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Related to paleography: paleogeography, Latin paleography


(pālēŏg`rəfē) [Gr.,=early writing], term generally meaning all study and interpretation of old ways of recording language. In a narrower sense, it excludes epigraphy (the study of inscriptions) and includes only the writing that is done on such materials as wax, papyrus, parchment, and paper. In Western Europe and in regions that have adopted Western European ways of writing, letters of all kinds—capital and lower case, roman, italic, black letter, and script—are derived from the capital letters of Roman inscriptions. From these "square" capitals developed less severe capitals called "rustic" and also letters called "uncial," with more curves than capitals have. The uncial M, for example, substitutes curves for the two angles at the top, as the lower-case letter does. Capitals and uncials are called majuscules and are distinguished from minuscules, the lower-case letters. The lower-case letters established themselves definitely in Alcuin's school at Tours in the time of Charlemagne. Letters of the kind preferred in that school are known as Carolingian, or Caroline, minuscules. Efforts to make letters ornate led to the development of black letter, no longer in use except in relatively few German printed books. Letters of this ornate kind, with many angles and with heavy shading, are sometimes called gothic—a term that is ambiguous, since it is used by printers for very simple letters without serifs. In type, italic letters were introduced by Aldus ManutiusAldus Manutius
or Aldo Manuzio
, 1450–1515, Venetian printer. He was educated as a humanistic scholar and became tutor to several of the great ducal families. One of them, the Pio family, provided him with money to establish a printery in Venice.
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; they are said to have been suggested by the handwriting of Petrarch. As the Spencerian script of the 19th cent. enables us to give an approximate date for a document written in it, so one skilled in the history of handwriting can often assign a place and a date to a document of earlier times. It is sometimes possible to identify the writer of a document and to distinguish forgeries from authentic documents. Specialists devote themselves also to the many forms of writing not derived from Roman capitals, such as Greek, Arabic, and Chinese. See also alphabetalphabet
[Gr. alpha-beta, like Eng. ABC], system of writing, theoretically having a one-for-one relation between character (or letter) and phoneme (see phonetics). Few alphabets have achieved the ideal exactness.
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; calligraphycalligraphy
[Gr.,=beautiful writing], skilled penmanship practiced as a fine art. See also inscription; paleography. European Calligraphy

In Europe two sorts of handwriting came into being very early.
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; cuneiformcuneiform
[Lat.,=wedge-shaped], system of writing developed before the last centuries of the 4th millennium B.C. in the lower Tigris and Euphrates valley, probably by the Sumerians (see Sumer).
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; writingwriting,
the visible recording of language peculiar to the human species. Writing enables the transmission of ideas over vast distances of time and space and is a prerequisite of complex civilization.
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; inscriptioninscription,
writing on durable material. The art is called epigraphy. Modern inscriptions are made for permanent, monumental record, as on gravestones, cornerstones, and building fronts; they are often decorative and imitative of ancient (usually Roman) methods.
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; hieroglyphichieroglyphic
[Gr.,=priestly carving], type of writing used in ancient Egypt. Similar pictographic styles of Crete, Asia Minor, and Central America and Mexico are also called hieroglyphics (see Minoan civilization; Anatolian languages; Maya; Aztec).
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See S. Morison, Politics and Script (1972).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the specialized historical and philological discipline that studies the history of writing and developmental patterns of graphic forms. It also studies ancient literary texts in order to read them and identify the author, age, and place of origin. Paleography investigates the evolution of the graphic forms of letters and writing symbols, such as hieroglyphs; the proportions of the component elements of letters and symbols; the varieties of scripts and their evolution; the system of abbreviations and their graphic denotation; and the materials and instruments of writing. A special branch of paleography is cryptography, the graphics of secret writing systems. Paleography also includes the study of paper ornamentation and watermarks and the format and binding of manuscripts. In the past two decades codicology, the study of the preparation and subsequent fate of manuscript books, emerged in Western Europe and the USSR.

