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5th seminar of the Transversal Research Group in Palaeography – GRTP

Friday, December 7, 2018, Collège de France


“Paleography and the Deliberately Illegible”


Whereas the purpose of writing is to circulate information and that of cryptography is to keep it secret, there are also intermediate forms which, neither clear nor coded, are consciously designed to be read with difficulty. Texts may thus be rendered in deliberately deformed, abnormal or exceedingly stylized writing, which makes them accessible only to a limited category of readers. What is the purpose of such intentionally illegible scripts? What are the methods and intentions of writers in thus expressing and concealing at the same time? Such are some of the questions that the speakers of the 5th GRTP seminar will address in their respective fields.


5th day :



  • “Celebrating Signs: Practices of Enigmatic Writing in Ancient Egypt”, Andreas Stauder (EPHE)
  • “Some Cases of (Almost) Illegible Writing in Greek and Latin Papyri”, Jean-Luc Fournet (College of France, EPHE)
  • “Arabic Tax Receipts: Hermetic Scrawls?” Naim Vanthieghem (CNRS, IRHT)
  • “Tugra and Hanfusa: The Stylised, Illegible Signatures of Sultans and Rabbis in the Ottoman Empire”, Yael Barukh (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
  • “Is Readability That Necessary? Hebrew Writings with Complex Layouts and Scripts”, Judith Olszowy-Schlanger (EPHE)
  • “Hiding One’s Name but Writing It: Graphic Taboos, Twisted Scripts and Rhetorical Preterition in Ancient Vietnam”, Philippe Papin (EPHE)
  • “Extreme Scripts: Pushing Latin Writing to the Limits of Eye and Hand”, Marc Smith (ENC, EPHE)






4th seminar of the Transversal Research Group in Palaeography – GRTP

Friday, April 6, 2018, College de France.


“Polygraphism: The Coexistence and Interference of Scripts”

http://4e journée :

The equivalent of multilingualism in writing, individual polygraphism is a frequent phenomenon in societies of all periods where different scripts coexist, often – but not always – for writing different languages. In addition to methodological problems (how can one identify an individual writing heterogeneous scripts?), scholars from different fields will discuss the contexts and processes that lead writers to use multiple scripts, as well as instances of the interaction or interference that often occurs between those scripts.




  • “Greco-demotic Biliteracy”, Pierre-Luc Angles (EPHE, PSL-University of Heidelberg),
  • “Coptic-Greek Biscriptality and Language Policy in Early Islamic Egypt”, Jennifer Cromwell (University of Copenhagen)
  • “Scripts in Contact in Mesopotamia”, Michaël Guichard (EPHE, PSL)
  • “Digraphism and Bilingualism in Syriac Manuscripts: Syriac-Greek and Syriac-Arabic”, Margherita Farina (UMR 8167, CNRS)
  • “At the Paleographical Crossroads: The Digraphism of Jewish Scribes and Its Role in Changing the Hebrew Script”, Judith Olszowy-Schlanger (EPHE, PSL)
  • “Elite Writing in Chinese and Demotic Writing in the Village: The Case of Viet Nam”, Philippe Papin (EPHE, PSL)
  • “Caroline Minuscule vs Vernacular Minuscule in Eleventh-Century England”, Peter Stokes (EPHE, PSL)
  • “Languages ​​and Scripts in Early-Modern Europe”, Marc Smith (ENC, EPHE, PSL)


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3rd seminar of the Transversal Research Group in Paleography – GRTP

Wednesday, December 7, 2016, Collège de France.


“Scripts, Styles, Hands: Collective Norms, Individual Variation and the Evolution of Writing”


The “script” and/or “style” of handwriting reflects learning processes and reference models, whereas the “hand” of a scribe can be defined in terms of individual performance, i.e. the more or less competent, disciplined or creative rendering of common models. This seminar aims to shed light on the interaction of those aspects in synchrony, as well as on their long-term, diachronic, effects on the evolution of handwriting. This should also be seen as an opportunity to reflect on the principles according to which palaeographers, in different fields, build and use typologies of writing.



  • “Iranophone and Elamophone Scribes of Persepolis”, Wouter Henkelman (EPHE)
  • “The Hands of the Dead Sea Scrolls’ Scribes: distinguishing between styles and individual hands”, Eibert Tigchelaar (KU Leuven)
  • “An Exploration of Graphic Variation in Hieratic Sources of the Ramesside Period: The Scribe Amennakhte, His School and His Hand”, Stéphane Polis (Université de Liège)
  • “Styles and Hands in Coptic Documents”, Anne Boud’hors (IRHT, CNRS)
  • “Personal Writing and Stylized Writing in Greek Papyri”, Jean-Luc Fournet (Collège de France – EPHE)
  • “Stylistic Changes in the Arabic Archives of Fayum Textile Merchants”, Naim Vanthieghem (IRHT, CNRS)
  • “The Hands of Ethiopian ‘Notaries’, Clumsy, Individual or Stereotypical? Reflections on a Marginal Practice “, Anaïs Wion (IMAF, CNRS)
  • “Problems of Typology in Latin Handwriting”, Marc Smith (ENC, EPHE)
  • “Beyond Writing Standards: Evaluating the ‘Freedom’ of the Copyist”, Maria Gurrado (IRHT, CNRS)


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2nd seminar of the Transversal Research Group in Palaeography – GRTP

Saturday, December 6, 2014, École Nationale des Chartes


“Regional Specificities in Paleography: Diversity of Scripts within Single Cultural Areas”


Learning processes, writing models and the transmission of scribal knowledge are at the heart of this question. Whereas the larger geocultural areas are sufficiently well defined, fine-grained typologies distinguishing between varieties of broadly-defined scripts have been unevenly developed from one field of paleography to the next. Regional specificities, relatively well studied in Latin, Byzantine or Arabic palaeography, are less well known for other cultures. This seminar aims to reflect on processes of diversification (through learning, transmission of scribal practices, and the institutional framework of chanceries or scriptoria) and their coexistence within broader typological categories.




Speakers will offer a status quaestionis for their respective fields.


  • Michel Chauveau (EPHE): “Demotic”
  • Alain Delattre (EPHE-Université Libre de Bruxelles): “Coptic”
  • Lucio Del Corso (Università di Cassino): “Greek papyri”
  • Brigitte Mondrain (EPHE): “Greek Byzantine Manuscripts”
  • Alain Desreumaux (UMR8167, CNRS): “Syriac”
  • Marc Smith (ENC-EPHE): “Latin”
  • Peter A. Stokes (King’s College London): “Anglo-Saxon Minuscule and Digital Palaeography”
  • Olivier Venture (EPHE): “Chinese”
  • Matthew Kapstein (EPHE): “Tibetan”
  • André Lemaire (EPHE): “West-Semitic Writing”
  • Daniel Stoekl Ben Ezra (EPHE): “Judaean Hebrew”