Online Tuition in the Palaeography of Scottish Documents

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Warm up

Before starting your transcription it is a good idea to appraise the document, preparing yourself for what lies ahead. The lower case Secretary Hand letters which give most trouble to beginners are the letters a, b, c, d, e, h, r, s, t and w.

the Secretary Hand letters a,b,c,d,e,h,r,s,t and w

Note that these will not be the only forms of the letters you will come across, but these forms are amongst the most common.

Reading old documents is like playing golf. The palaeographical equivalent of teeing-up and addressing the ball is to pause before plunging into the document and prepare yourself for what is in store. This short routine will increase your reading speed by reminding you of the most common differences between secretary hand letters and modern letters, and reminding you to expect Scots words and phonetic spelling.

Before you start reading any document with Secretary Hand, mentally rehearse the phrase sic braw secretarie hand, which means 'such nice secretary hand'. This primes you to look out for Scots words (like sic and braw), phonetic spelling (like secretarie) and the common Secretary Hand letters.

a contemporary attempt at writing sic braw secretarie hand

Practice writing this phrase (sic braw secretarie hand) on some scrap paper. Don't worry about being neat - you will come across very sloppy handwriting in original Scottish documents in due course, so you might as well get used to seeing badly formed Secretray Hand letters now!