Paleography is the study of old handwriting: the study of how it was written, the transcription of old documents, and the interpretation of these documents. This exhibit highlights how we have used paleography to transcribe two unique manuscripts from the Early Modern Era.
Early Modern Manuscripts
The “Great Man” style of study is common in history. You have likely studied using this style yourself. Perhaps you recall studying World War II by reading about world leaders, for example.
This is the Great Man Theory, which approaches history through the “Great Men” who had a profound impact in their time, and which therefore explains historical events through their actions. While this is a useful style of history, allowing us to grasp the big picture, large events, and historical trends, and is a common style as well, it ignores the lesser-known “common person.”
Excluding the more average and common individuals from history prevents us from learning more about how people lived, what they thought, and what they believed. By studying the common person, we gain a better understanding of both the era and the people who lived in it.
Our two manuscripts, Jerimyes Prognostication and The Religious Meditations of John Eaton, were not written by any “Great Men.” They were written by individuals who were simply living in the Early Modern Era, providing us with profound insight into contemporary thoughts and beliefs.
Our focus on these manuscripts was therefore intentional. To understand more of this era and the religious thought that suffused it, such manuscripts are key–but even researchers may struggle at times with the handwriting!
Using paleography, the study of old handwriting, we have transcribed these unique documents.
With each manuscript now fully readable and accessible, it is now possible for them to be widely utilized by researchers everywhere seeking to discover more about the Early Modern Era and the religious thought that suffused it.