National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future



As part of its commitment to lifelong learning, National Records of Scotland (NRS) offers three kinds of tuition in palaeography - the study of older forms of handwriting. Palaeography is an important field of study for those who wish to read historical records written in Scotland before the 19th century.

Scottish Handwriting online resource

The Scottish Handwriting resource on the ScotlandsPeople website offers online tuition in palaeography for historians, genealogists and other researchers who have problems reading manuscript historical records written in Scotland in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. The emphasis of the website is on practical help to improve palaeographical skills, rather than on the academic study of Scottish handwriting.

Evening class

Each year NRS runs evening classes in palaeography on behalf of the University of Edinburgh's Office of Lifelong Learning. This practical course in Scottish Handwriting covering the period 1500-1700 is taught by archivists from NRS at General Register House in Edinburgh. The course runs for 10 weeks from September with a second 10 week term starting in the following January. More information about the course can be found on our events, talks and visits page or from the University of Edinburgh's Short Courses pages where you can also enrol onto the course.

Self-help pack

We publish a self-help pack, 'Scottish Handwriting 1500-1700', in conjunction with the Scottish Records Association.  It contains advice about early modern Scottish handwriting and examples of formal and informal documents with transcripts. The pack can be purchased from the ScotlandsPeople online shop or a free digital version of the pack can be downloaded from the NRS Publications page.

Front cover of the Scottish Handwriting pack

Early Modern Scottish Palaeography: Reading Scotland's Records

This is a free online interactive course created by the University of Glasgow. It is an introduction to the skills required to read and interpret early modern Scottish manuscript records and uses documents from NRS and other archives.