Of Paleography & Paper: A short and woefully-incomplete reader’s guide

pa·le·og·ra·phy pālēˈäɡrəfē n. The study ancient and historical writing and the manuscripts/documents produced using them. From the Greek: παλαιός, palaiós, “old”, and γράφειν, graphein, “to write”. Paleographer, Paleographic

(h/t Wikipedia for the etymological assist, rendering the Greek roots in a web-readable format)

I am a book magpie, and these are the most-consulted books on my shelf with regard to our project’s focus on calligraphy. I am also currently writing a book about a paleographer and her exploits. Many of the books I’ve acquired on this subject are quite old, and most of them are either out of print or have been reprinted endlessly.

The Newe Book of Copies especially is of vital importance to writing (or understanding the writing) of the Elizabethan era, but without it you can still learn the Secretarie Hand from the online resources I included at the end.

As mentioned in the title, this list is incomplete and probably always will be. I am always and forever open to new and interesting titles to carry away to my bookshelf-lined nest, so please do not hesitate to make a recommendation.

~ Scott


The Calligrapher’s Library

A History of Writing by Steven Roger Fischer | University of Chicago Press for Reaktion Books Ltd, 2005

A Newe Book of Copies 1574: A facsimile of a unique Elizabethan Writing Book, Edited by Berthold Wolpe | Bodleian Library, Oxford University Press, 1962 (out of print)

Elizabethan Handwriting 1500-1650, A Manual, Giles E. Dawson & Letitia Kennedy Skipton| Folger Shakespeare Library, WW Norton & Company, 1966 (out of print)

Lessons in Formal Writing, Edward Johnston, edited by Heather Child & Justin Howes | Taplinger Publishing Co, 1986

Medieval Calligraphy; Its History & Technique, by Marc Drogin | Dover Publishing, 1980

The Art of Written Forms: The Theory & Practice of Calligraphy, by Donald M. Anderson |
University of Wisconsin, Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, Inc, publishers, 1969

The Calligrapher’s Handbook, Various authors, edited by Heather Child | The Society of Scribes & Illuminators of London, Taplinger Publishing Co, 1986

The Complete Book of Papermaking, by Josep Asunción | Lark Books, 2003

The Parish Clerks of London; A History of the Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks of London, by Reginald H. Adams | Sponsored by The Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks & the Mark Mitch Fund, Phillimore & Co. Ltd, publishers, 1971

Writing & Illuminating & Lettering, by Edward Johnston |  Pitman Publishing Ltd 1906, 1977 (available as a free eBook from Project Gutenberg)


Some helpful websites (all links active as of September 2018)

Paleography at the National Archives (UK) http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/palaeography/doc3/default.htm

Rediscovering Rycote: The History of a Lost Tudor Mansion (Bodleian Archive, Oxford) http://rycote.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/Palaeography-Guide-alphabet

I Learned to Read Secretary Hand (and So Can You!), blog post by Erin Blake | Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC, US

Basic Advice for Reading Secretary Hand (PDF) at Folgerpedia | Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC, US

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