Digital Lab

Artificial Palaeography

Lecture and workshop with Peter Stokes

Artificial Paleography
Artificial Paleography
Kestemont, Christelein & Stutzmann. 'Artificial Paleography: Computational Approaches to Identifying Script Types in Medieval Manuscripts', Speculum 98:1 (2017), pp. 92f.


Workshoppen vil foregå på engelsk.

Artificial palaeography, as a cross-fertilisation between palaeography, computing, and artificial intelligence, focusses on the development of computer software to study historical handwriting. Its automated applications can assist palaeographers to date, locate, and authenticate historical documents on the basis of numerical data, which allows to use objective and comparable criteria. Some examples of scholarship in artificial palaeography include the DeepScript and Friedrich-Alexander-Universität (FAU) Erlangen-Nürnberg approach. These approaches show, for instance, that humanistic script is related to praegothica while humanistic cursive is slightly closer to pure Caroline script.


The course is divided into two parts: a lecture and a hands-on workshop. The lecture will be streamed and is available for a larger number of participants on and off campus. The workshop will take place on campus and is restricted to 20 participants (please indicate in the registration form whether you want to participate in both parts).

The link to the lecture will be send to all registered participants.


Number of places for the workshop: 20

Please sign up using the registration link. You will need to actively confirm you participation at the workshop after the signup period, elsewise your spot will be offered to someone on the waiting list.

Prerequirements: Knowledge of palaeography and palaeographic analyses.

Target group: PhD students, postdocs, M.A. students, researchers and other interested persons.

Duration: 5 hours, incl. lunch break

Course language: English


Peter Stokes is professor in digital and computational humanities applied to historical writing in Paris, at the École Pratique des Hautes Études – Université PSL, Section des Sciences Historiques et Philologiques, Laboratoire Archéologie et Philologie d’Orient et d’Occident. After completing his PhD at the University of Cambridge on English palaeography, Stokes has developed several new methods of quantitative and computer-based palaeography at King’s College London projects LangScape, Anglo-Saxon Cluster and Electronic Sawyer. In 2011, Stokes was awarded a research grant from the European Research Council for his DigiPal: Digital Resource and Database for Palaeography, Manuscript Studies and Diplomatic.

Course content:

Lecture (hybrid): Describing and Handwriting in a Digital World

Palaeographers have long recognised the significant difficulties in precise and consistent terminology in the description of handwriting; indeed, some have suggested that achieving this is impossible and perhaps even undesirable. Be that as it may, digital tools generally depend on precisely such consistent and rigorous forms of description. This is most evident in areas such as Linked Open Data, ontologies, and even union catalogues, but is also relevant for more ‘fuzzy’ topics such as Machine Learning since these also normally require clear categories in order to work. This lecture will therefore present the challenges and tensions between these two conflicting needs, and look at some possible approaches that may begin to resolve them.

Workshop (on campus): The Archetype framework for describing handwriting

Following on from the theoretical discussion of the lecture, in this workshop we will turn to the hands-on application of these principles to explore how they can play out in practice. This will be done through the Archetype framework, which was developed specifically to provide a formal structure for the description of handwriting and other forms of visual communication such as decoration. Participants will receive a brief introduction into the software and how to use it, and will then work together to use it for the formal description of different scripts, exploring its possibilities and limits in the context of the theoretical issues raised earlier. Participants should bring their own laptops and will be helped to install Archetype in advance, meaning that they will have their own personal setup that they can continue to use in future. They are also strongly encouraged to bring images of manuscripts or documents that they are working on, in order to test this approach on their own material.