Online Tuition in the Palaeography of Scottish Documents

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If the problem is a specific letter, the coaching manual will take you through a series of possible solutions.

Look for help on the page
If you find you can't identify a particular letter or cluster of letters there are 3 places to look within the text you're working on.

  1. Look at the adjacent letters. If you can identify other letters in the word you can eliminate a number of options because they are not letters which usually sit together eg -acx is an unlikely cluster of letters but -act is. You can run through the alphabet and see which letter are options to fill in the gap and make a proper word; rather like filling in blanks in a crossword.
  2. Look for words which look similar within the whole text. In the same way as children are taught small letters first because the shapes are easier to identify, look for the shape of the word elsewhere. It may be that the tricky letter is written more clearly elsewhere - you may even have read it correctly already.
  3. Look for the letter shape or the letter you suspect it to be elsewhere in the document. Again, it may be written more clearly or the context may be much more obvious.

If you are finding it difficult to untangle a cluster of minims, write down the same number of minims and try to join them up, working through the possible combinations in a way that will make sense to the word.

Consult the Letter Finder
If these techniques still leave you stumped then it may be worthwhile going back to basics. Use the Letter Finder and Sample Alphabets to see if you can identify the letter from seeing their basic form, the common form for the era or the being reminded of how the letter is written. Be sure to check the Secretary Hand letters which are significantly different from their modern equivalents: e, c, t, r, s, h and k.

If the problem is not a commonly occurring Secretary Hand letter and hasn't been solved by the methods above you may be dealing with one of the following problems. Select the most probable, or start at the beginning and work your way through the possibilities.

Capital Letters
Interference
Superscript Marks
Double Letters
Ligatured Letters
Idiosyncratic Letters
Bad Writing