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The Times Higher Awards 2006

Short listed by The Times Higher Awards 2006 for the Most Imaginative Use of Distance Learning

Palaeography: reading old handwriting
1500 - 1800
A practical online tutorial

Palaeography is the study of old handwriting. This web tutorial will help you learn to read the handwriting found in documents written in English between 1500 and 1800.

At first glance, many documents written at this time look illegible to the modern reader. By reading the practical tips and working through the documents in the Tutorial in order of difficulty, you will find that it becomes much easier to read old handwriting. You can find more documents on which to practise your skills in the further practice section.

This tutorial has been developed in partnership with the School of Library, Archive and Information Studies (SLAIS)External website - link opens in a new window, University College London

Where to start

Tips on reading and transcribing documents.

Quick reference

Dating, numbers, money, measurements.


Ten documents of varying levels of difficulty, information about the documents and their historical backgrounds.

Further practice

More documents to practise on. New documents will be added periodically.

You can also learn Latin with our online tutorial for beginners