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Durham University

Special Collections

Reading and understanding documents

Reading old documents

There are two main problems to reading old documents, reading the writing (palaeography) and understanding what you have read.

For electronic introductions to medieval and early modern palaeography see:
http://paleo.anglo-norman.org/
http://www.english.cam.ac.uk/ceres/ehoc/
http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/palaeography
http://www.scottishhandwriting.com/
http://www.history.ac.uk/research-training/courses/online-palaeography (‘overview’ module free, others charged)
https://script.byu.edu/Pages/home.aspx

For an online tutorial in Latin (1086-1733) for beginners see:
http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/latin/beginners/

Types of documents

University of Nottingham Library Manuscripts and Special Collections provide a series of useful online guides at their Research Guidance site http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/ManuscriptsandSpecialCollections/ResearchGuidance/Introduction.aspx

This includes sections on dating documents, weights and measures, deeds, manorial records and maps and plans.

For descriptions of the various types of deeds, see http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/ManuscriptsandSpecialCollections/ResearchGuidance/Deeds/Introduction.aspx