M-80. Western Manuscripts & Documents, 1500–2000

An introduction to European handwritten documents of the early modern and modern periods, including manuscript books; official, ecclesiastical, commercial, and domestic documents (account books, wills, inventories, deeds, indentures, and recipe books); literary manuscripts; and personal correspondence. The course will concentrate on the development of national and international hands used for writing in Europe, and their spread to the Western hemisphere, including the early teaching of writing in North America. Topics include: the discovery of a new role by scribes relegated to a secondary position by the invention of printing; the invention of writing as an art form in the Renaissance and its later development; the spread of the Italian (italic) hand and Italian documentary modes throughout Europe; the advent of printed writing manuals and their influence; the growth of commercial and other hands in Holland and Britain in the c17; the survival of German, French, Spanish, and other local hands; the revival of calligraphy under Louis XIV; the evolution of copperplate and its c19 successors; and the evolution of the modern concept of a “personal hand.”

The influence of the world expansion of trade and improved postal system on the form of scripts and documents will be demonstrated from actual manuscript material. The paleographic essentials for reading cursive hands will be outlined rather than treated in detail, but the course will include laboratory exercises in which students will gain experience in transcribing different hands in different languages and different types of documents.

Course History

2008 & 2009
Nicolas Barker teaches this course, as "Western Manuscripts & Documents, 1500–2000."
Nicolas Barker teaches this course three times during this period, as "Introduction to European Handwriting."
This course is not currently being offered. Please do not list on any RBS fellowship or scholarship applications.

Course Resources

  • Advance Reading List
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