The Transversal Research Group in Palaeography

The Transversal Research Group in Palaeography was established in 2014 as a means of fostering discussion between palaeographers working at the EPHE on different cultural areas and writing systems, in order to address fundamental issues in palaeography and the history of writing across geographical and chronological boundaries, and thus to draw mutual benefit from advances in each of their disciplines. It currently consists of more than a dozen schoalrs working in the fields of Egyptology, Assyriology and papyrology as well as in various branches of palaeography: mediaeval Greek, Latin, ancient and medieval Hebrew, Pahlavi, Arabic, Chinese, etc. It has now become part of the Scripta-PSL programme.

Palaeography, rarely studied for its own sake, is part of the scientific practices common to many scholars who work with ancient or mediaeval sources; but chronological and geographical barriers between disciplines have long prevented any basic discussion on issues of palaeography beyond cultural boundaries.

In its traditional role as an auxiliary discipline, i.e. as a kind of expertise useful for dating and/or localising written artefacts, palaeography has tended to focus on the development of letter forms, thus seldom crossing its own disciplinary limits. In recent decades, however, new research has shown that the history of writing involves much broader issues, of a historical and cultural nature, that arise in similar or comparable terms in different fields. In this context, the GRTP has set itself the goal of actively promoting a transdisciplinary conversation on writing and on the methods of palaeography.

An essential activity of the GRTP consists in one-day conferences, which bring together members of the group as well as other scholars from the EPHE or from partner institutions within PSL and beyond, in order to discuss common themes: e.g. “regional specificities” in 2014, “scripts, styles, hands” in 2016, and “polygraphism” in 2018.

The GRTP also promotes the use of digital technology in researching and teaching palaeography of all kinds. It has developed an online palaeography tutorial, MultiPal, covering a wide array of scripts, as an introduction to the various palaeographical traditions.