What you'll learn

  • A style of handwriting known as notarial cursive, which was used for such documents across most of Europe in the later Middle Ages
  • The basic form of each letter, including variations and false positives
  • Standard abbreviations
  • Editing and navigation marks

Course description

Medieval Europe has preserved enormous quantities of books and documentsmany millions of pages, in factwritten in Latin and other languages. However, only a tiny percentage of these texts have been edited and published. To gain access to the rest, you need to learn the art and science of reading medieval handwriting,

This sixth module of The Book: Histories Across Time and Space introduces students to the world of medieval paleography, the science of reading old writing. This particular module focuses on notarial handwriting from the city of Marseille in the 14th and 15th centuries. The module features household inventories, which identify some of the fascinating objects found in people’s houses. Assessments and quizzes will allow you to track your progress as you move from letter-group to letter-group. In addition to learning the handwriting, we will take special care to explore some of the many abbreviations and other elements of the secular registers of the later Middle Ages.

Some knowledge of Latin or another Romance Language will be constructive for understanding the texts you will read, but students without these language skills will still enjoy this chance to explore medieval handiwork.

Faculty

Associated Schools

  • Harvard Faculty of Arts & Sciences

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