Palaeography, literally ancient writing, is the study of script. Its primary aim is to read texts correctly and determine where and when they were written, though it also studies the development of scripts.
Because the transcription of documents was tedious and laborious, and materials were often costly, an extensive system of abbreviations developed in classical times.
When the Roman empire collapsed in the 4th century, Europe was taken over by mostly illiterate Goths; the Ostrogoths ruled Italy, the Visigoths took over Spain and southern France, the Franks settled in central and northern France and the Anglo-Saxons ran over the Celts in Great Britain and Ireland. The Catholic church took on the task of converting the Goths to Christianity and educating them, and over time each tribe of Goths developed its own Roman-based, but unique, system of handwriting. These developed into the National Hands of Spain, Italy, France, and the British Isles.
Prior to the time of Charlemagne several parts of Europe even had their own handwriting style. His rule over a large part of the continent provide an opportunity to unify these writing styles in the hand called Carolingian minuscule. To over-simplify, the only scripts to escape this modernization were the Visigothic (or Mozarabic), which survived into the twelfth or thirteenth century, the Beneventan, which was still being written in the middle of the sixteenth century, as well as the one that continues to be used in traditional Irish handwriting, which has been in severe decline since the early 20th century and is now almost extinct. The printed form was abolished by the Irish government in the 1950s. In Germany, the Sütterlin handwriting, the written counterpart to the printed Fraktur typeface, was taught in schools in some areas until the 1970s; it is no longer being taught.
- ugaritic language
- Jean Mabillon
- Ludwig Traube
- Roman square capitals
- Rustic capitals
- Roman cursive
- Insular script
- Visigothic script
- Beneventan script
- Merovingian script
-  . A comprehensive survey of all the important aspects of medieval palĉography.
-  . A scholarly maintained web directory on paleography.
- Bernhard Bischoff, Latin Palaeography: Antiquity and the Middle Ages, Cambridge University Press, 1989.
- E. A. Lowe, Codices Latini Antiquiores: A Palaeographical Guide to Latin Manuscripts Prior to the Ninth Century, Clarendon Press, 1972.