Paleographic research methods include techniques for analyzing graphic data and a methodology for dating manuscripts based on specific evidence. The methods of other sciences and specialized disciplines are also used. Linguistic techniques are used to ascertain a manuscript’s age and place of origin from the language. The methodology of textual study and diplomatics is employed to obtain the same data from examination of the content, style, and history of the text and the structure of documents and records. The techniques of art history are applied to miniatures and ornamentation. Chemistry techniques are used to analyze ink and other pigments, and physics techniques include the use of radioactive isotopes to date organic materials. The theoretical aspect of paleography, the history of writing as a part of the cultural history of a given people, provides the scholarly basis for the practical aspect—devising a body of practical techniques to read, date, and otherwise analyze manuscripts correctly. The theoretical and practical aspects of paleography are closely related.

On the basis of alphabets and language, paleography is divided into Greek, Latin, Slavic and Russian, Armenian, Georgian, Arabic, and so forth. There is no universal paleography. Some scholars, including the Frenchman J. Mallon, the Austrian L. Santifaller, the Belgian F. Masai, and the Czechoslovak P. Spunar, advocate the creation of a universal paleography that would reveal developmental patterns common to all systems of writing.

The term “paleography” was first used in the 18th century by the French scholar B. de Montfaucon, who is also associated with the separation of paleography from diplomatics and its establishment as an independent discipline. In the mid-20th century, paleographers began studying all types of literary texts, regardless of the material on which they were written. In addition to writings on wax tablets, parchment, and paper, inscriptions on durable materials (formerly the province of epigraphy), papyrus (formerly the province of papyrology), and beresta (Old Russian birchbark “paper”) were studied. Since the 1950’s, the writing of modern and contemporary times, little studied before, has also gradually become the province of paleography.


Greek paleography. The term “Greek paleography” was first used in the early 18th century by de Montfaucon, who described the history of Greek writing from ancient times until the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453. Beginning with the late 18th century, Greek paleography studied the writing of the Byzantine Empire only from parchment and paper manuscripts; what was written on durable materials or papyrus was not, as a rule, part of Greek paleography. The 18th and 19th centuries saw the accumulation of information and individual observations on the history of Byzantine writing, based on the study of manuscript collections located, after the Turkish conquest of Byzantium, chiefly in the libraries of Italy and France.

The 19th century saw the publication of descriptions of Byzantine manuscript collections in European libraries by, for example, the German philologist F. Basta and the Frenchman H. Omont. This paved the way for the appearance, in the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th, of general theoretical guides to Greek paleography by such scholars as the German paleographers V. Gardthausen and W. Schubart and the Greek A. Sigalas. Gardthausen and Schubart wrote chiefly on the history of papyrus writings, and Sigalas was the author of a history of Greek writing from antiquity until the 15th century. In the second half of the 19th century, Omont and the German paleographer W. Wattenbach began publishing scholarly editions of facsimiles of Greek manuscripts. The scholarly publication of photographed manuscripts continued as well. The American scholars K. Lake and S. Lake published a series of facsimiles of dated Greek minuscule manuscripts written before the 13th century.

Greek paleography abroad has recently developed in two directions. First, scholars such as the Frenchmen M. Richard, A. Dain, and R. Devréesse compiled bibliographical reference works and provided scholarly descriptions of manuscripts and manuscript collections. Second, research into the history of individual manuscript production centers has been carried out by J. Irigoin (France), L. Politis (Greece), F. Dölger (Federal Republic of Germany), and others.

A. Sukhanov brought the first significant collection of Greek manuscripts to Russia from Mount Athos in the mid-17th century. The collection is now housed in the Historical Museum in Moscow. The Public Library in St. Petersburg (now the Sal-tykov-Shchedrin State Public Library, Leningrad) acquired a large collection of Greek manuscripts in the 19th century. The study of Greek paleography in Russia originally arose from the needs of the developing field of Slavic studies. In the mid-19th century, the first collections of photocopies of Greek and Slavic manuscripts appeared. Articles were written on the introduction of Byzantine traditions into Slavic writing by I.I. Sreznevskii and V. I. Grigorovich and by the archimandrites Savva, Amphilochius, Antonin Kapustin, and Porfirii Uspenskii, among others. The subsequent development of Greek paleography in Russia was characterized by the scholarly description of Greek manuscript collections and individual manuscripts by Hellenists and Byzantinists, including V. K. Ernshtedt, V. G. Vasil’evskii, and V. N. Beneshevich. After the establishment of Soviet power, the study, description, and cataloging of Greek manuscripts was continued by Beneshevich, G. F. Tsereteli, M. A. Shangin, and E. E. Granstrem.

