Mr Christopher Whittick (East Sussex County Archives)
Full day - from 10.00 to 17.00
Maximum: 15 students
Venue: Senate House Library

This course, which is open to beginners, aims to provide a brief overview of some of the documents and records written in English between 1500 and 1900. The documents to be studied, along with hand-outs on the letter-forms and abbreviations in common use during the period will be circulated in advance of the class.  Students are expected to read the hand-outs and to attempt to transcribe the documents in advance, so as to get the most out of the course.  The class will act as a practical introduction to the transcription, understanding and interpretation of a range of the documents employed in personal, financial, legal and administrative transactions during the period. Anyone wishing to attend who has a particular document on which s/he needs help or advice is most welcome to notify the tutor in advance and bring it along, though total satisfaction with the results is not guaranteed!  This course can be taken on its own or to complement the one on Early Modern English Palaeography: 1500-1700.


Detailed bibliographies and hand-outs will be circulated in the class, but those who wish to undertake some preparatory reading may find the following useful:

Giles Dawson and Laetitia Kennedy Skipton, Elizabethan Handwriting, 1560-1650 (London, Faber, 1968, reprinted by Phillimore, 1981)

F.G. Emmison, How to read local archives, 1550-1700 (London, The Historical Association, 1967)

L.C. Hector, The handwriting of English documents (London, Edward Arnold, 2nd edition, 1966, reprinted by Kohler and Coombes, 1979) Strongly recommended 

Donald Jackson, The story of writing (London, The Parker Pen Company, 1981)

Hilary Marshall, Palaeography for family and local historians (Chichester, Phillimore, 2004)

Ann Rycraft, Sixteenth and seventeenth-century handwriting, series 1 and 2 (York, Borthwick Institute of Historical Research, 2nd edition, 1969)

Joyce Irene Whalley, English handwriting, 1540-1853 (London, HMSO, 1969)



Useful bibliography:


Palaeography practice:



Student Comments

The course covered a broad range of materials - legal documents, letters, accounts - over a several hundred year period. The first part of the course was the most helpful, when we looked at how and why letters were formed in documents/manuals. The practice of going around the room was helpful. It allowed everyone a turn and to collectively work through the idiosyncracies of early modern palaeography.

Christopher is incredibly knowledgeable, kind, and patient. The hints he gives are useful. I would take a class with him again.