previous next

Palaeography

(from παλαιός+γράφειν). The science which has to do with the study of ancient manuscripts, comprising their decipherment, and the determination of their date, genuineness, and origin. Strictly speaking, palaeography deals only with the external characteristics of a codex, while the study and criticism of its internal characteristics fall under the general department of Textual Criticism. (See Textual Criticism.) Palaeography also differs from epigraphy in being concerned with writings upon leather, papyrus, vellum, and other soft substances, while epigraphy treats of writing engraved upon stone, metal, etc. See Epigraphy.

Papyrus of Artemisia. (Third Century, B.C.)

The oldest existing manuscripts are the papyri found in the Egyptian tombs, the most ancient of all being the so-called Papyrus Prisse, which is the oldest book in the world, dating from the eleventh dynasty, and therefore earlier than the date at which the Book of Exodus was composed. The oldest classical manuscript is the papyrus containing the Greek text of the Antiope of Euripides, which dates from about the second century B.C. See Papyrus, p. 1173.

The subject matter of palaeography is the

Herondas. (Uncials of the Third Century, B.C.)

substance on which the writing was done and the instruments which the writers used. The writing materials were papyrus (πάπυρος), early used in Egypt; skins of animals, used by the Egyptians as early as the fourth dynasty and by the Greeks (Herod.v. 58); parchment and vellum (διφθέραι, membrana Pergamena), used by both Greeks and Romans (Boissonade, Anecd. i. 420; Ad Att. xiii. 24; Martial, xiv. 184 and 186); and paper made of the cotton-plant (ξυλοχάρτιον,

Receipt in Greek Cursive. (A.D. 20.)

ξυλότευκτον, charta bombycina, gossypina, Damascena), first imported from the East by the Greeks, but hardly used before the twelfth century A.D. (Sched. Divers. Artium, i. 24, ed. Hendrie). The implements used for writing on these substances were the reed-pen (κάλαμος, δόναξ γραφεύς, σχοῖνος, calamus, canna), the use of which survived in Italy to the thirteenth century; the brush (κονδίλιον, peniculus, penicillus), used for writing in gold; and the quill-pen (penna), not mentioned before the fourth century (Ammian. Marcell. Excerp. ed. Gronovius, p. 512, 1693; Orig. vi. 13).

Ink, usually black, but sometimes brown, red, and purple, and in the Middle Ages green, yellow, etc., was called μέλαν or γραφικὸν μέλαν, μελάνιον, atramentum librarium), and incaustum. Red ink was μελάνιον κόκκινον, minium, rubrica. Gold writing-fluid and (rarely) silver ink were used in ornamentation. Other collateral implements were the ruler (κυκλοτερὴς μόλιβδος, regula), the knife-eraser (rasorium, novacula), the pen-knife (σμίλη, scalprum librarium), and pricker or compass (διαβάτης, circinus). For the removal of recent writing, a sponge was used (Martial, iv. 10). A pointed piece of lead (μόλυβδος, plumbum) performed the office of the modern lead-pencil. See Circinus; Codex; Papyrus; Writing and Writing Materials.

The earliest form of manuscript was the roll. For full details, see Liber. From the manuscript, the writing was often erased to make room for new matter. In this case it was called a palimpsest (παλιμψηστος). See Palimpsest.

The copyists of the manuscripts (γραμματεῖς, scribae) were in classical times usually slaves especially trained; in the Middle Ages, monks. For short-hand writers (notarii), see Notae.

There are four sorts of Greek writing: capitals, uncials, cursives, and minuscules. The capitals are found chiefly in manuscripts, in letters and initial letters. The uncials are the most common form of letters in ancient books, and resemble the modern capital. The breathings and accents are generally omitted, and the iota subscript is written by the side of its vowel—at the right. The cursive was gradually developed out of the uncial, from which it differed more and more. It is found in manuscripts of the second century B.C. and as late as the seventh century A.D. Minuscules prevail after the ninth century A.D.

Latin Poem on the Battle of Actium. (Before A.D. 79.)

There are also the same four varieties of writing in Latin manuscripts. The capitals appear in a poem by Rabirius (?) on the battle of Actium found at Herculaneum, in the Vatican and Florence Vergils, and in the Paris Prudentius. The uncials, which are distinguished by the rounded forms of the letters (especially U), were perfected in the fourth century A.D. and lasted till the ninth. The Veronese palimpsest of Livy is in uncials. There are many specimens of the Roman cursive in the graffiti of Pompeii (see vol. iv. of the Corp. Inscrip. Lat.) and elsewhere. It varied at different periods, and gave rise to different mediæval forms of writing—e. g. the Lombardic, Visigothic, etc. The Roman minuscules were not developed until the end of the eighth century A.D.

Pompeian Wall Inscription. (First Century, A.D.)

in the school of Alcuin, and reached their perfection in the twelfth century. They are the source of the earliest Italic characters. If a Latin manuscript is wholly in capitals, it is earlier than the eighth century; and when the words are not spaced it is earlier than the seventh. Stiff, upright characters denote a late date. The uncial writings are usually earlier than the eighth century; the minuscule prevails after the ninth; a great number of abbreviations indicates the eleventh century. If a text is written in cursive that has great facility in its ligatures, it is presumably antique. See Alphabet.

The greatest difficulty in deciphering manuscripts comes from the contractions, abbreviations, and ligatures which they contain. Thus, the copyists in mediæval France used more than 5000 forms of contraction. The following are a few that are common, and hence may serve as illustrations: qm=quum or quoniam; qūō=quomodo; .n.=enim; =est; o[mtilde]s=omnes; hõiñ=hominum; āūt=autem; ā=annos; p=prae; pp.= prope.

Cicero, De Republica. (Roman Uncials of the Fourth Century, A.D.)

Some of the mediæval abbreviations we still find in common use, as e. g. for exempli gratia; i. e. for id est; viz. for videlicet.

Bibliography.—See Gardthausen, Griechische Paläographie (Leipzig, 1879); Wattenbach, Anleitung zur griechischen Paläographie (Leipzig, 1877); id. Anleitung zur lateinischen Paläographie (4th ed. Leipzig, 1886); Chatelain, Paléographie des Classiques Latins (Paris, 1884, still appearing); the monograph “Paläographie,” by Blass, in Iwan Müller's Handbuch (2d ed. Munich, 1892); Wailly, Éléments de Paléographie, 2 vols. (Paris, 1838); and for the student especially Maunde Thompson's Handbook of Greek and Latin Palaeography (London and New York, 1893). See also Chassang, Paléographie des Chartes et des Manuscrits (8th ed. Paris, 1885). For abbreviations, consult Allen, Notes on Abbreviations in Greek MSS. (Oxford, 1889) and Chassang, Dictionnaire des Abréviations du Moyen Âge (Paris, 1884), with Wattenbach's Schriftwesen im Mittelalter (2d ed. Leipzig, 1875). For fac-similes of ancient texts, see Silvestre, Paléographie Universelle (London, 1850); the collec

Imperial Letter in Greek Cursive. (A.D. 756.)

tions by Omont (Paris, 1890 and 1892); Wattenbach, Scripturae Graecae Specimina (Berlin, 1883); and Zangemeister, Exempla Codicum Latinorum (Heidelberg, 1876, 1879).

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: