Writing / The Alphabet

1. For the history of writing in general: Paul Sattler and Goetz
von Selle, Bibliographie zur Geschichte der Schrift bis in das Jahr
1930. Archiv fuer Bibliographie. Beiheft 17 (Linz: Winkler, 1935).
On handwriting in general; not totally trustworthy. For recent
bibliography, see the Bibliographie linguistique, 1939-.

2. Often praised for its theoretical underpinnings, and concise:
I. J. Gelb, A Study of Writing, rev. ed. (Chicago: UChicagoP,

3. A rather forbidding and linguistically oriented, but exhaustive,
work: The World's Writing Systems, ed. Peter T. Daniels and William
Bright (NY: Oxford UP, 1996). For the serious student. Signed
articles with bibliography.  Just as an aside: The article on the
Gothic alphabet is not very good and occasionally in error.

4. A good survey of writing systems for computer use: The Unicode
Standard, version 2.0 (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1996). Comes
with a CD-ROM. It intends to cover all writing systems.

5. Rather popular, but still good: Hans Jensen, Sign, Symbol and
Script, 3d. ed., tr. from the German by George Unwin (NY: G. P.
Putnam & Sons, 1969).

6. On the history of the alphabet, one of many: David Diringer, The
Alphabet, 2d ed. (NY: Philosophical Library, 1948).  Good coverage;
not overly technical.

7. For a rapid overview of Greek and Latin writing systems: B. L.
Ullman, Ancient Writing and its Influence (NY: Cooper Square, 1963;
repr. of a 1932 book).

                   Palaeography / Bibliography

1. Leonard E. Boyle, Medieval Latin Palaeography: a bibliographical
introduction. Toronto Medieval Bibliographies 8 (Toronto:
University of Toronto Press, 1984). A great bibliography with
commentary; well organized. Josefina & M. Dolores Mateu Ibars,
Bibliografia paleografica (Barcelona: Universidad, 1974). xxviii,
932 pp., 17 leaves of plates! Unwieldy, huge paperback, but worth

2. Scriptorium.  Contains each year a bibliography of codicology.

3. L'annee philologique.  Yearly bibliography.  See "Histoire des
textes: A. Paleographie: Histoire de l'ecriture et des manuscrits.
B. Papyrologie.  C. Critique des textes."

4. A fair set of Forschungsberichte is found in: II Convegno
dell'Associazione Italiana Paleografi e Diplomatisti.  Le Relazioni
(Milan: Universita degli Studi, 1984), on Latin codicology, Greek
codicology, Latin paleography and diplomatics.  See also the
Forschungsberichte by Jan-Olof Tjaeder, the well-known Swedish
papyrologist, in Eranos.


[In the following, I just try to cite one or two items, in my
opinion the most serviceable.  Fuller citations are given in the
bibliographies on each tradition.]

6.  For Latin paleography, etc., by far the best book is Bernhard
Bischoff, Palaeographie des roemischen Altertums und des
abendlaendischen Mittelalters. Grundlagen der Germanistik 24, 2d
ed. (Berlin: Schmidt, 1986).  Available also in an English
translation: Latin Palaeography. Antiquity and the Middle Ages, tr.
by Daibhi o Croinin and David Ganz (Cambridge UP, 1990). There is
also an Italian translation: Paleografia latina: antichita e
medioevo, edizione italiana a cura di Gilda P. Mantovani e Stefano
Zamponi (Padua: Editrice Antenore, 1992). A real goldmine is
Wilhelm Wattenbach, Das Schriftwesen im Mittelalter, 4th ed. (Graz:
Akademische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1958; reprint of 3d ed.,
Leipzig: Hirzel, 1896). A joy to read through. See particularly on
scribal verses and anathemas. As an aside: cf. Marc Drogin,
Anathema! Medieval Scribes and the History of Book Curses (Totowa,
NJ: Allanheld, 1983). For a readable and quick survey: E. A. Lowe,
"Handwriting," in The Legacy of the Middle Ages, ed. C. G. Crump &
E. F. Jacob (Oxford: Clarendon, 1926), 197-226.

7.  For Irish and Welsh, the two books by W. M. Lindsay, Early
Irish Minuscule Script.  St Andrews University Publications No. 6
(Oxford: Parker, 1910) and Early Welsh Script. St Andrews
University Publications No. 10 (Oxford: Parker, 1912) are still
usable.  See Denholm-Young under Old English (next).

8. For Old English a good start might be: Wolfgang Keller,
Angelsaechsische Palaeographie. 2 vols. Palaestra 43 (Berlin: Mayer
& Mueller, 1906), in spite of his "generative" bias.  Noel
Denholm-Young, Handwriting in England and Wales (Cardiff:
University of Wales, 1954) is often cited.  There are many special
studies and facsimiles, for which one can look at Stanley B.
Greenfield andd Fred C. Robinson, A Bibliography of Publications on
Old English Literature to the End of 1972 (Toronto: UToronto Press,
1982), and at Neil R. Ker's Catalogue of Manuscripts containing
Anglo-Saxon (Oxford: Clarendon, 1957).