Greek writing styles have been subjected to paleographic analysis. The division of writing into majuscule (capital letters) and minuscule (lowercase letters) from the fourth century B.C. has been established, and uncial writing has been described. The period when late uncial writing and cursive script were used has also been described.


Granstrem, E. E. “Sovremennoe sostoianie vizantiiskoi paleografii.” In the collection Arkheograficheskii ezhegodnik za 1961 g. Moscow, 1962.
Tsereteli, G. F. Sokrashcheniia v grecheskikh rukopisiakh, 2nd ed. St. Petersburg, 1904.
Gardthausen, V. Griechische Paläographie, 2nd ed., vols. 1–2. Leipzig, 1911–13.
Devréesse, R. Introduction à l’étude des manuscrits grecs. Paris, 1954.
Richard, M. Répertoires des bibliothèques et des catalogues de manuscrits grecs, 2nd ed. Paris, 1958.
Turyn, A. Dated Greek Manuscripts of the 13th and 14th Centuries in the Libraries of Italy, vols. 1–2. Urbana, 111., 1972.


Latin paleography. Latin paleography studies texts written in Latin-alphabet European languages. The foundations of Latin paleography were laid in the 17th century by J. Mabillon, who studied the history of writing as a part of diplomatics. Mabillon introduced the distinction between book hands and documentary hands and identified and described “national” scripts (a term introduced in the 18th century): Visigothic, Lombardic, Anglo-Saxon, and Merovingian. He mistakenly attributed a principal role in the emergence of these scripts to barbarian influence.

In the first half of the 18th century, the Italian scholar S. Maffei demonstrated that the national scripts resulted from the reworking of Roman writing. In the second half of the 18th century, the French scholars and Benedictines R.-P. Tassin and C. F. Toustin wrote Nouveau Traité de diplomatique (New Treatise on Diplomatics; vols. 1–6, Paris, 1750–65), which merely combined eclectically the ideas of Mabillon and Maffei.

The development of Latin paleography in Western Europe in the 19th century was characterized by the discovery, paleographic study, and publication of national manuscripts. Schools were founded to train paleographers and conduct scholarly research, among these the School of Paleography in Paris and the School of Paleography and Diplomatics in Florence. The Society for the Study of Early Germanic History, founded in 1819, did important paleographic work in connection with the publication of the Monumenta Germaniae historica (Historical Records of Germany).

Since the mid-19th century, numerous facsimile editions with specimens of medieval writing and book ornamentation arranged in chronological sequence have been published. These editions attempted to reflect the development of Latin writing both as a whole and by country. Facsimile editions of manuscripts in the Vatican Library were published, as were facsimile editions of manuscripts in the Bibliothèque Nationale in France, the library of the British Museum, and other major libraries.

In the early 20th century, the German philologist L. Traube led a new trend in Latin paleography with his theory of amphictyonies. He advanced the principle of paleographic study of manuscripts according to place of origin, the medieval writing centers (amphictyonies). He viewed the history of writing as an integral part of the history of culture. Traube’s students and followers discovered features characteristic of different writing centers. The British scholar W. M. Lindsay studied manuscripts of the Veronese center in Italy. The American E. K. Rand studied the Tours center in France, and L. V. Jones, also an American, wrote about the Cologne center in Germany and the Corbie center in France. The German scholar K. Löffler wrote about the Sankt Gallen center in what is now Switzerland, and the Soviet paleographer D. A. Dobiash-Rozhdestvenskaia studied eighth- and ninth-century manuscripts of the Corbie center.

By the mid-20th century, the great body of facts that had been accumulated led to the rejection of the old concept of the development of Latin writing. The French paleographers J. Mallon, C. Perrat, and R. Marichal, who investigated papyrus writings and all forms of literary texts from the first century B.C. through the fifth century A.D., have proposed a new theory for the development of Roman writing. The chief contributor to the theory was Mallon, who showed that the lowercase forms of Latin letters had already appeared in the Roman book hand of the third century. Mallon considered graphic changes in ordinary writing to be the basis for the development of writing, since ordinary script is freer and more rapid than calligraphic writing. Mallon and his followers look to changes in material conditions to explain the development of writing. Mallon has suggested a new methodology based on study of the scribe’s work techniques.

