90553 - Greek Palaeography (1) (LM)

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, students learn to gain knowledge about the main handwritings which are employed in books and documents, written in Greek within the Byzantine millennium and over the Renaissance. Moreover, students build capacity in interpreting and critically evaluating typology and function of artefacts from the considered periods as well as in applying the acquired knowledge to the study of the manuscript tradition of Greek classical and Byzantine authors and in the field of conservation of the Greek manuscript heritage.

Course contents

After a methodological introduction intended to offer some preliminary notions, a panorama is presented on the history of Greek handwriting, from late Antiquity to Humanism, in which some major junctions are studied, mostly coinciding with the stages of the transmission of ancient texts in Byzantium. Each of the following partitions is accompanied by facsimiles reading exercises (within the course), where the tools for an adequate knowledge of the abbreviation system and of the Byzantine chronology are also provided:

1. Aspects of manuscript production in canonized majuscule handwritings between the 4th and 9th centuries. The great transformations in the late-antique Greek writing practices are examined, starting from the main canons of the Greek majuscule.

2. Origin of the Greek minuscule handwriting and the fortunes of ancient literature in Byzantium between the 7th and 10th centuries. The birth and penetration of the Byzantine minuscule cursive is studied, first in the chancery and documentary field, and then in its book examples, with the implications that the adoption of the new graphic system had for the history of texts.

3. Officials and copyists of manuscripts between the 11th and 12th centuries, with a focus on the interactions between book handwriting and documentary script, on the apogee and dissolution of the calligraphic model and on the role of the Byzantine bureaucracy in the transmission of ancient authors.

4. Southern Italy and the transmission of Greek texts, with a panorama on handwritings and books in Hellenophone Italy, between Byzantine tradition and new rulers.

5. Scripts and books in the Palaeologan Renaissance (13th and 14th centuries), with a focus on the reception of profane literature among the intellectual elites and on the book and documentary production in the Constantinopolitan (imperial and patriarchal) chanceries.

6. Byzantium and Italy in the 15th century: panorama on scribes and scholars in the late Byzantine period and in Italian Humanism.



  • L. Perria, Graphis. Per una storia della scrittura greca libraria (secoli IV a.C. - XVI d.C.), Roma - Città del Vaticano 2011 (Quaderni di Nea Rhome, 1).
Manuscript facsimiles collections:
  • H. Follieri, Codices graeci Bibliothecae Vaticanae selecti temporum locorumque ordine digesti commentariis et transcriptionibus instructi, apud Bibliothecam Vaticanam 1969 (Exempla scripturarum, IV) [a selection of plates with transcription].
  • P. Canart - A. Jacob - S. Lucà – L. Perria, Facsimili di codici greci della Biblioteca Vaticana, 1. Tavole, Città del Vaticano, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 1998 (Exempla Scripturarum, V) [a selection of plates with transcription].
  • Further manuscript images will be handed out in digital format during the course.


  • G. De Gregorio, Materiali vecchi e nuovi per uno studio della minuscola greca fra VII e IX secolo, in I manoscritti greci tra riflessione e dibattito. Atti del V Colloquio Internazionale di Paleografia Greca (Cremona, 4-10 ottobre 1998), a cura di G. Prato (Papyrologica Florentina, XXXI), Firenze, Gonnelli, 2000, pp. 83–151.
  • G. De Gregorio, La scrittura greca di età paleologa (secoli XIII-XIV). Un panorama, in Scrittura memoria degli uomini. In ricordo di Giuliana Cannataro. Lezioni tenute presso la Facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia dell’Università degli Studi (Bari, 3 maggio 2004), Bari, Ecumenica Editrice, 2006, pp. 81-138.

Non-attending Students

To be added to the above indicated bibliography:

  • G. De Gregorio - G. Prato, Scrittura arcaizzante in codici profani e sacri della prima età paleologa, «Römische Historische Mitteilungen» 45 (2003), pp. 59-101.
  • S. Lucà, I Normanni e la "rinascita" del sec. XII, «Archivio storico per la Calabria e la Lucania» 60 (1993), pp. 1-91.

Non-attending students are recommended to contact the professor before they start preparing the exam.

Teaching methods

Frontal lessons combined with practical exercises (reading, transcription and dating of the proposed handwriting examples). Furthermore, a visit to the University Library of Bologna is foreseen, (if the general sanitary conditions allow it), in order to present some relics of the Greek manuscript heritage preserved there.

Assessment methods

Assessment during the practical exercises and final oral exam about the topics covered by the course. The judging criteria will include an extensive evaluation about the acquired knowledge (facsimiles reading and presentation of the main addressed issues), about the use of a good standard technical vocabulary as well as about the ability in framing the writing phenomenon within the historical and cultural context of which it is an expression.

Teaching tools

During the course, reproductions of manuscripts and related transcriptions will be provided in both paper and digital format. Bibliography as well as online resources will also be indicated for the retrieval of information and the consultation of digitized images relating to the manuscript heritage in Greek language and writing - for the last aspect students are referred to the palaeographical workshop which will be held in the second period of lessons. Teaching support material will be regularly downloadable from the platform page dedicated to the course on the web site https://virtuale.unibo.it/.

Office hours

See the website of Giuseppe De Gregorio