9. For Old Norse the best first port of call is Palaeografi A.
Danmark och Sverige. and B. Norge og Island, both in Nordisk
Kultur, vol. 28.  Lars Svensson, Nordisk Paleografi. Lunda studier
i nordisk spraakvetenskap, Serie A, nr. 28 (Lund:
Studentlitteratur, 1974) covers the entire area of Old Norse
paleography.  For Old Icelandic, you can't beat Hreinn
Benediktsson, Early Icelandic Script (1965).  As usual, the
Kulturhistoriskt Lexikon is good for any particular point.

10. For Old French, Maurice Prou, Manuel de paleographie latine et
francaise du VIe au XVIIe siecle, 4th ed., 2 vols. (Paris: Picard,
1924). Long section on abbreviations.

11. For Old Spanish: Agustin Millares Carlo, Tratado de paleografia
espanola, 3d ed., by Jose Manuel Ruiz Asencio, 3 vols (Madrid:
Victoriano Suarez, 1983).  Very practical and includes, e.g.,
Catalan (Organya). Also useful: Zacarias Garcia Villada,
Paleografia espanola, 2 vols (Madrid: Nunez de Balboa, 1923).
Excellent plates. A small, but handy volume: Antonio C. Floriano
Cumbren~o, Curso general de paleografia (Oviedo: Universidad,

12. For German: Bischoff under Latin above; Joachim Kirchner,
Germanistische Handschriftenpraxis (Munich: Beck, 1950).  By one of
the old masters and still usable, particularly for codicology.  His
Lexikon des Buchwesens, 4 vols. (Stuttgart: Hiersemann, 1952-56) is
also a goldmine.

13. A gentle introduction is that of Bruce M. Metzger, Manuscripts
of the Greek Bible: an introduction to palaeography (NY: Oxfore UP,
1981). Edward Maunde Thompson, An introduction to Greek and Latin
palaeography (NY: Burt Franklin, 1965; repr. of 1912).  Edward
Maunde Thompson, A Handbook of Greek and Latin Palaeography (NY:
Appleton, 1893; repr. Chicago: Argonaut, 1966).  Both Thompsons are
way out of date, but they are good; remember that the Introduction
is larger than the Handbook. Bernhard Abraham van Groningen, Short
Manual of Greek Palaeography. 2d ed. (Leiden: Sijthoff, 1955).
Short, good to work through.

14. For Slavic alphabets: Thorvi Eckhardt, Azbuka. Versuch einer
Einfuehrung in das Studium der slavischen Palaeographie. Wiener
Archiv fuer Geschichte des Slawentums und Osteuropas 14 (Vienna:
Boehlau, 1989).  Do not forget to look at the "Bibliographisch-
Kritisches Nachwort," by Christian Hannick, which is more a
Forschungsbericht than a bibliography.  M. H. Riznyk, Pismo i
shrift: navchalnyi posibnyk dlia studentiv khudozhnikh institutiv
i universitetiv, 1978. English translation: Script and Print,
transl. by M. D. Zakharova (New Delhi: Arnold, 1988). For notation
in hymns, etc: V. M. Metallov, Russische Semeiographie: zur
Archaeologie und Palaeographie des Kirchengesangs; Palaographischer
Atlas der altrussischen linienlosen Gesangsnotationen, kommentiert
und herausgegeben von Johann von Gardner nach der Ausgabe des
Kaiserlichen Archaeologischen Instituts "Kaiser Nikolaus II",
Moskau, 1912 (Munich: Sagner, 1984). Useful.

15. Adriano Capelli, Lexicon abbreviaturarum, Dizionario di
abbreviature latine ed italiane, 6th ed. (Milan: Hoepli, 1961).
This is the most important source, reprinted over and over.  As
Boyle points out, it needs to be supplemented. A great source on
the web is http://www.ruhr-uni-
bochum.de/philosophy/projects/abbrev.htm.  This is the
Abbreviationes project by Olof Pluta, available on the Mac and the
PALM, but, alas, not on a PC platform.  Contact Dr. Pluta at

16. There are many, many good albums, e.g. Joachim Kirchner,
Scriptura latina libraria (Munich: Oldenbourg, 1955.  Ernst Crous
and Joachim Kirchner, Die gotischen Schriftarten (Leipzig:
Klinkhardt & Biermann, 1928). It is useful to xerox off the list of
hands in the end of Scriptura latina libraria as a first order
approximation for you in identifying types of writing.

17. Generative paleography.  To really `understand' a hand or a
script, you need to `generate' it, to try to write it yourself.
Books on handwriting and calligraphy:

Edward Johnston, Writing and Illuminating and Lettering, revised
ed. (NY: Pitman, 1944). There is a German translation of the first
edition: Schreibschrift, Zierschrift & angewandte Schrift, von
Edward Johnston, tr. Anna Simons, zweite deutsche Auflage (Leipzig:
Klinkhardt & Biermann, 1921). Alexander Nesbitt, The History and
Technique of Lettering (Dover T 427, 1957) is also good and shows
the angles at which the nib should be held in generating various
hands.  Alfred Fairbank, A Handwriting Manual (NY: Watson-Guptill,
1975) is more for learning how to do "Italic" hands, but
it is cheap and has good plates.  The Calligrapher's Handbook, ed.
C. M. Lamb (NY: Pentalic, 1976) is a collection of thirteen essays
by calligraphers and illuminators and is good and practical.