In the second half of the 20th century, paleographers turned to the study of “modern” (post-15th-century) writing. Since the early 20th century, Great Britain has been the center for the study of the calligraphy of the 16th through 18th centuries; the S. Morison school is noteworthy. There has been growing interest in the origin and development of Gothic writing of the 12th through 15th centuries; J. Boussard of France and G. I. Lief-tinck of the Netherlands are among the scholars who have studied the problem. The Belgian paleographer H. Callewaert has treated the physiology and psychology of writing. The role of social and cultural conditions in the appearance and evolution of writing has been studied by G. Fichtenau of Austria, J. Stiennon of Belgium, and R. Marichal of France. Great attention is being devoted to the description of individual handwriting styles and to the origin of these styles in the 13th century.

A current problem of Latin paleography is to devise a single international nomenclature and terminology. The issue was considered at the International Paleographic Colloquium in Paris in 1953; a decision of the colloquium led in 1957 to the creation of the International Paleographic Committee, which includes representatives of many countries, including the USSR. The committee is directing the publication of catalogs of dated manuscripts written in Latin and in Latin-alphabet European languages; the catalogs also include manuscripts that have an indicated place of origin. Work on description of manuscripts and on the publication of paleographic editions has greatly expanded. Paleographers are using computers and are studying the use of various laboratory techniques, such as holography, to analyze writing.

Latin paleography has made considerable progress in the socialist countries. General textbooks on Latin paleography have been published by L. Mezei of Hungary, W. Semkowicz of Poland, A. Gieysztor and M. Haman of the German Democratic

Republic, J. Ŝebanék of Czechoslovakia, and V. Novak of Yugoslavia.

Latin paleography in Russia was founded by Dobiash-Rozhdestvenskaia, who was the first to teach the subject. After the October Revolution of 1917, she wrote the first general work on Latin paleography in the USSR and cataloged manuscripts in the State Public Library in Leningrad.

Latin paleography has described the historical development of the various types of Latin script, including capital, uncial, half-uncial, Caroline minuscule, Gothic minuscule, and the humanist hand (the basis of the script of most European countries). Soviet paleographers have studied many important problems, including the origin of Gothic script (T. V. Luizova) and its development in books (V. L. Romanova) and documents (L. I. Kiseleva). V. N. Malov has treated the history of Latin script to the 18th century, and A. D. Liublinskaia has written a summarizing theoretical work on Latin paleography. A joint catalog of Latin manuscripts in the USSR is being compiled.


Dobiash-Rozhdestvenskaia, O. A. Istoriia pis’ma v srednie veka, 2nd ed. Moscow-Leningrad, 1936.
Liublinskaia, A. D. Latinskaia paleografiia. [Moscow, 1969.]
Foerster, H. Abriss der lateinischen Paleographic, 2nd ed. Stuttgart, 1963. (With bibliography.)
Mallon, J. paleographic romaine. Madrid, 1962.
Gieysztor, A. Zarys dziejów pisma łacińskiego. Warsaw, 1973.
Stiennon, J. paleographic du Moyen Age. Paris, 1973.


Slavic and Russian paleography. Slavic and Russian paleography is subdivided into Glagolitic paleography, which studies texts written in the Glagolitic alphabet, and Cyrillic paleography, which studies texts written in the Cyrillic alphabet. The latter is the more important since the majority of Slavic manuscripts are written in Cyrillic.

Some practical techniques of graphological analysis, mainly to detect spurious manuscripts, were used in Russia in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries. The first paleographic study was the Pomeranian Replies (1717) of the Old Believer and scholar Andrei Denisov. Denisov exposed two documents fabricated by the Orthodox Church and said to date from the 12th and 14th centuries, respectively—the Council Act Regarding the Heretical Armenian Monk Martin and the breviary of the metropolitan Theognostus.

The publication and study of sources in the 18th century paved the way for the emergence of Slavic and Russian paleography as a scholarly discipline by the 19th century. The first half of the 19th century witnessed the accumulation of paleographic observations, the compilation of descriptions of manuscripts, the publication of albums with specimens of ancient script and ornamentation, and the publication of albums of watermarks. Scholars of the period included A. N. Olenin, E. A. Bol-khovitinov, K. F. Kalaidovich, P. M. Stroev, A. Kh. Vostokov, A. N. Pypin, and K. Ia. Tromonin. Around 1850 theoretical summaries by V. M. Undol’skii, P. I. Ivanov, and I. P. Sakharov began to appear.

