universiteit Groningen and Nationaal Archief, The Hague – a Dutch project for electronic decipherment of manuscripts and archival records

Middle Ages

Early Modern period (1500-1800)

  • Script Tutorials, Brigham Young University – tutorials for Dutch, German, English, French, Portuguese and Spanish documents, with primarily attention to genealogical resources (parish registers, records of baptism, marriage, etc.), partially still under construction, and also texts in Latin; interface English and source languages
  • Transkribus LEARN – a new tutorial for learning to read Early Modern archival records, with documents from several European countries

Apps for palaeography

  • Abbreviationes, Olaf Pluta, Ruhr-Universität Bochum – a commercial app for deciphering abbreviated words, one of the earliest online tools for palaeography
  • App fontes, Zürich – an app version of the Ad fontes tutorial, with also tools for chronology (Grotefend) and location names (Graesse, Orbis latinus)
  • Medieval handwriting, Leeds University Library – freeware – both manuscripts and archival records
  • English Renaissance handwriting, Leeds University Library – freeware – manuscripts and archival records
  • Gotisk håndskrift, Arkivverket – a Norwegian app created by the national archival service – freeware

Abbreviations deserve special attention:

  • Dictionnaire des abréviations françaises, Theleme, École nationale de Chartes, Paris – abbreviations in French historical sources; note also the extensive bibliography by Marc Smith concerning the study of palaeography
  • Abréviations paléographiques, IRHT, Paris-Orleans – a concise illustrated overview of the various forms of abbreviations in medieval French – and Latin – texts
  • Diccionario de Abreviaturas Novohispanas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico – abbreviations in Early Modern Spanish and Latin archival records, with a tutorial, images of archival documents and a bibliography
  • Abbreviations, The Cotton Nero A.x. Project, University of Calgary – some abbreviations in Middle English literary texts

You can consult online several (older) manuals for deciphering medieval and later abbreviations:

  • Adriano Cappelli, Lexicon abbreviaturarum / Dizionario di abbreviature latine ed italiane – the most used guide for deciphering Roman and medieval abbreviations; there is a database version created by Ad fontes in Zurich, a web version or you use the German edition 1928 (Universitäts- und Stadtbibliothek Köln) and a shortened English version [The elements of abbreviation in medieval palaeography, David Heimann and Richard Kay (transl.) (1982)]
  • Johann Ludolf Walther, Lexicon diplomaticum : abbreviationes syllabarum et vocum in diplomatibus et codicibus (Göttingen 1752; reprint Hildesheim 1973) – online, Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Düsseldorf – a book using beautiful fonts and fine calligraphy
  • Adolphe Chassant, Dictionnaire des abréviations latines et françaises (Paris 1886) – online, Internet Archive
  • T. Martin, The record interpreter: a collection of abbreviations, Latin words and names used in English historical manuscripts and records (2nd ed., London, 1910) – online, Internet Archive
  • Reinhold Merkelbach and Helmut van Thiel, Lateinisches Leseheft zur Einführung in Paläographie und Textkritik (Göttingen 1969) – online, Digi20, Digitale Sammlungen, Bayerisches Staatsbibliothek, Munich
  • Marek Winiarczyk, Sigla latina in libris impressis occurrentia cum siglorum Graecorum appendice (2nd ed., Wroclaw 1995) – there is an OCR-scanned online version at the CAMENA digital library of the Universität Mannheim; there is a German version, Abkürzungen aus Personalschriften des XVI. bis XVIII. Jahrhunderts (3rd ed., Wiesbaden 2002)

The blog Aktenkunde offers a useful list of printed works on Early Modern abbreviations in Germany.

Classical Antiquity

There are many good introduction to epigraphy, the study of ancient inscriptions, but only a few sites deal with the scripts used:

Papyri – see also Museums and legal history

Some subjects cover multiple periods and/or countries, and even continents:

Arabic palaeography


  • Indoskript, Harry Falk and Oliver Hellwig, Berlin – for Brahmi and Kharosthi script, classical scripts in India; the version 1.0 can still be downloaded

Byzantine palaeography

  • Byzantine paleography, Internet History Sourcebooks, Paul Halsall, Fordham University – an introduction to the palaeography of sources for Byzantine history from Antiquity to the Middle Ages

Greek palaeography

  • Pyle. A Gateway to Greek Manuscripts – an international portal with a fine selection of links, including for palaeography
  • Reinhold Merkelbach and Helmut van Thiel, Griechisches Leseheft zur Einführung in Paläographie und Textkritik (Göttingen 1965) – online, Digi20, Digitale Sammlungen, Bayerisches Staatsbibliothek, Munich

Latin America


Haiti and Dominican Republic


You can benefit from the online version of Jesus Muñoz y Rivero’s Manual de paleografia diplomatica española de los siglos XII al XVII (Madrid 1880; second edition, 1917) and Margaret Dunaway, Palaeographical and ortographical characteristics of certain sixteenth-century Spanish-American letters (M.A. thesis, Rice University, Houston, 1989).

