Palæography, is the study of ancient writing
, (palaia, "ancient", graphe, "writing"), on papyrus
or similar material, it differs from epigraphy
which is the study of ancient inscriptions carved on hard materials such as wood
Palæography had its origins in the Renaissance with the reprinting of the works of classical Greek authors. Initially the job of reproducing these texts was given to scribes who copied it, by hand, without necessarily understanding what they wrote. Not always a good thing.
The first attempts to devise a set of rules for reading these manuscripts came during the 17th century. Mabillion studied the different types of Latin scripts and gave samples of each in his "De re diplomatica", published in 1681.
Based on Mabillion’s works, Montfaucon published Palæographia Græca, (Paris, 1708), which coined the term Palæography and defined what it was.