Practice letter transcription online

For anyone interested in learning more about paleography and letter transcription, or perhaps for recreational use, the National Archives has an online paleography tutorial. The letters are all English and mostly from the 16th and 17th centuries. There are ten letters to transcribe and the difficulty level increases with every letter. It was a very interesting tutorial for me, but it seemed that the ‘correct’ way to transcribe certain features such as full stops was not always consistent. Still, it is a useful exercise and especially the notes on the letters in each exercise provide enlightening information for those who have no experience in reading old letters. I have to admit that in the end I gave up after letter four and counted myself lucky that my research focuses on eighteenth century letters where the lettering has far less variation.

The URL for this tutorial is: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/palaeography/

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  1. sam

    There’s also the excellent English Handwriting 1500-1700 here: http://www.english.cam.ac.uk/ceres/ehoc/

    The NA site seems as good; I think the two sites are complementary for their features differ slightly.

    As someone editing letters written in secretary hand, I can say that the worst (i.e. most difficult to decipher) documents I’ve come across have been in “easy” italic hand – some people just had terrible handwriting!

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