French Renaissance Paleography

To understand late medieval and Renaissance French documents requires a wide range of historical knowledge, some of which is quite specialized. Below are a few starting points.

Book hands

An excellent source for information about book hands -- that is, the handwritings used in manuscript books, as different from manuscript documents -- is Albert Derolez, The Palaeography of Gothic Manuscript Books From the Twelfth to the Early Sixteenth Century (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003). Here are a few samples:



The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History covers the following year ranges for France:

New France

For a brief history of the colony of New France, see Arnaud Balvay's presentation of "Colonies and Empires: French Colonial Expansion and Franco-Amerindian Alliances," in the Virtual Museum of New France, a project of the [Canadian Museum of History](


Penn State University's project on Building Community: Medieval Technology and American History has a useful "Medieval & Early Modern Europe Timeline," covering major events from [1300-1800](


On how money worked in Renaissance France, see Jotham Parsons, Making Money in Sixteenth-Century France: Currency, Culture, and the State (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2014).


For financial documents, it's helpful to know that in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance the most common due dates for payments of various kinds were Easter (Pâques, variable), the Feast of Saint Remegius (Saint-Rémi, 1 October), All Saints' Day (La Toussaint, 1 November), the Feast of Saint Andrew (Saint-André, 30 November), and Christmas Day (Noël, 25 December).

For information on European legal history, especially medieval law, visit Fordham University's [Internet Medieval Sourcebook](

Weights and measures

See Ronald Edward Zupko, French Weights and Measures before the Revolution: A Dictionary of Provincial and Local Units (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978).

There also is a very thorough list of terminology for weights and measures, with precise definitions for them, on the website of the [Archives départementales de la Loire-Atlantique]( (you'll need to scroll far down the page to get to the weights and measures).

More about paleography

Medieval paleography: [Ménestrel](

French paleography, medieval to modern: [Theleme. Techniques pour l'historien en ligne: études, manuels, exercices, bibliographies](

Mini-paleography courses from French departmental archives: [Ain](; [Alpes-Maritimes (XVIe-XVIIIe siècles)](; [Aude (XIIIe-XVIe siècles)](; [Côte d'Armor (XIVe-XVIIe siècles)](; [Haute-Saône (Moyen -Âge-XVIIe siècle)](; [Haute-Vienne (XVe-XVIe siècles)](; [Indre-et-Loire (Moyen Âge-XIXe siècle)](; [Loire-Atlantique (XVIIe siècle)](; [Val-de-Marne (XIIIe-XVIIIe siècles)](

English paleography: [The National Archives, UK. Palaeography: reading old handwriting 1500--1800, a practical online tutorial](

[European paleography, 17th and 18th century, Yale University Library](

Italian paleography: [The Medici Archive Project](