Computer-Aided Palaeography, Present and Future

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The field of digital palaeography has received increasing attention in recent years, partly because palaeographers often seem subjective in their views and do not or cannot articulate their reasoning, thereby creating a field of authorities whose opinions are closed to debate. One response to this is to make palaeographical arguments more quantitative, although this approach is by no means accepted by the wider human- ities community, with some arguing that handwriting is inherently unquantifiable. This paper therefore asks how palaeographical method might be made more objective and therefore more widely accepted by non-palaeographers while still answering critics within the field. Previous suggestions for objective methods before computing are considered first, and some of their shortcomings are discussed. Similar discussion in forensic document analysis is then introduced and is found relevant to palaeogra- phy, though with some reservations. New techniques of “digital” palaeography are then introduced; these have proven successful in forensic analysis and are becoming increasingly accepted there, but they have not yet found acceptance in the humanities communities. The reasons why are discussed, and some suggestions are made for how the software might be designed differently to achieve greater acceptance. Finally, a prototype framework is introduced which is designed to provide a common basis for experiments in “digital” palaeography, ideally enabling scholars to exchange quantitative data about scribal hands, exchange processes for generating this data, articulate both the results themselves and the processes used to produce them, and therefore to ground their arguments more firmly and perhaps find greater acceptance.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationKodikologie und Paläographie im Digitalen Zeitalter
Subtitle of host publicationCodicology and Palaeography in the Digital Age
EditorsMalte Rehbein, Patrick Sahle, Torsten Schassan
Place of PublicationNorderstedt
PublisherBooks on Demand
Pages309 - 338
Number of pages30
ISBN (Print)9783837098426
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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