What is Palaeography?

Palaeography (British) or paleography (American) is the study of ancient handwriting. This discipline tackles two main difficulties.

First, how to decipher individual characters, because alphabets evolve constantly. Second, how to interpret the many abbreviations that scribes often used, partly to save space and also to speed up the writing process.

Deciphering ancient documents is a useful skill for a genealogist because knowledge about individual letter-forms, ligatures, punctuation, and abbreviations, enables the palaeographer to read the text as the scribe intended it to be read.