The term paleography comes from paleos (ancient) and spelling (writing). The first to use the term paleography was the Benedictine, Bernard de Montfaucon in his Paleographia graeca (1708).
A traditional definition of Paleography describes it as the treaty of ancient writings drawn on soft material supports (paper, papyrus, parchment) as opposed to the epigraphy that studies the writings drawn on hard writing materials (marble, bronze, etc.).
Paleography is currently understood in a broader sense as (Sánchez Prieto, 2010) «the historiographical science whose purpose is to study writing in general, and especially the evolution over time of graphic forms and their mode of execution, as well as all those factors of any kind (technological, economic, social, cultural, political, aesthetic, etc.) that condition them ».
The palaeographer is the person who is dedicated to paleography or who has a special command of the language of texts, styles, abbreviations, anagrams, ligograms, etc., all of them, knowledge necessary to decipher the old text, date it and assign a place of origin.
The manual begins with an introduction to the subject: concept of Paleography, object, limits and division of the Spanish diplomatic Paleography.
The author then reviews the historical evolution of writing in Spain during the twelfth to seventeenth centuries and conducts an analytical study of Spanish writing during that period: the different kinds of writing used in each era, alphabets, abbreviations systems, Signs and spelling.
Finally, it includes a collection of document facsimiles from the 12th to the 17th centuries, to practice the theoretical concepts learned.
The proposed paleographic reading exercises first present the current writing version of the documents that are subsequently reproduced in facsimile. The method proposes not to alter the order of the exercises so that at the same time that the necessary practice for reading is acquired, the transformations that successively the writing was experiencing are observed.
Editor’s Note: This edition is a reproduction of the original book published before 1923.
ONLINE PALEOGRAPHY COURSES
There are tools, programs and applications that facilitate the study of online paleography. For example, this interesting selection of courses to learn elementary paleography on the Internet prepared by Leonor Zozaya and which you can see in this article “Online paleography courses: Inheritance, limitations, achievements and proposal”. If you are interested in Paleography this is an excellent resource.