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HS5124 Greek Palaeography

This course, a progression of HS5123 Elementary Greek Palaeography, is addressed to students with good knowledge of classical Greek, who attend mainly the intercollegiate University of London MA programme in Late Antique and Byzantine Studies, and MA Classics, and RHUL MA History: Hellenic Studies, or pursue MPhil/PhD studies in the field of Classical and Byzantine studies. It aims to introduce the study of the Greek book and script from the Hellenistic period to the fifteenth century AD.

By the end of the course students should be able to transcribe texts from facsimiles of Greek papyri and manuscripts, distinguish different styles, comment on the layout and the script, place approximate or precise dates, and consider the production of the papyrus or manuscript in the historical and cultural context. The course is taught over two terms. The first term is devoted to the development of the Greek majuscule and early minuscule up to the tenth century AD; the second term considers subsequent developments of the Byzantine minuscule up to the 15th century, including the production of the first fonts for printed Greek books (incunabula).

The course develops a practical skill valuable both in itself, as training in scholarly methods involving accurate and analytical observation and description, and as a tool for the preparation of critical editions of Greek texts. At the same time, it increases students' knowledge of an important aspect of the transmission of classical literature and of the cultural history both of classical antiquity and of the Byzantine era. In general the course covers various literary hands, nomina sacra, ligatures, abbreviations and symbols, as well as tachygraphy and cryptography.

This one-unit course involves 40-60 hours of teaching and course work (over two terms) either in class or iindividually, mainly transcribing texts from facsimiles of dated papyri and manuscripts, and commenting on the layout of the text and the script.

Assessment is by three written assignments (3,500 words each)

of progressive difficulty, which involve (a) transcription of text and scholia from facsimiles of papyri and/or manuscripts, (b) identification of the subject, the author, and the scribe; (c) description and/or collation of the layout of the text and scripts, (d) placing of an approximate or precise date for the copying of the papyrus and/or manuscript.


Dr Charalambos Dendrinos


Royal Holloway, 11 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3RA on Mondays 4-6pm (first and second term).

Key bibliography:

  • B. ATSALOS, La terminologie du livre-manuscrit à l'époque byzantine. Première partie: Termes désignant le livre-manuscrit et l'écriture (Thessalonica, 1971)
  • R. BARBOUR, Greek Literary Hands, A.D. 400-1600 (Oxford, 1981)
  • P. CANART, Paleografia e codicologia greca. Una rassegna bibliografica, Littera Antiqua, 7 (Scuola Vaticana di Paleografia, Diplomatica e Archivistica: Vatican City, 1991)
  • G.CAVALLO and H.MAEHLER, Greek Bookhands of the Early Byzantine Period, AD 300-800 (London, 1987)
  • R. DEVREESSE, Introduction à l'étude des manuscrits grecs (Paris, 1954)
  • V. GARDTHAUSEN, Griechische Paläographie (Leipzig, 1879; repr. 1978)
  • B.A. VAN GRÖNINGEN, Short Manual of Greek Palaeography (Leiden, 1967; 4th edn.)
  • H. HUNGER, Schreiben und Lesen in Byzanz (Munich, 1989)
  • La Paléographie grecque et byzantine, Paris 21-25 Octobre 1974, Colloques Internationaux du CNRS, 559 (Paris, 1977)
  • E.K. LITSAS, Σύντομη Εἰσαγωγὴ στὴν Ἑλληνικὴ Παλαιογραφία καὶ Κωδικολογία, vol. II (Plates with selected samples of hands) (Thessalonike, 2001)
  • E. MIONI, Introduzione alla paleografia greca, Università di Padova, Studi bizantini e neogreci, 5 (Paris, 1973)
  • B.M. METZGER, Manuscripts of the Greek Bible: An Introduction to Greek Palaeography (New York-Oxford, 1981)
  • G.K. PAPAZOGLOU, Βυζαντινὴ Βιβλιολογία Ἐγχειρίδιον Παλαιογραφίας καὶ Κωδικολογίας, Parts I-III (Komotene, 2001)
  • E.M. THOMPSON, An Introduction to Greek and Latin Palaeography (Oxford, 1906; repr. 1975)
  • E.M. THOMPSON, Handbook of Greek and Latin Palaeography (London, 1912; repr. 1965)
  • E.G. TURNER, Greek Manuscripts of the Ancient World (Oxford, 1971; rev. edn. 1987)



St Matthew, from a Byzantine MS