In the mid-19th and early 20th centuries, I. I. Sreznevskii published his classical theoretical studies on the history of writing among the Slavs and on the paleographic analysis of dated literary texts of the 11th through 14th centuries. In the same period, V. Jagić (I. V. Iagich) published studies that were mainly in Glagolitic paleography. A. I. Sobolevskii wrote on the history of Russian and Slavic manuscript books and studied the evolution of letters. He analyzed the most characteristic symbols of the late uncial writing styles called ustav and poluustav, including the cursive script of the 15th through 17th centuries. E. F. Karskii cataloged manuscript repositories and described dated manuscripts of the 11th through 14th centuries. V. N. Shchep-kin developed methods for the graphological analysis and dating of manuscripts according to all the evidence.

Russian scholars of the 19th and early 20th centuries did much for the development of South Slavic paleography. Among these scholars were V. I. Grigorovich, O. M. Bodianskii, P. Uspenskii, P. A. Lavrov, and S. Kuliabkin; the contributions of Lavrov and Kuliabkin were especially great. A. I. Iatsimirskii did much for Slavic-Moldavian-Rumanian paleography.

From the 1920’s through 1940’s, N. M. Karinskii made a substantial contribution to Slavic and Russian paleography. He devoted great attention to the “sociological element of paleography,” which included, for example, the relationship between scribes and their clients. Important contributions were also made by I. F. Kolesnikov, who studied the cursive writing of the 15th to 18th centuries; by M. Grun’skii, who studied the Glagolitic alphabet; and by M. N. Speranskii, whose research in cryptography was especially valuable.

Slavic and Russian paleography entered a new phase in the 1950’s and 1960’s when the beresta writings were discovered and their script studied. Research by A. V. Artsikhovskii, M. N. Tikhomirov, and L. P. Zhukovskaia did much to erase the boundary between paleography and epigraphy. D. P. Erastov and others began applying the methods of chemistry and physics to paleography during this same period. M. V. Shchepkina did a great deal of work in paleographic methodology, including its application to the script of the beresta writings. S. A. Klepikov and others did important research work on watermarks. Noteworthy research on the origins of Glagolitic writing was done by A. M. Selishchev, P. Ia. Chernykh, E. E. Granstrem, and others.

Since the 1950’s, increased work has been done to publish facsimile editions of manuscripts, with M. N. Tikhomirov a major contributor. S. A. Reiser has conducted research on the writing of the 19th and early 20th centuries. R. V. Bulatova and V. V. Kolesov have done special research on supralinear diacritical marks, and R. A. Simonov has studied the numeral system. Manuscripts with musical notation for choristers were analyzed by M. V. Brazhnikov.

General textbooks on Slavic and Russian paleography by M. D. Priselkov (1938), N. S. Chaev and L. V. Cherepnin (1947), L. V. Cherepnin (1956), A. T. Nikolaeva (1956), and A. P. Pronshtein (1973) have established a closer link between paleography, the study of sources, and historical science. There is another school of thought in Slavic and Russian paleography that regards paleography as primarily a philological discipline serving the aims of historical linguistics. The data of paleography are used in fact both in the study of historical sources and in historical linguistics.

Serbo-Croatian scholars have made an important contribution to the development of South Slavic paleography. In the first half of the 19th century, P. Solarić, A. Dragoslavlević, D. Avramo-vic, and other scholars published facsimile editions of specimens of script and ornamentation. In the second half of the 19th century and in the early 20th, the origin of Glagolitic writing was investigated by J. Kopitar, V. S. Karadẑić, F. Rački, F. Miklošič, I. Črnčić, V. Jagić (I. V. Iagich), S. Ivšić, and R. Nahtigal. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Cyrillic paleography received a great deal of attention. Manuscript texts were published, as were the paleographic studies of L. Stojanović, N. Rodoečić, V. Mošin, B. Koneski, M. Dinić, and others. D. Kostić did research in cryptography, and G. Čremošnik studied abbreviations. Collections and studies of watermarks were published by Mošin and S. Tralić. Since 1950 paleographers have been studying the cursive Cyrillic of the first half of the 18th century, which is the basis for the modern script.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, Czech scholars, including J. Dobrovský, P. J. Ŝafařík, J. Hanuš, L. Geitler, V. Vondrák, and J. Vajs, also played an important role in the development of South Slavic paleography, chiefly in the study of Glagolitic.

