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Palaeography literally ancient writing, is the study and interpretation of the handwriting in ancient documents, and the development of handwriting. It aims at the interpretation and decipherment of these texts, to allow modern students or researchers to read works of the past. It is also used for historical tracing and determination of the origins and forms of handwriting in old manuscripts.

Because the transcription of documents was tedious and laborious, and materials were often costly, an extensive system of abbreviations developed in the middle ages, particularly for the transcription of Greek and Latin.

Prior to the time of Charlemagne several parts of Europe even had their own handwriting style. His rule over a large part of the continent provide an opportunity to unify these writing styles in the hand called Carolingian minuscule. The only script to escape this modernization was the one that continues to be used in traditional Irish handwriting.

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