At the Biblioteca Digital del Pensamiento Novohispano is a page with Criterios de la transcripción paleográfica de los textos, also in a shortened English version.

Here below you will find websites for and mostly from individual countries


Belgium and the Netherlands

  • Transcriberen van Middelnederlandse teksten [Transcribing Middle Dutch texts], Hans Kienhorst and Mikel Kors, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen – this tutorial focuses on manuscripts with literary texts in Middle Dutch
  • Zelf Middeleeuws schrift lezen [Reading medieval script yourself], Frits van Oostrom – nearly twenty examples of manuscripts with medieval Dutch literary texts and transcriptions
  • Iter Dig-italicum, een digitale reis door Leuvense handschriften [Iter Dig-italicum. A digital journey through manuscripts at Leuven], Universiteitsbibliotheek, Leuven – a fine tutorial at Louvain with a wide variety of manuscript images from the medieval and Early Modern period, with Coptic and Arabic manuscriopts, and also examples of sixteenth-century letters, a bibliography and a good links section
  • Transcriptiehandleiding [Guide for transcribing], Cartago – on this platform with digitized editions of medieval charters you can benefit from this guide for transcribing Middle Low German and Latin texts; a version in German is not yet present
  • Wat Staat Daer? [What’s That?] – an online tutorial and forum created by three archives in the Dutch province Noord-Brabant, now with support from Utrecht (Het Utrechts Archief), Middelburg (Zeeuws Archief) and Haarlem (Noord-Hollands Archief), in particular for Early Modern archival records
  • Cursus Nederlandse paleografie, 16e t/m 18e eeuw, Universiteit van Amsterdam – a guide for reading literary texts in Dutch written between 1500 and 1800
  • Paleografie, Geneaknowhow.Net, Hein Vera and Herman de Wit – a downloadable tutorial, with a bibliography
  • Haagse handschriften [Manuscripts at The Hague] – an offer for courses at the municipal archives of The Hague with a sixteenth-century register of sentences in criminal cases, and lots of useful information about Dutch history and paleography and the history of The Hague
  • Hendrick Hamel’s journal and the description of Korea in the 17th century, Henny Savenije – Savenije shows transcriptions below each text line, and he provides a word-to-word translation
  • Letters en woorden in 19e-eeuws handschrift [Letter forms and words in nineteenth-century Dutch script] – a PDF for the project around the slavery registers of Suriname, originating from the crowdsourcing Vele Handen project [Many Hands], more specifically for transcribing military registers and registers of causes of death in Amsterdam


Czech Republic

  • Hana Patkova, Latin palaeography in Central Europe, Digital Editing of Medieval Manuscripts – an introduction (PDF) to manuscripts and charters in medieval Bohemia
  • Dalibor Havel and Helena Krmickova, Paleografická cítanka. Literárni texty [Paleographic exercises: Literay texts] (Brno 2014) – a manual (PDF) for Czech medieval palaeography
  • Čítanka starých textů [Exercises with old texts], Genebáze – twelve examples of Early Modern and nineteenth-century scripts on a genealogical website
  • Paleografická cítanka, Zdenka Hledikova and Jaroslav Kaspar, Charles University, Prague – exercises in Czech palaeography with manuscripts and archival records from the eleventh to the late nineteenth century; needs DjVU plugin
  • Interaktivní paleografická čítanka, Petra Vorla, Univerzity Pardubice – online exercises with several types of Early Modern archival records



  • La paléographie, FranceArchives – a concise guide to French palaeography, with links to courses and online tutorials created by rgeional archives, and useful more resources
  • Paléographie médiévale, Dominique Stutzmann – an online courses with medieval documents
  • Album interactif de paléographie médiévale, Université Lyon/CNRS – one of the earliest interactive tutorials online; sources in Latin, French and Italian (ninth to fifteenth century)
  • Initiation à la paléographie, Institut de Sciences de l’Homme, Lyon/CNRS – a tutorial for beginners with eight Early Modern documents
  • French Renaissance Palaeography, The Newberry Library, Chicago and University of Toronto – for archival records and manuscripts from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century, with a very full list of French abbreviations
  • Cours de paléographie, Stéphane Pouyllau and Eric Camille Voirin – an online tutorial with Early Modern documents
  • Paléographie en ligne, Baptiste Etienne and Jean-François Viel – an online tutorial, partially free accessible, with an accompanying blog
  • Paléographie en ligne: Textes de paléographie transcrits et commentés, Archives Départementales de la Haute Garonne, Toulouse – three Early Modern documents with transcription, including the famous verdict by the Parlement de Toulouse on Martin Guerre (1560)
  • Module Paléographie, Archives Départementales d’Indre-et-Loire, Tours – a tutorial with a large variety of Early Modern sources, a concise bibliography and links to other online tutorials
  • Espace du paléographe, Archives Départementales de Meurthe-et-Moselle, Nancy – with documents from the eleventh to the eighteenth century
  • Ressources pour la paléographie, Archives Départementales d’Herault, Montpellier – with exercises on basic and advanced levels, a concise bibliography and transcription guidelines

Ad fontes has created a PDF with guidelines for transcriptions, Critères d’édition.


