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Transcribing and Editing MSS: Palaeography after 1700

This course will introduce students to the basic characteristics of ‘modern' manuscripts produced from 1700 onwards. This includes documents that belong to the composition and transmission of literary, philosophical and historical (notebooks, rough drafts, fair copies, etc.) as well as letters, diaries and other private documents. In this course, you will learn about changes in handwriting from the eighteenth to the twentieth century, about the conventions of writing in this period, and more generally about commonly-used methods of transcription and the principles of editing manuscripts. This in-depth study of theoretical and methodological issues will be rounded off with some practical exercises in which you will try your hand at transcribing a variety of materials. 

Essential reading

De Biasi, P.-M., 2004. “Toward a Science of Literature: Manuscript Analysis and the Genesis of the Word”, in Deppman, J., Ferrer, D., Groden, M. (Eds.), Genetic Criticism: Texts and Avant-Textes. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, pp. 36–68. 

Douglas, A. 2017 Work in Hand: Script, Print, and Writing, 1690-1840. Oxford: OUP.

Koppenhaver, Katherine M. 2007. Forensic Document Examination: Principles and Practice (Totowa, NJ: Humana Press).

Sassoon, R., 2000. The Art and Science of Handwriting. Bristol: Intellect Books. 

Van Mierlo, W., 2013. The Archaeology of the Manuscript: Towards Modern Palaeography. In: C. Smith and L. Stead, eds, The Boundaries of the Literary Archive: Reclamation and Representation. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, pp. 15-29. 

Recommended further reading

Van Mierlo, W., 2018. ‘What to Do with Literary Manuscripts? A Model for Manuscript Studies after 1700’, Comma: International Journal on Archives, 2017(1), pp. 75–87. <>. 

Course tutor