ARCV41330 Introduction to Palaeography: Medieval and Early Modern Scripts

Academic Year 2023/2024

This module provides an introduction to medieval and early modern palaeography. Using mainly Irish and British manuscripts and archives as case studies, students will learn how to identify, describe and transcribe a series of medieval and early modern scripts. These scripts include Insular majuscule and minuscule, Gothic textura, anglicana and secretary. The module sets the development of handwriting in the context of broader social and political change within Ireland and Great Britain and explores how scripts were influenced by European scribal traditions. It outlines the basic principles and the key practices of editing a medieval text and introduces students to the diplomatic tools, which assist the understanding of a range of medieval and early modern archives.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:
Define key palaeographical concepts;
Transcribe a range of scripts;
Describe a range of scripts in terms of characteristic letter forms, ligatures, abbreviation, punctuation;
Employ the tools of diplomatics to interpret medieval and early modern archives;
Assess the impact of function and historical context on the appearance of scripts.

Indicative Module Content:

The module will cover the following broad areas: Week 1: Introduction to Palaeography and the Roman System of Scripts; Week 2 Insular Majuscule; Week 3 Insular Minuscule; Week 4: The Gaelic Tradition Week 5 Introduction to Gothic ; Week 6 Gothic; Week 7: Gothic Weeks 8 and 9 Spring Break; Week 10 Secretary Hand; Week 11; Secretary Hand ; Week 12: Secretary Hand, Week 13: Secretary Hand; Week 14 Secretary Hand.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Autonomous Student Learning


Seminar (or Webinar)


Online Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
‘This is a small-group module. It is taught through a two-hour weekly seminar. The seminar provides an overview of the key features of the script which is being discussed using each script to introduce the language and method of palaeography. Each seminar then focuses upon individual active / task-based learning by means of in-class transcription exercises carried out individually or as part of a group and then group discussion to identify the features of the script evident in the text transcribed. Advanced research, writing and transcription skills are developed through the completion of numerous class transcriptions and through assignments which allow students to focus on the discussion of the scripts of particular manuscripts. Autonomous learning is advanced through discussion of various texts and the occasional provision of practice texts for transcription from one week to the next. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Introduction to Palaeography (HIS41330)

Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Assignment: Assignment focusing on late antique and medieval scripts. Varies over the Trimester n/a Graded No


Assignment: Assignment focusing on late medieval and early modern scripts. Varies over the Trimester n/a Graded No



Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Summer No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Written feedback is provided individually to students in Brightspace and/or on hardcopy transcription tests. Group / class feedback is given orally after the written assignment. Students are able to avail of individual feedback meetings by appointment after both assignments.

Name Role
Assoc Professor Niamh Pattwell Lecturer / Co-Lecturer