Thursday, March 08, 2007

Classification of Scripts

On Medieval Writing I had originally intended to produce a broad outline of the history of scripts and their classification, and then zoom in on specific areas to explain them in more detail. However, while there are broad chronological and geographical trends in the history of handwriting styles, variation is really on a continuum. The closer you look, the more the concept of distinctive named classes of handwriting seems to be an illusion.
Paleography is a subject of many detailed expertises, and researchers may develop elaborate classificatory schemes within their own area of expertise, be it the insular minuscule family, Gothic book hands or the varieties of what used to be called English court hand. Such writers may then dismiss the rest of the literate world in very broad classificatory strokes. Furthermore, even the experts do not necessarily agree on the terminology within their own specialities.
Another problem is that certain geographical areas or types of writing have been heavily studied and written about, while others are known only to the most esoteric of experts. For example, how did they write in medieval Poland or Hungary or Bohemia? I seem to be doing most of my research on Spanish paleography on eBay!
I'm not quite sure how to attack this problem on the website, especially in relation to the development of cursive hands of the later middle ages. Nevertheless, hopefully there will be some valiant attempts as I try to make sense of the mounds of original handwritings and photographic reproductions that are piled in my study. The results my be quite radical.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Il semble que vous soyez un expert dans ce domaine, vos remarques sont tres interessantes, merci.

- Daniel