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William Shakespeare's will, written in secretary hand: a script difficult for modern readers to interpret<ref>Cardenio, Or, the Second Maiden's Tragedy, pp. 131-3: By William Shakespeare, Charles Hamilton, John Fletcher (Glenbridge Publishing Ltd., 1994) ISBN 0-944435-24-6</ref>

Palaeography (UK) or paleography (US; ultimately from Greek: παλαιός{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}, palaiós, "old", and γράφειν{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}, graphein, "to write") is the study of ancient and historical handwriting (that is to say, of the forms and processes of writing, not the textual content of documents). Included in the discipline is the practice of deciphering, reading, and dating historical manuscripts,<ref>'Palaeography', Oxford English Dictionary.</ref> and the cultural context of writing, including the methods with which writing and books were produced, and the history of scriptoria.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref>

The discipline is important to understanding, authenticating, and dating ancient texts. However, "paleography is a last resort for dating" and, "for book hands, a period of 50 years is the least acceptable spread of time"<ref>Turner, Eric G. (1987), Greek Manuscripts of the Ancient World (2d rev. ed.; London: Institute of Classical Studies</ref><ref> Nongbri, Brent (2005) "The Use and Abuse of P52: Papyrological Pitfalls in the Dating of the Fourth Gospel." Harvard Theological Review 98:24.</ref> with it being suggested that "the "rule of thumb" should probably be to avoid dating a hand more precisely than a range of at least seventy or eighty years."<ref> Nongbri, Brent (2005) "The Use and Abuse of P52: Papyrological Pitfalls in the Dating of the Fourth Gospel." Harvard Theological Review 98:24.</ref> In an 2005 e-mail addendum to his 1996 "The Paleographical Dating of P-46" paper Bruce W. Griffin stated "Until more rigorous methodologies are developed, it is difficult to construct a 95% confidence interval for NT manuscripts without allowing a century for an assigned date."<ref>Griffin, Bruce W. (1996), "The Paleographical Dating of P-46"</ref> William M Schniedewind went even further in the abstract to his 2005 paper "Problems of Paleographic Dating of Inscriptions" and stated that "The so-called science of paleography often relies on circular reasoning because there is insufficient data to draw precise conclusion about dating. Scholars also tend to oversimplify diachronic development, assuming models of simplicity rather than complexity".<ref name="Schniedewind, William M. 2005">Schniedewind, William M. (2005) "Problems of Paleographic Dating of Inscriptions" in Thomas Levy, Thomas Higham (ed) (2014) The Bible and Radiocarbon Dating: Archaeology, Text and Science Routledge.</ref>

Palaeography sections
Intro  Application  Ancient Near East  Aramaic palaeography  Greek palaeography  India  Latin  Rise of modern writing  See also  References  Further reading  External links  

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