In the 20th century, Bulgaria has become an important center for research in South Slavic paleography. Bulgarian scholars are studying manuscripts, publishing paleographic editions, describing major manuscript collections, and providing paleographic analyses. Scholars include B. Tsonev, E. Georgiev, M. Stoianov, I. Goshev, Kh. Kodov, and K. Mirchev. N. Rainov and others have made studies of Bulgarian ornamentation. V. Nikolaev is among the scholars who have studied watermarks and compiled handbooks on the subject. I. Bogdan has contributed to the development of Slavic-Moldavian paleography in the Socialist Republic of Rumania.

Since the late 19th century research in South Slavic paleography has been taken up by scholars in Great Britain (I. Taylor, M. Gaster), Germany (R. Abricht, A. Leskien), Austria (W. Lettenbauer), and France (W. Vodoff). These scholars mainly studied the Glagolitic alphabet and the origin of Slavic writing as a whole; they also studied the Cyrillic script.


Cherepnin, L. V. Russkaia paleografiia. Moscow, 1956. (With bibliography.)
Zhukovskaia, L. P. Razvitie slaviano-russkoi paleografii. Moscow, 1963. (With bibliography.)
Tikhomirov, M. N., and A. V. Murav’ev. Russkaia paleografiia. Moscow, 1966.
Reiser, S. A. Paleografiia i tekstologiia Novogo vremeni. Moscow, 1970.
Pronshtein, A. P., and V. Ia. Kiiashko. Vspomogatel’nye istoricheskie distsipliny. Moscow, 1973.


Armenian paleography. The foundations of Armenian paleography as a theoretical discipline were laid in the late 19th century by Ia. Tashian, an Armenian scholar and Mechitarist father. Tashian compiled a specimen catalog of Armenian manuscripts in the Mechitarist library in Vienna and wrote the first textbook on Armenian paleography, A Survey of Armenian Paleography (Vienna, 1898; in Armenian). The textbook investigates the problem of dating different types of Armenian writing from the fifth through 18th centuries and the history of their designations. It also analyzes Armenian palimpsests and treats epigraphic writing. Tashian’s classification of Armenian writing is the basis of the modern classification. Like Greek, Latin, Georgian, and other scripts, Armenian writing is divided into majuscule (written between two parallel horizontal lines) and minuscule (determined by four lines). Majuscule writing includes two varieties of erkatagir script: rounded and rectilinear. Minuscule writing includes boloragir, the basis of the modern typeface; notragir; and shlagir, from which modern cursive writing derives.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, facsimile editions of Armenian manuscripts were published. Still important as a textbook for dating manuscripts is a facsimile album prepared in 1913 by the Armenian scholar G. Ovsepian (Echmiadzin). The album contains 143 specimens of Armenian writing from the fifth through 18th centuries (texts written on nondurable materials, stone, and metal) and explanatory text. The Armenian researcher R. Acharian used the album to solve problems concerning the origin and use of various types of Armenian writing (Armenian Characters, Vienna, 1928; in Armenian). In Southwest Asian Anthology (vol. 2, Moscow, 1966), A. G. Peri-khanian investigates the origin of the Armenian writing system and its link to Aramaic writing. The most comprehensive work in Armenian paleography is A. G. Abramian’s Armenian Script and Writing (Yerevan, 1973; in Armenian, with Russian and French summaries), which examines the evolution of Armenian writing and the dating of its varieties, as well as abbreviations, ideograms, cryptograms, and many other topics. Important paleographic material is contained in the Collection of Armenian Inscriptions (fascs. 1–4, Yerevan, 1960–73), published by the Academy of Sciences of the Armenian SSR. In the USSR, paleographic study of Armenian manuscripts is carried on chiefly in the world’s largest repository of ancient Armenian manuscripts, the Matenadaran in Yerevan.


