Medieval Writing
Guide to Using Paleography Exercises
These exercises are designed to allow you to explore a document or a block of text from a manuscript book, pointing out significant features and encouraging you to try to read the script. You will be taken first to an overview page with a small image of the complete page, text block or document. You probably won't be able to read it at this magnification, but there will be a brief commentary pointing out general features. Near the bottom of the page is a navigation bar which will look something like the following:

| overview | text | alphabet | abbreviations | exercises | transcript | translation |

If you click on the text option you will be taken to a page, or pages, with an enlarged version of the text which is large and clear enough to read. This may entail downloading a largish graphic file, so please be patient. Once it is in your cache things will speed up considerably. The text images have been taken from photographs of genuine manuscripts. They are mostly black and white, and occasionally have been derived from photocopies. They have been enhanced to be as clear as possible, but they have not been tinkered with to remove anomalies, so there are the same sorts of difficulties as you have with the real thing.

The alphabet option will take you to a page of interactive animation which points out particular letters in the text, as opposed to seeing the letters in isolation.

The abbreviations option works in a similar way. You click on words and the abbreviated version is pointed out in the text.

The exercises option takes you to a page of little reading exercises to get your eye in. There are multiple choice questions and exercises in typing out small sections of text. There are no marks or scores and you can do them as many times and in whatever order you like. The computer will give you the correct answer, or what we think is the correct answer.

The transcript option will bring up a complete transcript of the document or text block in a small popup window. This can be left open while you are looking at the other pages so that you can compare the transcript with the photographic image. You can move it around or resize it at your convenience. Yes Virginia, there is a genuine use for popup windows. The transcript indicates all abbreviations and some special features of the text.

The translation option appears if the text is in Latin or French, or there may be a modern paraphrase option if the text is in Old or Middle English. This also appears in a popup window, so you can get the general sense of the text.

In the case of some documents, such as charters, there may be a structure option which works you interactively through the diplomatic of the document. There may be extra options for particular examples, to examine a seal or an illustration or a particularly elaborate heading or initial.

Once you have worked through all the pages, you can try doing a transcript for yourself from the text pages, checking it against our transcript. Of course, if you don't agree with us, it doesn't necessarily mean that you are wrong. There is always some room for discussion on these things.

If you want to get rid of the frame structure of the site so that you can do the exercises using your whole screen, just type in

in the address box, or click here. You can always restore the frame structure with the little fix at the bottom of each page.

Paleography Exercises

If you are looking at this page without frames, there is more information about medieval writing to be found by going to the home page (framed) or the site map (no frames).
This site is created and maintained by Dr Dianne Tillotson, freelance researcher and compulsive multimedia and web author. Comments are welcome. Material on this web site is copyright, but some parts more so than others. Please check here for copyright status and usage before you start making free with it. This page last modified 6/4/2005.