Learn to read historic handwriting

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Example transcriptions are provided by scholars and experts in the field of palaeography. Explore the fascinating world of ancient writing.

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As a teacher or palaeographer you can add your own manuscripts and make them available to your students, or interest group.

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Newest Documents

Report on the Nopalry Gardens at Madras (Chennai), 1789

This is a Letter from Dr James Anderson to the Governor in Council, Madras, presenting his plan to propagate the Cochineal insect at the East India Company Nopalry Garden, plus a letter of instruction from Anderson to Dr Andrew Berry, nominating him to run the Nopalry. The letters contain details of the budget for the Garden, and instructions for digging and planting. The letters are written in a small, consistent rounded italic cursive, and the author uses heavy strokes on descending lines.

Council protocol of Bozen, 1794

This is a cursive written document in german language. It contains the council protocols of the city Bozen.

Papal bull for Königsfelden Abbey, 1333

Written in a diplomatic minuscule the script is tipical for the papal chancery of the 14th century. Abbreviations are transcribed using according Unicode characters.

Easy Learning - "La Aurora", 18th Century Kurrent, Spanish

This is an "Easy Learning" document. It is a computer transcription of the "La Aurora" in 18th Century Kurrent script. García Lorca achieved international recognition as an emblematic member of the Generation of '27, a group consisting of mostly poets who introduced the tenets of European movements (such as symbolism, futurism, and surrealism) into Spanish literature.

Documents For Beginners

Letters to the Government of Bengal, 1790

Copies of letters sent to the Government of Bengal by botanists, including Robert Kyd and Dr William Roxburgh, reporting on the cultivation of Mawah and Teak trees, the discovery of a new species of Indigo (Nerium tinctorium), and attempts to propagate the Cochineal insect in the Calcutta Nopalry garden. The letters are written in a large, consistent italic cursive. The writer often embellishes capital letters with flourishes, and uses ampersands (&). Contracted words are often indicated with superscript final letters.

Easy Learning - "Pride and Prejudice", 18th Century Kurrent, English

This is an "Easy Learning" document. It is a computer transcription of "Pride and Prejudice" in 18th Century Kurrent script. Pride and Prejudice is a romantic novel by Jane Austen, first published in 1813. The story charts the emotional development of the protagonist, Elizabeth Bennet, who learns the error of making hasty judgments and comes to appreciate the difference between the superficial and the essential.

Easy Learning - "The Secret Adversary", Cöntgen Kanzley, English

This is an "Easy Learning" document. It is a computer transcription of "The Secret Adversary" in Cöntgen Kanzley script. "The Secret Adversary" is the second published detective fiction novel by British writer Agatha Christie, first published in January 1922 in the United Kingdom.

Jeremy Bentham (easier handwriting), 1822

These documents consist of personal papers written by the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) and his secretaries. Original copies of these documents are held at University College London. This is a sample of easier handwriting which is suitable for beginners. Volunteers working on the Transcribe Bentham crowdsourcing initiative (http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/transcribe-bentham/) may like to use these documents to practice deciphering Bentham’s handwriting.