Georgian paleography. The emergence of Georgian paleography as a scholarly discipline in the late 19th century is associated with D. Z. Bakradze, who established the basic periodization of all types of Georgian writing and published paleographic tables. The origin of the Georgian writing system is a primary research topic among Georgian scholars. I. A. Dzhavakhishvili made a great contribution to the development of Georgian paleography. Among works dealing with the origin of the Georgian writing system are G. V. Tsereteli’s Bilingual Glossary of Armaz (Tbilisi, 1941; in Georgian) and Armaz Writing and the Problem of the Origin of the Georgian Alphabet (1948–49) and R. M. Patari-dze’s Georgian Asomtavruli Writing (1972; in Georgian). The Institute of Manuscripts of the Academy of Sciences of the Georgian SSR was founded in 1958 as successor to the manuscripts department of the Museum of Georgia in Tbilisi.


Takaishvili, E. S. Paleograficheskii al’bom, fases. 1–2. Tbilisi, 1909–20.
Javaxishvili, I. Istoriis mizani, cqaroebida met’odebi cinat’da axla, book 3, essay 1. K’art’uli damcerlobat’amc’odneoba anu paleograp’ia. Tbilisi, 1926.
Abuladze, I. K’art’uli ceris nimushebi: Paleograp’iuli albomi. Tbilisi, 1949.


Chinese paleography. The unique development of Chinese paleography was determined by the specific nature of Chinese ideographic writing. Until the 20th century, Chinese paleography did not exist as an independent scholarly discipline. paleographic research was part of three closely related branches of learning: the study of writing (wen-tzu-hsüeh), epigraphy (chin-shih-hsüeh)y and the study of calligraphy (shu-fa-hsüeh).

The study of writing, which emerged in the ninth and tenth centuries, took in the drawing, pronunciation, and semantics of the characters in Shuo-wen, a dictionary of the late first or early second century. The ancient ideograms of the Shuo-wen were widely studied in the 18th century, particularly by Tai Cheng, Tuan Yü-tsai, and Kuei Fu.

Epigraphy emerged in the 11th or 12th century, growing out of the study of inscriptions on bronze vessels of the 11th to sixth centuries B.C. Late in the 19th century, after the discovery of divination bones with inscriptions from the 14th to 11th centuries B.C., epigraphy came to include the study of characters from the middle of the second millennium B.C. Since the 1930’s, bone inscriptions have been studied from a paleographic point of view by many Chinese and Japanese scholars. Tung Tso-pin established the basis for dating divination inscriptions according to the graphic characteristics of the writing. Hou-hsüan, T’ang Lan, and other Chinese scholars also did a great deal of work in this area.

The study of calligraphy deals with literary texts that are written chiefly on durable materials and that date mainly from the fourth through eighth centuries, the period when modern k’ai-shu handwriting developed.

There is a tendency toward a unified Chinese paleography studying the general laws of development of Chinese writing. This can be seen in the research of Chiang Shan-kuo and other scholars.


Hu P’u-an. Chung-kuo wen-tzu-hsüeh shih (History of the Study of Writing in China). Shanghai, 1937.
Ch’en Chin. Shuo-wen yen-chiu-fa (The Study of the Shuo-wen). Shanghai, 1934.
Chu Chien-hsin. Chin-shih-hsüeh (Epigraphy). Shanghai, 1955.
Chiang Shan-kuo. Han-tzu hsing-t’i-hsüeh (Morphology of Chinese Writing). Peking, 1959.


Arabic paleography. Arabic paleography studies texts written in the Arabic alphabet in Arabic, Persian, and the Turkic languages and in other languages. A description of Arabic handwriting styles was undertaken by the Arabs for practical aims as early as the tenth century. Ibn Durustuyah (died 956) described the chief handwriting style and the variations employed in the caliph’s chancellery.

In Europe the study of the Arabic script of inscriptions and manuscripts began in the 17th century. Scholars noted the basic difference between Kufic script, the angular style of inscriptions, coins, and the Koran, and Neskhi script, a more rounded, cursive style. Study of the origin of Arabic writing and the chronological sequence of Neskhi and Kufic dates from the 18th century. In the 18th century and in the first half of the 19th, many European scholars, following the medieval Arabic tradition, mistakenly considered Kufic to be the earlier script. In reality, both scripts existed simultaneously.

