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English Handwriting 1500-1700: Bibliography and Research Resources


In this section you will find a select bibliography of printed sources, a quick-access collection of palaeography- and manuscript-related links, and an annotated guide to manuscript research. Most of the books represented in the bibliography include further, more detailed lists of sources. Anthony G. Petti's English Literary Hands from Chaucer to Dryden, includes a comprehensive general introduction and a very useful bibliography. For background on scribal production and manuscript culture, start with Woudhuysen, Sir Philip Sidney and the Circulation of Manuscripts, 1558-1640, Part I.

(i) Bibliography of Printed Works
(ii) Palaeography and Manuscript Research Links
(iii) Routes Toward Early Modern Manuscripts: A Guide for Research
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  • Brown, Michelle P., The British Library Guide to Writing and Scripts: History and Techniques (London: British Library, 1998)
  • Parkes, M.B., Pause and Effect: An Introduction to the History of Punctuation in the West (Aldershot: Scolar, 1992)
  • Robinson, Andrew, The Story of Writing: Alphabets, Hieroglyphs, and Pictograms (London: Thames and Hudson, 1995)



  • Finlay, Michael, Western Writing Implements in the Age of the Quill Pen (Carlisle: Plains, 1990)



  • Lass, Roger, ed., The Cambridge History of the English Language, Volume III: 1476-1776 (Cambridge: C.U.P., 1999): see esp. Vivian Salmon, 'Orthography and Punctuation'
  • Salmon, Vivian, 'The Spelling and Punctuation of Shakespeare's Time', in Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor, eds, William Shakespeare: The Complete Works. Original Spelling Edition (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986)
  • The Oxford English Dictionary, second edition (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989) [articles on the history of each letter of the alphabet as the start of that letter's entry: see especially e, i, j, u, v, y]



  • Index of English Literary Manuscripts. Vol.1: 1450-1625, compiled by Peter Beal, 2 vols (London: Mansel, 1980)
  • Index of English Literary Manuscripts. Vol.2: 1625-1700, compiled by Peter Beal, 2 vols (London: Mansel, 1987-1993)
  • English Manuscript Studies 1100-1700, edited by Peter Beal and Jeremy Griffiths, Vol. 1- (Oxford: Blackwell, 1988-)



  • Beal, Peter, In Praise of Scribes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998)
  • Hobbs, Mary, Early Seventeenth-Century Verse Miscellany Manuscripts (Aldershot: Scholar Press, 1992)
  • Love, Harold, Scribal Publication in Seventeenth-Century England (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993)
  • Marotti, Arthur F., Manuscript, Print, and the English Renaissance Lyric (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995)
  • Woudhuysen, H.R., Sir Philip Sidney and the Circulation of Manuscripts, 1558-1640 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996) [esp. Part I, 'The Circulation of Manuscripts, 1558-1640']



  • Parkes, M.B., English Cursive Book Hands 1250-1500 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969)
  • Wright, Cyril Ernest, English Vernacular Hands from the Twelfth to the Fifteenth Centuries (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1960)



  • Greg, W.W., English Literary Autographs, 1550-1650; part I, dramatists; part II, poets; supplement, scholars and archaeologists (Oxford, 1925-1932)
  • Petti, Anthony G., English Literary Hands from Chaucer to Dryden (London: E. Arnold, 1977)
  • Dawson, Giles E. and Laetitia Kennedy-Skipton [Yeandle], Elizabethan Handwriting 1500-1650: A Guide to the Reading of Documents and Manuscripts (London, Faber, 1968)
  • Preston, Jean F. and Laetitia Yeandle, English Handwriting, 1400-1650: An Introductory Manual (Binghamton, N.Y: Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1992) [available in a paperback reprint from Pegasus Press]
  • Croft, P.J., Autograph Poetry in the English Language: Facsimiles of Original Manuscripts from the Fourteenth to the Twentieth Century, 2 vols (London: Cassell, 1973)
  • Tannenbaum, Samuel A., The Handwriting of the Renaissance: Being the Development and Characteristics of the Script of Shakspere's Time (London: George Routledge & Sons, 1931) [an early work in the history of the study of English Renaissance palaeography and to be approached with caution]
  • 'A Note on Elizabethan Handwriting' in An Introduction to Bibliography, by Ronald B. McKerrow (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1927); reprinted in Gaskell's A New Introduction to Bibliography and including good specimen alphabets
  • Hector, L. C., The Handwriting of English Documents (Dorking: Kohler and Coombes, 1988).
  • Johnson, Charles and Hilary Jenkinson, English court hand, A. D. 1066 to 1500, illustrated chiefly from the public records (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1915). On court hands, see also Hilary Jenkinson, Palaeography and the practical study of court hand (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1915); and The Later court hands in England from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1927).
  • Grieve, Hilda E. P. , Some examples of English handwriting from Essex official, ecclesiastical, estate and family archives of the 12th to the 17th century, with transcripts and translations (Chelmsford: Essex County Council, 1949). [see also later reprints]


edited or in facsimile

  • A newe booke of copies, 1574: a facsimile of a unique Elizabethan writing book in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, ed. Berthold Wolpe (London, 1962).
  • Ugo da Carpi, Thesauro de Scrittori, ed. Esther Potter (London: Nattali & Maurice, 1968).
  • The First Writing Book: An English Translation and Facsimile of Arrighi's Operina, the first manual of the Chancery Hand, ed. John Howard Benson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1955).
  • Three Classics of Italian Calligraphy: an Unabridged Reissue of the Writing Books of Arrighi, Tagliente, and Palatino, intro. by Oscar Ogg (New York: Dover Publications, 1953).
  • A. S. Osley, ed., Scribes and Sources: Handbook of the chancery hand in the sixteenth century (London: Faber, 1980). [includes selections from a range of Continental and English writing-masters]

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If you know of a library or archive with substantial manuscript resources
of interest to students and scholars of early modern England, please let us know.

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This page is edited by Andrew Zurcher, and was last updated on .