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HS5123 Elementary Greek Palaeography

This is an introductory course in Greek Palaeography addressed to students with either little or no knowledge of Greek, who attend mainly the intercollegiate University of London MA programme in Late Antique and Byzantine Studies, MA Classics, and RHUL MA History: Hellenic Studies, or pursue MPhil/PhD studies in the field of Classical and Byzantine studies.

The course concentrates on the study of the Greek minuscule script in the Byzantine period, concentrating on 9th-12th-century hands. It aims to bring students up to a level where they would be able to transcribe texts from facsimiles of Greek manuscripts, distinguish different styles, comment on the layout and the script, date these manuscripts, and place them in the cultural milieu in which they were produced. The material is adapted each time to the level of the class. In general the course covers simpler minuscule literary hands, nomina sacra, ligatures, abbreviations and symbols.

This one-unit course involves 40-60 hours of teaching and course work (over two terms) mainly transcribing texts from facsimiles of dated manuscripts and commenting on the layout of the text and on the script in class. Weekly transcriptions of, and commentary on, facsimiles of manuscripts are produced by the students, which are returned with corrections and comments. In addition, students produce written assignments (2,500 words each) of progressive difficulty, in the end of the first and second terms, respectively, which are discussed individually.

Assessment is by a three-hour exam in May.

Students are asked to transcribe three unseen texts of about 10-20 lines, identify the subject, comment on the layout and the script and place an approximate or precise date.


Dr Charalambos Dendrinos


Royal Holloway Egham Campus, International Building, Second Floor, Seminar Room IN243, Egham, Surrey, TW20 0EX on Wednesdays 4-6pm (first and second term).

Key bibliography:

  • M.L. AGATI, Il libro manoscritto da Oriente a Occidente. Per una Codicologia comparata (Rome, 2009), trans. C.W. Swift, The Manuscript Book. A Compendium of Codicology, Studia Archaeologica¬† 214 (Rome, 2016)
  • 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)
  • 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 ἢ Ἐγχειρίδιον Παλαιογραφίας καὶ Κωδικολογίας, Parts I-III (Komotene, 2001)
  • L. PERRIA, Graph√≠s: per una storia della scrittura greca libraria, secoli IV a.C.-XVI d.C (Rome-Vatican City, 2011)
  • 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)



St Matthew, from a Byzantine MS