The first paleographic tables appeared in the 18th century. The Dane L. Adler published tables of Syrian Arabic and Kufic scripts, and the Frenchman E. Fourmond compiled tables of the Kufic script, based on manuscripts of the Koran. Considerably improved tables were compiled in the first half of the 19th century by the Frenchman J.-J. Marcel, who laid the basis for the systematic study of Arabic writing in inscriptions and manuscripts (Arabic Paleography, parts 1–2, Paris, 1828).

In the 19th century basic collections of Arabic manuscripts were assembled in Western Europe. By the end of the 19th century, the largest collection of Arabic papyruses was in Vienna. Scholars began intensively collecting and studying epigraphs and preparing scholarly descriptions of Arabic script with paleographic analysis. Arabic papyruses were first published in the first half of the 19th century by the French orientalist A.-I. Silvestre de Sacy. J. Karabaçek of Austria-Hungary wrote numerous works on Arabic papyruses in the late 19th century, as did C. H. Becker of Germany in the early 20th.

Specialized paleographic works appeared in the second half of the 19th century. The Italian paleographer M. Lanci studied variations of Arabic script as related to the material on which the text appears. W. Wright of Great Britain and W. Alwardt of Germany published paleographic tables of the Arabic script of the seventh through 17th centuries. The French researcher A. Houdas described North African (Maghrebian) handwriting. Fundamental works on the script of Arabic inscriptions were written by the Swiss scholars M. von Berchem in the late 19th century and S. Flury in the 1920’s. These studies formed the basis for subsequent research in epigraphy.

In Russia, the collecting of Arabic manuscripts and the copying of inscriptions dates from the time of Peter I. Important collections of Arabic manuscripts and other texts were collected in the Kunstkamera’s Oriental Room, founded in 1818. The Oriental Room is now the manuscripts department of the Leningrad division of the Institute of Asian Peoples and the most important repository of Arabic manuscripts in the USSR. The Oriental Room was headed by Kh. D. Fren, who was the first to study the large collections of Arabic manuscripts in Russia. Fren classified Kufic script and established terminology for its varieties. From the second half of the 19th century, there was intensified work to discover, describe, and publish examples of Arabic script; this facilitated the accumulation of paleographic observations. N. V. Khanykov demonstrated the need to consider place of origin when making a paleographic analysis of a script.

Soviet scholars continue working on the scholarly description and publication of Arabic inscriptions and manuscripts. A significant part of the research on the development of writing is based on the study of Arabic texts in the USSR (Transcaucasia, Middle Asia). Scholars engaged in such research include O. G. Bol’shakov, M. M. D’iakonov, Ts. P. Kakhiani, V. A. Krach-kovskaia, M. Kh. Neimatova, and S. B. Pevzner.


Krachkovskaia, V. A. Arabskie nadgrobiia Muzeia paleografii AN SSSR. Leningrad, 1929. (With bibliography.)
Krachkovskaia, V. A. “Evoliutsiia kuficheskogo pis’ma v Srednei Azii.” In the collection Epigrafika Vostoka, fasc. 3. Moscow-Leningrad, 1949.
Krachkovskaia, V. A. “Pamiatniki arabskogo pis’ma v Srednei Azii i Zakavkaz’e do IX v.” Epigrafika Vostoka, fasc. 6. Moscow-Leningrad, 1952.
Krachkovskaia, V. A., and I. Iu. Krachkovskii. “Drevneishii arabskii dokument iz Srednei Azii.” In I. Iu. Krachkovskii, Izbr. soch, vol. 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1955.
Moritz, B. Arabic Paleography: A Collection of Arabic Texts From the First Century of the Hidjra Till the Year 1000. Cairo, 1905.
Moritz, B. “Arabische Schrift.” In Enzyklopaedie des Islam, vol. 1. Leiden-Leipzig, 1913.
Abbott, N. The Rise of the North-Arabic Script and Its Kur’anic Development. Chicago, Ill. [1939].
Abbott, N. “Arabic Paleography.” In Ars Islamica, vol. 8. Ann Arbor, Mich., 1941.
Grohmann, A. Arabische Paläographie, vol. 2. Vienna, 1971.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


The study of ancient modes of writing, for example, deciphering ancient writing and identifying the source or dating the text.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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