InScribe: Palaeography learning materials (free course)

Medievalists have always found it difficult to interact with primary sources from their period of study due to a lack of training in palaeography (and manuscript studies), that is to say, the reading and understanding of ancient documents. This course provides scholars and the general public interested in medieval books and documents with online training on the diverse areas found within palaeography.

Course Details

About the InScribe Project

The difficulty in obtaining palaeographical training at a HE level is increasingly being pointed out as a hindrance for postgraduate medievalists and interested members of the wider public. This distance learning module is aimed at filling this void as a complement to other traditional methods of palaeographical training. Its purpose is to provide the necessary training required by non-specialists to allow them to explore and interact with medieval manuscripts and documents. Thus, after an introductory (free) module presenting general palaeographical topics and an overall view of the evolution of script in the medieval period, you will be able to undertake one of four advanced modules (or pathways) to further your knowledge within the different areas of palaeography and manuscript studies.

The course structure comprises the following modules:  

  • Palaeography: An Overview (training module)
  • Script and Transcription (training module)
  • Diplomatic (training module) (NOT AVAILABLE)
  • Codicology (training module) (NOT AVAILABLE)
  • Illumination (training module) (NOT AVAILABLE)

Palaeography: An Overview: This is the introductory component which all students taking the course will have to do. It presents you with some initial practicalities relating to the process of transcribing from a digital manuscript image as well as a first approach to the evolution of script(s) in medieval books and documents.

Script and Translation: This module is a continuation of the general introduction made in the previous section about history of script. Individual scripts (book-hands and documentary hands) are studied in detail as to ascertain to what extent they can allow us to determine the origin and date of production of a given document. 

Diplomatic (NOT AVAILABLE): This module introduces the concept of ‘diplomatic’ and presents you with the complex typology of documents produced during the medieval period. Unlike in the other modules, here particular emphasis will be placed on the content of the documents, especially on the formulaic conventions used.

Codicology (NOT AVAILABLE): This module explores the physical side of the manuscript. Areas such as binding, lay-out, collation will be considered in order to study the physicality of the medieval book and the types of information it can provide us with.

Illumination (NOT AVAILABLE): This final advanced module is aimed especially at art historians with an interest in the art of manuscript illumination. Topics will include terminology, the decorative elements and different schools and styles.


This course will give you enough knowledge to move forward with your own research with primary source materials in new and exciting ways.