  • Paläographie Online, Peter Orth (Universität Erlangen) and Georg Vogeler (LMU, Munich) – in particular medieval sources
  • Kurrentschrift – this tutorial for German cursive scripts uses famous poems in its exercises
  • Kurrentschrift Schreiblehrgang. Margarete Mucke – with documents written by famous Germans
  • Sütterlinschrift lesen / Frakturschrift lesen – with examples from various kind of records and books; interface German, English and French
  • Digitale Schriftkunde, Generaldirektion der Staatlichen Archiven Bayern – an online tutorial with examples of archival records in Bavaria from the eighth to the twentieth century
  • Schriftbeispiele, Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin-Dahlem – some examples of handwriting form the seventeenth to the nineteenth century, with commentaries; you can benefit also from the introductions to German bureaucracy (Aktenkunde)
  • Kurs: Paläographie, Wikiversity – an online tutorial with only three texts, but with much information, guidance, bibliographical information and links
  • Lesehilfen für die alte deutsche Schrift, Hessisches Landesarchiv – not an online tutorial, but nevertheless eight PDF’s for Early Modern palaeography with reading tips, charts with letterforms, and an overview of eighteenth-century scripts, mainly taken from Hellmut Gutzwiller, ‘Die Entwicklung der Schrift in der Neuzeit’, Archiv für Diplomatik, Schriftgeschichte, Siegel- und Wappenkunde 38 (1992) 434-449; on the page Leseübungen you will find PDF’s with examples of documents from the nineteenth and twentieth century
  • Hans Wilhelm Eckardt, Gabriele Stüber and Thomas Trumpp, “Thun kund und zu wissen jedermänniglich”. Paläographie – Archivalische Textsorten – Aktenkunde (Cologne 1999, Archivhefte, 32; online, Archive im Rheinland (PDF)) – a German manual for archival theory and the palaeography of archival records
  • Über die Kurrentschrift, Archivführer Deutsche Kolonialgeschichte, Fachhochschule Potsdam – a concise introduction to Kurrentschrift, in a German, English and French version, with even a Kurrentschreibmaschine
  • Deutsche Paläographie des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts, Benoit Vaillot – a useful blog with exercises for Fraktur, Kurrentschrift and Sütterlin; interface German, English and French

The Archivschule Marburg has a web page with transcri ption rules, Transkriptionrsichtlinie. You might also read Johannes Schultze, ‘Richtlinien für die äußere Textgestaltung bei Herausgabe von Quellen zur neueren deutschen Geschichte’Blätter für deutsche Landesgeschichte 98 (1962) 1-11, or the recent manual by Burkhard Beyer, Praktische Tipps für die Edition landesgeschichtlicher Quellen (Münster 2018) (PDF).


  • Handritin heima – a website concerning medieval Icelandic literature, manuscripts and script with a tutorial; interface Icelandic, Swedish, Danish and German

Ad fontes (Zürich) offers special transcription rules for Nordistik (PDF).


  • Karel Holle, Tabel van oud en nieuw-Indische alphabetten (Buitenzorg 1877) – a classic introduction; online, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek; English version: ‘Table of Old and New Indic Alphabets: Contribution to the Paleography of the Dutch Indies’, Written Language and Literacy 2/2 (1999) 167-245.



You can download an Italian manual for transcribing and editing medieval texts at the Archivio di Stato di Lucca: Giampaolo Tognetti (ed.), Criteri per la trascrizione di testi medievali latini e italiani (Rome 1982; PDF, 5 MB). The introduction to Latin palaeography by G. Costamagna, Perchè scriviamo così. Invito alla paleografia latina (Rome 1987) is available online (PDF’s).



  • Dawne Pismo (Old handwriting), Archiwum Narodowe w Krakowie (State Archives Cracow) – with examples of archival records from the Middle Ages to modern times, you can also play games or workout puzzles; interface Polish, English and German
  • Lublin w dokumencie [Lublin in documents), Archivum Panstwowe i Lublinie (State Archives Lublin) – with archival records created between 1300 and 1600; interface Polish
  • Neografia, Rotulus – attention to German script and archival records on this website about archives, archiving and historical sources; interface Polish





United Kingdom

Some project focus on resources from Scotland:

United States of America